Good Eating in Beijing


Xiao Wang’s Home Restaurant in Ritan Park: (home-style cooking) 小王府
North Entrance, east side to the Ritan Park, Chaoyang District. 北京市朝阳区日坛北路日坛公园北天门东侧
Tel. 85615085
You can’t beat the location. This spacious restaurant is inside a quiet small park near the North Korean Embassy and a short walk to The Place, a shopping mall with a monster jumbo screen, Las Vegas style. The terrace is very nice in the summer, minus the mosquitoes. The food is simply but good. Nothing super fancy and nothing super weird. Try the Peking duck, deep fried chicken with hot chilies and dumplings. They also have some vegetarian dishes.



Club Camp: (Yunnan fusion) 侃谱
6/F, 8 Gongti Xilu (above Coco Banana), Chaoyang District 北京朝阳区工体西路8号楼6楼
Tel. 65524945
On the sixth floor of a building next to the Workers Stadium, this Yunnan restaurant has great, spicy food and chic deco. The high ceilings, posh velvet sofa seats and curtains make it a nice hangout place. Try the papaya salad (spicy), the wild vegetable pancake, the spicy pork elbow, and the eggplant and tofu cold dish. Their rice wine can be very sweet.



Spice Spirit 麻辣诱惑 :
Multiple locations
Tel. 65389880
This is for the more adventurous. Order the spicy (tasty) fish covered with red chilies, the soup dish that has pig’s stomach, blood tofu and bean sprout, fried squid with hot chilies, beef stowed in pickled vegetable soup and covered with Sichuan pepper corns (for professional players only, notes the menu). It’s a chain restaurant that started in the southern part of Beijing six years ago and has opened many branches in Beijing. There’s one to be opened in Sanlitun Village. The branch next to the Changhong Bridge on the East 3rd Ring Road is pretty close to Sanlitun as well (朝阳区农展馆南里12号通广大厦2楼(长虹桥东北)


  Element Fresh 新元素 (American) :
Tel. 64171318
Third floor of Sanlitun Village. Use the escalator next to the Starbucks. 北京市朝阳区三里屯路19号三里屯village南区8号楼S8-31号
They have decent sandwiches, salads, pastas, coffee, fresh fruit juice and milk shakes. The wine and cocktails aren’t bad either. The terrace is very nice in the summer.


  Alameda (Brazilian/New American/Fusion):
Tel: 64178084‎
Sanlitun Houjie, (beside the Nali Mall), Chaoyang District, Beijing‎ 北京市朝阳区朝阳区三里屯北街北里‎
Read this review from Fodor’s: Voted "Restaurant of the Year" in 2005 by That's Beijing magazine, Alameda has a simple but reliably delicious menu. The weekday Y60 lunch specials are one of the best deals in town. On Saturday, try the feijoada—Brazil's national dish—a hearty black-bean stew with pork and vegetables, served with rice. The glass walls and ceiling make it a bright, pleasant place to dine.
I believe the lunch specials are 70 yuan now, a very good deal nonetheless. Though it says Brazilian, I found most dishes are more New American, or Mediterranean, or fusion. For cocktails, try their Bloody Mary. They also have an extensive wine selection. For dessert, try the chocolate truffles in vanilla sauce. Simply superb.


Good Drinking in Beijing




Q Bar:
Located on the top of Eastern Inn Hotel, at the south end of Nan Sanlitun Lu 朝阳区三里屯南路逸羽酒店6楼(近工体南路)
Tel: 65959239
It’s not easy to get good cocktails in Beijing. A lot of time there’s barely any alcohol in the drinks or the taste is just awful. Q Bar is an exception. Their martinis, mojitos and any cocktail you can think of are tasty and reasonably priced. Don’t be put off by the look of the hotel. Take the elevator to the fifth floor and walk up to the sixth, you’ll find a real, unpretentious bar. I’m not a very big fan of their newly renovated terrace (a bit pretentious for my taste), but I’ll still go there for drinks.




The Emperor 皇家驿站:
Tel: 65265566
This boutique hotel is across the street from the Forbidden City. In fact, from the terrace bar you can see the building of the emperor’s bedroom (Qianqing Gong, or Qianqing Palace). Come here for the sunset on the Forbidden City, not the drinks. Their cocktails are dreadful so stick to beer and simple drinks like gin and tonic. There’s no elevator so try to stay relatively sober to climb down the stairs.





Face Bar/Restaurant:
26 Dong Cao Yuan, Gong TiNan Lu Chao Yang Ou, Beijing , 100020 北京市朝阳区朝阳区工体南路东草园26号
Tel: 65516738
This bar/restaurant complex is in a former school that’s next to the Spanish culture center. The best time to come here is in the summer when you can sit under one of the big trees lit with lanterns.



  Centro Bar and Lounge 炫酷 :
First floor, Shangrila’s Kerry Centre Hotel, No. 1 Guanghua Road, Beijing 朝阳区光华路1号嘉里中心饭店1层
Tel: 65618833 x42
The first thing I heard about this bar is that their waitresses are all stunning. It’s true. But their wine and cocktails are equally good. During happy hours, you get two drinks for the price of one. There’s a pretty decent jazz band. And the bar opens 24 hour.


