Tuesday, June 04, 2013


Are you the type of traveler that makes a rough itinerary, with bookmarked restaurants and addresses, and highlighted blog posts and guides, or the type that wings it, eats whatever smells good and is crowded with locals, wherever is walking distance from your hotel? I suppose I'm a mix of the two. I do like to arm myself with some research, easier now with more blogs and helpful readers than ever, even if I've been to that city before. 

The last time I went to Beijing was in 2008... a lot can change in five years in Asia. Also, this was the first time I was traveling to China by myself, without family or friends, and the friend I was meeting there was not only new to Beijing, but didn't speak any Chinese. So with a rough list of places she wanted to visit and restaurants I thought she might like, we had a four day adventure in Beijing before a week of work.

DAY 1- BAO YUAN DUMPLING RESTAURANT- i strongly recommend

Bao Yuan Dumpling Restaurant turned up in many of my searches as the best dumplings in Beijing, and its brightly colored dumplings definitely caught my eye. We made it for a late lunch, and while Bao Yuan is quite local with its setting and service, it's tourist friendly with two thick menus with full colored photos and English.

We were saving room for roast duck dinner at Da Dong, so we didn't want to order too much. After browsing through the 40 plus different types of boiled dumplings, we ended up choosing 3 types to try. The waitress asked if wanted the colorful dumpling skins (made with dye from vegetables, purple from purple cabbage, orange from carrots and green from cabbage), we said, Yes!

The full plate of fat, candy colored dumplings is definitely eye catching and an Instagrammer's delight. Self serve soy sauce, vinegar and chili sauce on the table to spice it up.

We wanted one traditional flavor, so we went with the basic pork and cabbage dumplings which were green (12 yuan each).

Orange dumplings were the carrot, mushroom, egg and shrimp dumplings, while the purple colored ones had purple cabbage, pork, crispy rice, and bean sprouts. I liked them all, but the purple crispy rice dumplings really grew on me with the crunchy surprise contents.

After lunch, I took my friend to Nanluoguxiang, a long row of shops housed in a traditional courtyard, which I loved browsing during my last trip. While there are still some cool shops there to check out, like postcard, leather goods, knickknack and tshirt shops like Plastered, I was disenchanted to find that the whole lane had become MUCH more commercialized, with random food stands lining both sides, including takoyaki and churros! What? It lost a bit of its artsy charm.

Can't escape it! Can you spot the Starbucks? 

Never thought I'd see churros sold by Chinese cowgirls.

Of course I had to take a picture of this... 

Going from the old to the new, but still touristy, was our walk around the Sanlitun Village Shopping Center area which houses mostly Western brands, as well as a huge Apple Store, movie theaters and a Page One bookstore.


I LOVED Da Dong so much on my last few trips to Beijing, I think I put it on a culinary pedestal. So it had a long way to fall when I was disappointed in the higher prices, small portions and not so awesome service this trip.

There's no consensus on where the best roast duck is in Beijing (or I don't think there is), and I think when I first fell in love with Da Dong, it wasn't the big fish in the sea that it is now, with several busy locations. It's definitely a presentable place with another huge set of glossy menus with color photos and English...

The chef brings the duck to your table, but didn't carve tableside. Having grown used to Taipei portions of peking duck, I ordered only a half duck for our party of two.

Da Dong was also the first place I had ever been served sugar and asked to dip the crispy duck skin in it to eat, before eating meat and skin in the hoisin drenched wrapper. Love at first bite. 

The presentation is still gorgeous, but this portion was so tiny- this was all the skin and meat of half a duck?

I guess the technique has become so popular that it has been copied at quite a few places in Beijing so much so that it has become standard. So Da Dong started serving small puffy sesame buns to also wrap the duck in with thin strips of cantaloupe, cucumber and a touch of garlic paste, to create a new uniqueness.

I also thought I ordered the noodles made from lobsters (another Da Dong unique must order menu), but didn't realize until it was too late they gave us regular noodles in lobster broth. Dang it. Not the same. Boo.

