I’ve just returned from ten days in China, five in Shanghai and five in Beijing. Thanks to earlier posts and other advice, it was a fantastic food trip. Here are the highlights from Beijing, grouped by cuisine.
My related Shanghai post is at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/456996
Amazing duck at Dadong Kaoya Dian. Crispy skin, meaty flesh, lots of condiments. I also really liked deep-fried chilies with peanuts. In contrast, Quanjude (the branch west of Wangfujing that’s open later) was a disappointment. The duck was too fatty, with soggy skin and a cloying sauce. The side of vegetables was inedible: cornstarch-slicked rounds of zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms.
I had the noodles of my dreams at a small order-at-the-counter place called Huanghe Shui Shaanxi Mianguan. Floppy, wide fresh noodles, with bean sprouts and bok choy, all tossed in vinegary chili oil with a big pile of flaked chilies on top. There’s no picture menu here, but they have an English-language magazine review that mentions this dish as “oil-spiced noodles,” and if you ask the cashier for something “la” (spicy) that’s what they’ll give you. I went twice. Amazing.
Noodle Loft offers many types of handmade noodles, including knife-shaved, cut, pulled, and made-with-one-chopstick – all prepared in full view from the first-floor dining room. The texture and taste of the noodles (I tried several) were great, especially the made-with-one-chopstick long noodles. The best preparation was noodles in beef brisket soup. Other sauces, like sliced pork or eggplant, were less exciting. Extensive bilingual menu with pictures.
Loved our meal at Baguobuyi, especially the “very spicy fish,” which is an enormous bowl of chili oil with gently cooked fish, bean sprouts, and green onions. I also liked the dan dan mien, wontons in chili oil, and mutton with peppers and garlic. They have a brief performance in the evenings, though we went at lunch. Nice setting in a traditional courtyard.
At South Beauty we had ma po dofu, which was fiery with the right balance of heat and numbing peppercorns. I also really liked the Sichuan cold noodles, in a vinegary-sesame sauce. I was less excited about their famous ribs, which come in a sauce that dominates the taste of the meat; also, the ribs were so tender that the meat partially disintegrated into the sauce. Our meal at a Shanghai branch of South Beauty was better.
We tried Xinjiang Crescent Moon, and it was disappointing. While I liked the flavoring of lamb skewers and a lamb-with-onions dish, the meat was unpleasantly gristly. The “walnut omelette” looked intriguing in the picture but turned out to be mostly raisins in a thin omelette wrapper, which was overly sweet.
Yunteng Binguan, the restaurant at the Yunnan provincial government office hotel, was fantastic. I loved the crossing-the-bridge noodles, fragrant with fresh herbs. A wild mushroom stir-fry was very good but somewhat overwhelmed by green peppers. Mung bean jelly noodles in chili oil and garlic were totally addictive. This was one of our favorite meals.
Breakfasts in the mall
We stayed part of our time at the Raffles Beijing Hotel, between the Forbidden City and Wangfujing. Rather than having hotel breakfast, we headed to the basement of the malls at Oriental Plaza and found two good places. At the western end, crowded with morning commuters, is Yong He (Field House). There, I liked the fried donut, xiao long bao, and pan-fried dumplings – not as good as at places specializing in dumplings but definitely good enough for a quick breakfast. A bit more toward the middle of the mall is Kyo-Nichi, a Singaporean chain serving Japanese ramen. My mackerel miso ramen was good: the noodles had nice firm texture and the fish was well-flavored, but the broth was nothing special. A Beard Papa cream-puff counter is nearby.
Dadong Kaoya Dian, 3 Tuanjiehu Beikou, Chaoyang
Quanjude, not sure of address, but not recommended
Huanghe Shui Shaanxi Mianguan, 24 Meishuguan Dongjie, Dongcheng
Noodle Loft, 20 Xidawang Lu, Chaoyang
Baguobuyi, 89-3 Dianmen Dongdajie, Dongcheng
South Beauty, eastern end of basement level, Malls at Oriental Plaza, and other branches
Xinjiang Crescent Moon, 16 Dongsiliutiao, Dongcheng
Yunteng Binguan, Building 7, Huashi Beili, Dongqu, Chongwen
Yong He, western end of basement level, Malls at Oriental Plaza
Kyo-Nichi, western end of basement level, Malls at Oriental Plaza