Think that Beijing is all about moo shu pork and Peking duck? Think again.
Tapas, paninis, sushi – even all-you-can-eat massage parlors. If you can name it – and eat it – you can probably find it in Beijing.
Have we abandoned our local street-food ways? Absolutely not.
Of course, we enjoyed some of our favorite meals in Beijing at hole-in-the-wall Chinese joints where not a peep of English was spoken or written. We’ll address those in an upcoming series on real Chinese food from across China.
But before we do, we bring you our take on Beijing’s surprising international food scene. Thanks to our foodie friends, we were clued into some terrific spots. No fancy five-star affairs – just good quality and high-value.
In case you plan to travel to Beijing or you are simply curious, here are our Beijing international food favorites.
The Middle 8th Restaurant
Classy but unpretentious, this restaurant served up tastier, refined Yunnanese specialties than we managed to find in Yunnan province. During your meal, scan around and you’ll likely spot a famous actor or actress from the Chinese film scene. Reasonably priced given the quality of the food, service and décor. Address: Bldg 8, Dong Sanlitun – in an alley running east from 3.3 Mall. Tel: (10) 6413 0629.
The massive menu allows a culinary tour around China in one place. Xiao Wang’s Peking duck is known to be a bit leaner than most (a good thing). Several locations around town, but we frequented the Chaoyang location. Address: No 2 Building, GuangHuaDongLi. Tel: 800 810 8988
The Beijing Business Lunch
Epic among Beijing’s expat crowd, tips about the latest and best lunch deals circulate like love notes in elementary school. If you know your way around, you can eat like a gourmand without heading to the poorhouse. These meals even fit within our budget and afforded us a few moments of splash.
A two-course continental cuisine meal for 68 Y and three-course for 88 Y. The portions are not huge, but the dishes are nicely presented and prepared with top quality ingredients. A real treat. For dinner, tap the tapas menu; be sure to try the chocolate fondant – fast becoming a Beijing legend. Address: Across from the Kerry Center at Ground Floor, E-Tower, 12 Guanghua Lu. A second location at 14 Xindong Rd, Chaoyang District. Tel: (10) 6417 1459.
This Taiwanese “secret restaurant” would break the bank in the evening, but featured a mind-bending lunch menu for just over $5 (38 Y). Choose two main courses from an array featuring dishes like “steamed codfish with miso,” “spare ribs in plum sauce,” or “spicy assorted seafood pot.” The meal is rounded out with a salad, rice, soup, fruit and tea or coffee. Finding the restaurant is a challenge – look for the unmarked black door behind the Scitech Hotel near Jianguomenwai Metro station. Once inside, allow your eyes to adjust to the pitch black interior before making your way up the stairs. Address: 18 Jianguomenwai Street, 2F. Tel: (10) 6515 8585. Update: The restaurant was closed indefinitely for renovation in May 2008. No one is certain when – if ever – it will re-open. Keep your eyes open. It’s well worth the wait.
In full disclosure, we never went there for lunch, but they do have a lunch menu for 45 Y ($6). The real draw for us: weekend brunch. With several variations of eggs Benedict, we thought we had arrived at the gates of brunch heaven. Address: 31 Wu Dao Ying Hutong, Dong Cheng District (near the Lama temple). Tel: (10)6402 7961.
Other Dining Options All Hours of the Day:
- Tokugawa: All-you-can-eat sushi and all-you-can-drink beer or sake for around $10 (79 Y). This is not a typo. This price point will give you your fill of basics like salmon, tuna and red snapper. Pay a little more and your selection includes options like yellow tail and eel. Tokugawa is possibly the best all-you-can-eat sushi value ever, sans conveyor belt. Wait staff were delightful. There are several locations around town; we frequented the Chaoyang location. Address: Bldg D Shimao Apartments, 9 Guanghua Lu, Central Business District/Guomao. Tel: (10) 6506 6199.
- Panino Teca: The most authentic Italian panini sandwiches east of Italy – chock full of real ingredients like prosciutto, mozzarella and rucola. Tasty, large salads as well. Home delivery possible if you pay the taxi fees. Address: No. 1 San Li Tun, Beixiaojie. Tel: (10) 8454 1797.
- Annie’s: For Italian comfort food delivered, this is the place.
- Hutong Pizza: Square pizzas oozing with cheese and toppings. Address: 9 Yindingqiao Hutong, Xicheng District. Tel: (10) 6617-5916
- Morel’s Restaurant and Café: This Belgian restaurant is not the cheapest place in Beijing, but the food is top notch. Try the soups and steak tartare. Address: 1st Floor, No. 5 Red Building, Xin Zhong Street, Dongcheng District. Tel: (10) 6416 8802.
- La Fattoria: With a sister restaurant in Napoli, these Italian owners know what they are doing. Authentic Italian food for a reasonable price, good service and nice perks like a free glass of white wine as a starter. Buried in a high-rise courtyard, it's a challenge to find. Address: No. 5 Phoenix Xintiandi Business Street, Shuguang Xili, Chaoyang. Tel: (10) 58667072/73.
- Bodhi Massage: A massage parlor in a food round-up? Stick with us on this one. Not only does Bodhi give great (and legitimate) massages, but the price of the massage includes all-you-can-drink fresh juices and a short all-you-can-eat menu. So, get your Chinese full-body massage for 60 minutes (158 RMB/$25) and then retire upstairs with a book and nosh on dumplings, peanut butter French toast and fresh pear juice. Daytime visits feature a discount. Address: No. 17 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District. Tel: (10) 6417 9595.