Back to the hotel to rest up for another day!

DAY 2- breakfast at Opposite House

Pretty, fluffy pancakes to start the day. The continental breakfast is great too, with lots of fresh fruit, cheeses and breads/pastries if you're hungry.


It was actually my first time to the Forbidden City and it was interesting to visit the iconic landmark that I was first exposed to by the film THE LAST EMPEROR. Despite it being crowded and showing its age, there were some great nooks and areas that were breathtaking and revealed a tiny bit of how life might have been back then. I recommend looking for the Opera Theater area in the Pavilion of Pleasant Sounds (Changyingge) and trekking up the temple near the exit gate to get a view.

IN AND OUT- i strongly recommend

Not to be confused for the California burger chain, In and Out is an award winning, cozy Yunnan restaurant in the Sanlitun area.

Another overwhelming menu decked out with beautifully photographed dishes. Luckily, my local friends who chose the restaurant knew what to order.

Rose cakes, which were flaky pastries with sweet filling with hint of aromatic rose came first though it was more of a dessert, along with green papaya salad.

I really enjoyed the Yunnan Cheese, which had a soft but firm texture, almost like tofu or Indian paneer cheese and the spicy Yunnan mushrooms. 

The Dongba No.1 Ribs were also spicy, coated with chopped chilis and a killer marinade. They were pretty tender though.

The pineapple sticky rice is a perfect partner to all the mouth burning, with its sweet thick chunks of pineapple and glutinous rice. It came quite late to the table though, so luckily we had ordered a lime mint juice (kind of like a non-alcoholic mojito).

We had also ordered sticky rice in the bamboo, but I loved the sweetness of the pineapple version better.

It was my first time having Yunnan food and it left quite an impression on me. There really are so many different regions of China and thus a huge landscape of Chinese food beyond what I experienced growing up in the states and even more than what I've grown to love about Taiwanese food. So much more to discover.


I was hoping to have better luck with a recommendation from a reader, with Peking Duck Private Kitchen, opened by a former chef of Quanjude, but the portions were still small and pricey (compared to Taiwan). The setting is quite modern and trendy, as we spotted a ton of expats dining, and the menu has English, but not a lot of photos for guidance.

My favorite thing about the meal were our choices for the cold appetizer dishes- eggplant and boiled black peanuts (which tasted fried).

Familiar looking condiments...

The braised tofu dish and fried pumpkin dishes we ordered was too heavily seasoned for us so we finish more than a few bites, but the duck luckily was decent. 

The served a few slivers on a plate with sugar, and then the rest on another small plate with the meat tucked underneath the crispy skin. I thought I had wised up by ordering a whole duck this time, but the portion was not too much bigger than the night before. Luckily, we were still full from lunch, so we didn't need too much.

Day 3- 798 ARTS ZONE

If you have time, check out 798 ARTS ZONE, which we only got to browse for an hour or so, and ended up most of it in the wrong area. It wasn't until we spotted the White Box art gallery and bought a map, did I realize how large the zone is and what better areas there were to explore.

It's a vast collection of art galleries, shops and reimagined spaces in what were state owned factories and warehouses that were designed by East Germans during the 1950s.

I really loved this iphone case, but I couldn't bear to pay 460 Yuan (about US$60) for a limited edition plastic iphone case. Later when I googled the Chinese artist, I fell in love with many of Liu Ye's paintings and his style. I can only use the image as a screen saver, as his original paintings have sold for as much as US$2.5 million dollars.

LET'S BURGER PLUS - i strongly recommend

This day unintentionally ended up being my non-Chinese food day. Met up with some different friends and Let's Burger Plus is where he chose. It had moved from a nearby location to newer, roomier digs and we got a nice seat by the window with a view of Sanlitun Village.

There are a ton of creative burgers (mediterranean sea bass burger anyone?), but we went with two Original Angus beef burgers, and fries of course, which my friend said was his favorite. 

He said he hasn't been able to find fries like this in Taipei, with the thick cut and taste of freshly fried potatoes. They were pretty addicting, especially with so many sauces to dip in from the self serve sauce bar.

