One of the hippest bars in the trendy Sanlitun neighborhood, Apothecary draws a sophisticated party crowd with its unusual cocktails and lively scene. The menu pays homage to New Orleans with Creole dishes.

Baihe Courtyard

As the name suggests Baihe Courtyard sits in a picturesque renovated courtyard in a quiet hutong or alleyway. It is tucked away behind the buzzing Ghost Street (Gui Jie in Chinese), so called because of the rows of red lanterns that hang outside the hot pot restaurants there. But if Ghost Street is noisy and chaotic, Baihe Courtyard is an opposite experience: the restaurant breathes serenity. The food, all reasonably priced, is vegetarian and the space also includes a library of classical Chinese texts that adds to its charms. Must tries include an impressive selection of Buddhist fake meats, some of which taste surprisingly like the real thing.

Food at Black Sesame Kitchen, Beijing, China

Black Sesame Kitchen

This cooking school was started by Jen Lin-Liu, a chef and the author of Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey through China. She was so inspired by her own culinary adventures that she began teaching friends and friends of friends in 2005 and has expanded to open a proper school and restaurant in a courtyard building in Beijing. She holds regular classes and takes reservations for meals in the private kitchen.

Buddha's Bite

This newly opened restaurant in the south end of the 798 Art District is a perfect spot to try China’s Buddhist vegetarian cuisine following a hard day gazing at galleries. Dishes hail from all over China and the restaurant specializes in “health food” (or yangshengcai in Chinese) and fake meat. None of its ingredients are derived from animals and it is also MSG free. Typical fares on the reasonably priced menu include a dry hot pot of fake meat, “beef” strips with peppers, and Sichuan-style white fish (fake, of course). The classy surroundings are designed in the classical Chinese style and the staff is always eager to help. Best to stick with the health theme and sip the flavorsome flower teas on offer rather than delve into the limited wine list.

Food at Celestial Court, Beijing, China

Celestial Court

Cantonese food is popular in the capital city, with chefs imported from the southern Guangdong province to ensure the ingredients and styles are spot-on. If you have a business dinner with a local Chinese contact, they will appreciate being treated to an evening feast at Celestial Court or lunchtime dim sum. Seafood tends to be on the expensive side in Beijing, so ordering up fish or lobster will be doubly welcome. By the way, don’t be too surprised if, when dining with locals, they ask for a doggie bag for any leftover food. Old habits of waste-not-want-not die hard for people who grew up with Cultural Revolution food shortages.

Chuan Ban

Locals and expat swear that this is the best place for Sichuan food and worth dealing with the crowds and noise for a super spicy meal.

Country Kitchen

This restaurant at the Rosewood Beijing is a culinary highlight of many travelers’ China itineraries. Guests can watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen, preparing a range of Northern Chinese delicacies, including hand-pulled Chinese noodles, an array of dumplings and the popular Peking duck.

Editors' Picks

Crescent Moon

To the far northwest of China lies the province of Xinjiang, which is home to the country’s Turkic speaking Uighur Muslim minority. Crescent Moon, located in a quiet hutong in the old town, is one of the most authentic Xinjiang cuisine restaurants in Beijing. Here, the hearty food and cheap prices more than make up for the basic décor and service. Huge portions include home made yogurt, juicy lamb kebabs (known as chuan’r), baked flatbread, and hand-pulled noodles. Unlike many Xinjiang restaurants in the city Crescent Moon is not a rough and ready hole in the wall; nor is it gaudy. There are no fake garish touches catering to tourists here, such as performances. Instead, most of the staff are Uighur, and the clientele is largely local.

Da Dong

Da Dong is considered the Ferran Adrià of China. In fact, when British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal (of the Fat Duck restaurant) came in search of the perfect Peking duck, it was Da Dong who he asked to teach him his secrets. At all three of his restaurants in the city, Da Dong merges molecular gastronomy with traditional Chinese cuisine. The menus, which look like coffee-table books that are illustrated with stunning photographs taken by the chef himself, feature more than 100 dishes.

The food is truly for the adventurous diner who will love such molecular concoctions as cherry tomatoes glazed in Champagne jelly with crispy mushrooms inside or the lobster noodles or persimmon capsules. The presentations are exquisite, like miniature paintings and the juxtaposition of flavors and textures are truly revolutionary. This branch, opposite from Wangfujing Bookstore, is within walking distance to the Raffles hotel.

