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.

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.

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.

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.

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