  Sandglass Coffee沙漏咖啡馆:
No. 1 Mao’er Hutong (on Nanluogu Xiang) 帽儿胡同1号 [南锣鼓巷附近]
Tel: 64023529
Come to this coffee shop in winter when there are fewer tourists on this thoroughly renovated Hutong. An old-style stove sits next to the main door of the coffee shop. At end of the corridor, there’s a country-style curtain hanging over its glass door. This is just the prelude to the time machine you’re going to step on. The owners (two Mongolian brothers, rumors have it) kept the original touches of the house and decorated it with everything old. You’ll find covers of China’s most popular film magazine Dazhong Dianying in the 1980s. Joan Chen (The Last Emperor) is on one of them.


Playing in Beijing


  Simatai Great Wall司马台长城:
Paseo de Gracia 37 Tel. 932 720 592
If you can avoid it, don’t go to Badaling Great Wall. It’s very touristy and crowded. Mutianyu Great Wall can be nice when it’s not crowded. But to get an authentic taste of what the Great Wall was built for and what makes it great, try Simatai. With the new highway, it takes about two hours to drive the 120 kilometers from Beijing. The climb can be steep and tiring but hugely rewarding. Imagine the spectacular view from top of remains of the watch towers. It’s a day trip.


  798 Art Zone:
This former factory area turned art zone represents what makes Beijing an interesting city and what’s going wrong with China. Galleries come and go in a blink here. (Look out for the North Korean gallery Kumgangsan. I couldn’t find it last time I was there in August). Some of the public sculptures are cool, as are some of the performing artists that show up unexpectedly. But this place has become way too commercialized. There are too many restaurants, shops and kitsch galleries that promise that you can definitely find something to hang in your new condo.
The buildings were designed and built by “experts” from East German in the early 1950s. There’s still a running heating station that oozes white smoke in winter. Check out the steam locomotive and look out for a huge oil tank nearby.


  Song Zhuang宋庄:
Many of the artists escaped to Song Zhuang, a town/village an-hour drive from Beijing, after they were evicted from the areas near the old Summer Palace and when 798 became too expensive.
It’s still basically a village. Many of the artists bought or are renting houses from the local farmers (The farmers filed a lawsuit against the artists a few years ago when they found the real estate prices of their houses skyrocketed). Knock on the door of any house you find interesting and ask the host politely if you can look at their arts. A lot of time people are very kind and warm. I had the most delicious dates offered by an artist’s mom who picked them from the tree in their yard.
The information center along the main road is helpful. The badly-lit Songzhuang Museum was showing some interesting paintings when I visited. The Shangshang Art Gallery’s Korean Artists exhibit had nothing impressive.
It’s a nice afternoon outing if you have a car and a driver. Be careful of dogs.


  Bodhi Spa:
17 Gongti Beilu, Chao Yang District, Beijing Across street from the north gate of Workers Statium, behind The Olive restaurant.
Tel: 6413 0226
You have to try this massage place in Beijing. It's good and cheap. The ambience is serene and the masseurs professional. Foot massage (80 minutes) costs 158 yuan, so does and full-body Chinese massage (60 minutes). Ask for masseur No. 90 or 249. They’re the best. According to Ping and Steve, massage helps them get over jet lags. So you have every reason to head there as soon as you land in Beijing.


Shopping in Beijing


  Sally Tailor Shop 雅秀丝绸:
3rd Floor, Yashow Market, next to Sanlitun Village 朝阳区工体北路58号,三里屯雅秀服装市场三层
Tel: 6415 7109
There are a wide selection of silk, wool, cotton and cashmere. And their factory runs 24/7, and they can deliver to your hotel if you pay cash.
My friends Ping and Steve get a few suits made every time they visit Beijing. I got a Qipao (Chinese cheongsam) made overnight for 1,200 yuan, and it fits perfectly. They have a fairly modern factory near the east fifth ring road that Ping, Steve and I visited. It’s definitely not a sweat shop.


  Beijing Tiandiren Classical Furniture Shop (北京天地人古典家具批发行):
Showroom: 高碑店古典家具一条街150号
Warehouse: 朝阳区黑庄户乡郎各庄(红军公园对面)鲁店北路甲11号 Te
Tel: 85382048
The showroom is small. If you’re in the market for some reproduction of old Chinese furniture, you should go to the warehouse, which is pretty far and not easy to find but has all kinds of furniture you can think of and might need when you see them. The prices are reasonable. Think of Pier 1 with Wal-Mart prices. They do made-to-order and delivery.
The owner, Mr. Han, is a nice and honest guy. He started as a migrant worker making 300 yuan a month. Ask him to show you the factory. You’ll see almost everything is handmade, from drawing, painting, sanding to aging.
  潘家园 Panjiayuan “Antique” Market:
Southwest of Panjiayuan bridge, the southern section of East third ring road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 北京市朝阳区华威里18号
Tel: 51204699
Visit this market in the morning of a weekend. You will find huge Buddha statues, porcelains that is claimed to be from Ming Dynasty, old Chinese magazines and books and lots of new stuff. After the renovation a few years ago, the market is designed to sell the same type of merchandize on the same row, which makes it less interesting.
I always take out-of-country friends to the two stalls that sell (reproduced) old posters that show Mao posing with the young Dalai Lama right before he fled to India and that shout slogans like “The American invaders are doomed!” from the Korean War period. They sell for 10 to 15 yuan apiece. And don't forget to pick up a Mao watch here.