Duck de Chine

Part of the Hidden City dining complex in Sanlitun, Duck de Chine is one of the best places in town for Peking Duck. The atmosphere is reminiscent of a warehouse setting with wood beams and an industrial chic feeling, and the duck is superb.

Lei Garden

Lei Garden serves the best Cantonese food in Beijing. There’s also a sister restaurant in Hong Kong.

Li Qun Roast Duck Restaurant

Sadly, places such as this small family restaurant, in a hutong (traditional neighborhood), will not be around much longer, victims of the march toward modernization. Although many of the restaurant’s neighbors have already fallen prey to the bulldozer, Li Qun manages to carry on, cooking its scrumptious Peking duck in impossibly cramped conditions. The entire experience is like taking a trip back to the past, stooping into rooms that were not really designed for Westerners or, indeed, any diners from outside the immediate neighborhood. Most of the clientele these days are expatriates and in-the-know tourists; locals with half a budget would rather eat somewhere fancier, thank you very much. It is a marvelously ramshackle place that offers a hearty welcome and even heartier food. Visitors are welcome to inspect their duck, presided over by a chef whose job is to stoke the wood-fired oven and turn the roasting birds. Even with a few extra dishes and copious beers, two people would be hard-pressed to shatter the $30 mark. The experience is priceless. Try to arrive before dark, to wander around the hutongs and see what life was once like there.

Editors' Picks
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Made in China

Yes, it is in a hotel and a Grand Hyatt at that, but Made in China is where you will find some of the best Peking Duck in Beijing.

Mai Bar

This intimate courtyard bar located down a hutong in Beijing’s old town serves an extensive list of hand-fashioned cocktails. The bar is cozy, rustic and low-key rather than sophisticated, and it is popular with Beijing’s hutong dwelling expat hipsters. The founder had previously worked in the city’s beloved Apothecary cocktail bar and it shows: there are an apparently endless number of inventive infusions including a Pomegranate Bellini, Hawthorn Whiskey Sour, and the Bramble (a mixture of Bombay, Sapphire gin, blackberry, fresh lemon juice and syrup). You may have to wait a while the cocktails are being made (speed is not Mai Bar’s style), but drinks are reasonably priced at around 50RMB ($8) a cocktail. The tiny outside courtyard space is worth seeking during hot summer nights.

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Rustic is the best word to describe this quaint neighborhood Italian restaurant located in the old alleyways of Beijing. Mercante’s founder Omar Maseroli has fashioned a trattoria after the eateries in his hometown of Emilia-Romagna. Charm and home-style authentic Italian cuisine are delivered in spades here. The menu is select, small, and reasonably priced. There is a blackboard of rotating specials and a handful of meat, fish, and pasta dishes, all done with flair. The homemade tortellini – filled with delicacies such as leek and pine nuts or radicchio and walnut -- are particularly moreish. Meals can be washed down with Italian wine -- and do not miss the delicious dessert trio of rice torte, tiramisu and panna cotta. Mercante’s tiny, lovingly created intimate space makes booking ahead a must. For those eager to see the world go by ask to sit on the two stools located in the restaurant window overlooking the hutong.

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The sexy bar scene at the Opposite House is a watering hole for Beijing’s young and beautiful professionals—Chinese yuppies in the bright lights and big city vein.

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Migas is an unorthodox Spanish restaurant located in a complex called Nali Patio next to Beijing’s buzzy expat Sanlitun bar district. The funky industrial-feeling interior hosts the cool crowd, while the cuisine consists of tasty – and often highly inventive -- tapas. For those looking to party, Migas has both a humming inside bar and a large rooftop bar with spectacular views. It offers a welcome middle ground between the vast but gaudy Chinese super-clubs found near and in the Worker’s Stadium and the chic but overpriced clubs located in hotels such as the Park Hyatt. As such the rooftop has become a favorite haunt with crowds congregating to dance the warm summer nights away to a series of funky DJs.

Noodle Bar

Part of the Hidden City complex in Sanlitun that houses Duck de Chine, Noodle Bar is a wonderful restaurant for lovers of great Chinese noodles. You enter through an art gallery to room dominated by the u-shaped noodle bar. You may see the noodle masters kneading and pulling the dough for noodles, which then become the centerpiece of their delicious soups and meat dishes.

Food at Opera Bombana, Beijing, China

Opera Bombana

When you have had your fill of Chinese food and are looking for excellent Italian food, Opera Bombana is particularly refined option. Considered one of the most glamorous restaurants in the city, Opera Bombana was opened by Michelin-starred chef Umberto Bombana who has sister restaurants in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Before or after dinner, you should save time to wander around the mall where it is located to see some of the fabulous art, which mixes contemporary Chinese works and Salvador Dali sculptures.