This is an awesome idea someone in Taipei should steal, a self serve sauce bar- there was everything from wasabi mayo to honey mustard to sweet and sour to Thousand Island to bbq to plain old ketchup and mustard.

Ordered the chorizo cheese jalapeno fries on a whim (or maybe I was really hungry), but regretted it when I saw the cheese was too runny and the fries not crispy. I'd stick to the regular fries and complimentary sauces.

And the burger, pretty damn awesome. Nothing to complain about.. probably comparable to the Counter or any gourmet burger place in LA. Appreciated after a few off burgers in Taipei.


You know me, I spot Nutella and Banana and I got to give it a try. The crepes were huge and Crepanini is a nice place to chat and people watch if the weather (and air) is nice. 


Sureno is a posh Mediterranean restaurant in Opposite House that has pastas, pizzas and grilled meats in an intimate space. It seemed that every other table was filled with young and beautiful expats. The prosciutto and cantaloupe appetizer was my favorite part of my meal.

The lobster tagliatelle was a tad soft and the sauce was very light.

Someone's tiramisu which I thought was plated in a fun way.

My white chocolate mousse with raspberry sorbet.


Time to go home and glancing at my airport options, I ended up with Bibigo. There wasn't a line and I was curious about the Korean chain's modern approach. 

I have to admit that the bibimbap I got was pretty tasty and full of fresh vegetables, nicely packaged to separate the spicy from the rice and non-spicy vegetables too. The packaged sauces completed the dish and it was quick. Kimchi, bean sprouts, wood ears, spicy radishes, spinach... after some googling, I realized there are a couple Bibigo's in LA.. as some called it a Korean Chipotle. Not necessarily a bad thing- it could be cool to see one in Taipei.

Some coffee and airplane reading for the ride home. I know I missed a lot of "must eats" on my short trip, but I found a few new favorites to try the next time I'm back in Beijing. My blog is actually blocked in China (as is most of blogspot.com), but if anyone wants to point out the places I missed and MUST EAT on my next trip, please share below!


DAY 1- lunch at Bao Yuan Dumpling Restaurant, Nanxiluogao, Sanlitun Village, dinner at Da Dong
DAY 2- breakfast at Opposite House, Forbidden City/Gu Gong Palace Museum, lunch at In and Out, Tiananmen Square, dinner at Peking Duck Private Kitchen
DAY 3- lunch at Let's Burger Plus, meetings, Sanlitun Village, dinner at Sureno
DAY 4- working lunch, meetings, airport

Helpful links!

Liangma Qiao / Lufthansa Center Area 亮马桥燕莎桥
North of 6 Maizidian Jie, Chaoyang District
Daily 11am-10pm
+86 10 6586 4967

团结湖北口3号楼 Chaoyang, 北京市
+86 10 6582 2892

Sanlitun 三里屯
1 Sanlitun Beixiaojie, Chaoyang District
朝阳区三里屯北小街1号 Daily 11am-10pm +86 10 8454 0086

Chaoyangmenwai 朝阳门外
Vantone Center, 6A Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District
Daily 11am-2pm, 6pm-9.30pm
+86 10 5907 1920

Sanlitun 三里屯
The Village North, 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district

Sanlitun 三里屯
Unit A110, 1/F, Nali Patio, 81 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District
Sun-Thu 9am-midnight, Fri-Sat 9am-2am
+86 10  5208 6093

Sanlitun 三里屯
B1/F, Sanlitun Village, 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District
Daily 12Noon-3:30PM, 6PM -10:30PM
+86 10 6410 5240



Sulwyn Lim said...

Love the colorful dumplings! So interesting that they serve sugar with Peking duck now, oh wow...thanks for highlighting these, can't wait to try 'em when in Beijing next :)

Kaifu said...

oh hey, whoa. I was in Beijing last August for a few days on biz trip, and pretty much just followed coworkers around. I figured Da Dong must be famous, but didn't realize Bao Yuan is too. Good stuff, will have to try others next time I go there.