Eating: We had some good meals. On my last day, I found the Luxe guide Beijing which I wish I had gotten sooner (there is a foreign bookstore called Chaterhouse Books on the B1 level of THE PLACE mall… they had the LUXE guide for Beijing, Shanghai and some other Asian cities).
THE PLACE – 9 Guanghua Road (cross street - Dong Da Qiao Road), Chaoyang District, Beijing.
My favorite meal was probably at Crystal Jade in THE PLACE (4th floor – the same side as "Zara"). About a 10 min walk north of the Silk street (where they sell all the knock offs). We went there for a dim sum lunch. It was awesome!!! The service was impeccable and the décor was a minimalist-Asian theme which I loved. We had 6 or 7 different plates of dim-sum, including steamed shrimp dumplings, BBQ pork buns, pork shu-mai and then for dessert we shared amango pudding. Total cost was about 150RMB for the two of us.
404, 4F Building A, 9 Guanghua Road (cross street - Dong Da Qiao Road), Chaoyang District, Beijing
We were there on Sunday, around 11am and it did not look like you needed reservations.
One night we had dinner with an old classmate of mine who is now living in Beijing with her husband. She chose the place and this is where we went:
Huajia Yiyuan Restaurant
No. 235 Dongzhimen Street within Avenue Dong Cheng District
Tel: 6405 1908
There’s the main restaurant area and then a little courtyard area across an old alley. We sat in the courtyard area which is outdoors but has heat lamps. The food here is northern Chinese – we ate dumplings, a fried eggplant dish (with a soy sauce/ garlic sauce on top), chicken with chillis, a white fish (do not know what kind) in broth with green onions and red chillis, a lamb dish with cumin. Excellent food. The atmosphere was charming. We went on a Friday evening around 7pm and the place was packed. The clientele was mostly local people with a few expat-looking foreigners.
I also totally recommend Dadong for trying Peking roast duck (a MUST when visiting Beijing).
Bldg 3, Tuanjiehu Beikou, Dongsanhuan Lu, SE corner of Changhong Qiao, Chaoyang District
The first night we called for a reservation, they told us we could not get a table until two nights later.
Their menu is super user-friendly, complete with English translations and photos. We ordered their whole roasted duck and fried rice. The duck was beautifully carved in front of us and served with a dark (hoisin?) sauce, scallions, a thin crepe to roll the duck into and some other condiments including sugar (!!!). A wonderful meal. Around 200 RMB for the two of us (we didn't order drinks).
Oriental Plaza (right next to the Grand Hyatt) – wanted to check out a mall but was underwhelmed, quite a boring place. The only good thing was, in the basement level we found a great little place selling cream puffs (6 RMB each). Could have eaten about 10 of these but I do believe they are full of calories. Worth it though!
Beard Papa (cream puffs)
B1 / 1 Dongchang An Jie
One day after touring the Forbidden City, we thought we would walk to Houhai lake. It looked so close on the map! Big mistake. What looks like a 15 min walk on the map, will take 2 hours. We walked for almost an hour and did not make it anywhere near Houhai Lake.
Originally, we were going to have lunch at Houhai Lake, but gave up after an hour of walking and getting what looked like, nowhere. Hungry and exhausted, we went into a restaurant that looked ok. The food was extremely oily and salty. Sorry did not get the name of the restaurant. The English menu was pathetic, it only had about 10 items. The Chinese menu had about 100 items. We ordered dumplings, as well as something similar to a mabo-dofu (spicy tofu dish with pork) and another pork dish which comes with small steamed buns which you stuff with the pork. Unfortunately the pork dish was all pork fat so we couldn’t really eat it. But the steamed buns were lovely.
Overall: we had some wonderful meals in Beijing as long as we planned well but we seemed to strike out when just wandering into a random restaurant without much planning. Perhaps we are just not as adventureous as we would like to be. But all of the recommended restaurants we tried were usually a home run!