Quan Ju De Roast Duck Restaurant

Chain restaurants are rarely places that serious food lovers tend to frequent—unless of course the restaurant is of the Spoon or Nobu variety. The Quanjude chain has no gourmet pretensions; instead it focuses its energy on producing one dish supremely well. Their ducks come from special farms and are roasted in open, wood-fired ovens, so the skin reaches the correct level of crispness. Delicious. Compared with tony hotel outlets, Quanjude restaurants are rough-and-ready, but visitors and locals come here for one reason: They offer a satisfying dish that goes down well with Chinese tea or cold Tsingtao beer—not recommended for dieters or health-food fanatics! There are several branches including this one, in an old hutong.

Interiors at Red Capital Club, Beijing, China

Red Capital Club

Stuffed with Mao memorabilia the Red Capital Club is a fun destination for Chinese dining. It is located down a hutong in a Qing Dynasty courtyard restored by traditional craftsman. Parked outside is a vintage Red Flag limousine once used by China’s top communist leaders. Everything here harks to the good old days of the People’s Republic. The décor is fashioned in a 1950s style and many of the ornaments and furnishings were actually used by historical figures. Waiters in Red Army uniforms serve zhongnanhai (“leadership”) cuisine, which is still used for official banquets. The menu offers many of Mao Zedong’s favorites, such as red roasted pork, with the stories behind each dish helpfully laid out in English.

Interiors at Red Moon, Beijing, China

Red Moon

Über-trendy cocktail bar-cum-restaurant in the Grand Hyatt hotel. It has an oval bar, where diners can order plates of sashimi, with fresh wasabi, or they can relax on red sofa-style seats. At one end a band plays gentle music on classical Chinese instruments, and an adjoining cigar lounge offers the chance to toke on Fidel’s finest. It is the kind of spot favored by the city’s nouveau riche, a place to see and be seen, ordering the priciest cocktails and finest Champagnes the menu has to offer.

Dinning Area at Sureno, Beijing, China


One of the trendiest Western restaurants for Beijing businessmen and beautiful people, Sureno, which is on the lower floor of the Opposite House hotel, serves delicious Mediterranean cuisine, including gourmet pizzas and a fine selection of Italian wines.

Food at Susu, Beijing, China


Susu opened in 2011 and is today one of the most popular restaurants in Beijing among hip expats and locals alike. Founded by journalist Jonathan Ansfield and his wife Amy Li, it is concealed down a tiny winding hutong. With no signs leading to Susu, it can be hard to find. But it is worth the effort. The restaurant sits in a beautifully restored courtyard, which had been owned by the same Beijing family for around 90 years. After extensive renovations it now combines modernity with traditional architecture: floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking a large tree in the central courtyard are contrasted with original wooden beams inside. Susu is named after a common Vietnamese vegetable (a kind of squash), and it serves authentic Vietnamese cuisine for reasonable prices cooked up by Vietnamese chefs. There is a large wine list and a number of hand-selected cocktails ranging from Saigon Fizz to The Quiet American. It is often busy, so booking ahead is essential.

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The Bookworm

This popular bookstore holds regular talks as well as live music. During the day, the café is a casual place for a coffee or light lunch, and at night, it transforms into a more refined restaurant.

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The Vineyard Café

This cozy bistro is a great casual spot to stop for a quite bite or a glass of wine. The same owners also run a new branch called The Vineleaf, also in the hutongs.

Ambience - TRB Temple Restaurant, Beijing, China

TRB Temple Restaurant Beijing

TRB Temple Restaurant Beijing is situated in an ancient temple grounds that has, over a history of 600 years, housed Buddhist luminaries, an imperial printing workshop, and, post Communist revolution, a television factory. The complex was until recently in ruins; but it has now been renovated and includes this fine-dining European-cuisine restaurant and a luxury boutique hotel, also named The Temple. Expect to be served everything from foie gras to escargot here, with amuse bouche between courses. An impressive wine list adds to the experience. While a la carte is pricey, a more reasonable tasting menu delivers four courses for 458RMB ($75). For those on an even tighter budget the weekend brunch – with five courses for 298RMB or eight courses for 368RMB -- is a steal. After the meal make sure to have a stroll around the spectacular former temple grounds.


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