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The Best Chinese Cuisine: all the favorite local grub in China's capital city



At 10Best, we're always on the lookout for Beijing's best restaurants, and while we appreciate places that have a broad culinary range, we can't help but adore restaurants that specialize in a given cuisine. When we're in the mood for Chinese food in Beijing, we head to Whampoa Club - a reader favorite - or we count on Fangshan Restaurant's solid track record and consistently great dishes. You'll find these places - and any of the restaurants on our list - to be fantastic options for Chinese cuisine, and if you're looking to concentrate your efforts, start with the vibrant Dongcheng District area.

In Beijing, food is worshiped. Nowhere is this more evident than in the wide array of Chinese cuisine options that dominate the city. From tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurants with no name to the giant, popular eateries that are packed nightly with smokers, drinkers and families trying to suck in a hearty meal.

The city's Chinese food is broken into a few categories for ease. Southern food, which is spicy, vegetable and rice based, is extremely popular with the nationals who are from out-of-town. Of course, the middle dominates the jiaozi scene (dumplings) and they come in many meat and vegetable flavors. Northerners prefer less spicy cuisine, with more of a noodle base. Perhaps the most popular and famous local cuisine is the Peking Duck, which is a whole duck roast in an open wood stove. The duck is sliced and served on a plate with a side of onion, cucumber and small pancake-like cakes. You create your own burrito-style wrap with the duck meat and sides and slather the whole ordeal in duck sauce. This is more than a tradition, it's a way of life for many.


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Da Jinsi Hutong 1

This nameless restaurant goes only by an address and is the other half of the "No Name Bar." Soft lighting and gentle waterfalls create a more soothing atmosphere than the usual noisy Beijing restaurant, and the food is excellent. The chef's signature dish is "seshao niurou," a juicy, foil-wrapped beef marinated in mountain herbs. Also try "nongjia shao jian ji" (spicy, sauteed chicken fillet) or the grilled lemongrass fish ("daizu xiangmao cao kao yu").

Local Expert tip: Despite being nameless, this joint has quite a reputation. Arrive early and expect to wait.

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Golden Cat Dumpling City


Beijingers love "jiaozi" (dumplings), and they come here in throngs for the choice of no less than 30 different fillings at this simple yet delightful courtyard diner. From traditional pork, fish, lamb and beef to pumpkin and eggplant, some dumplings are spiced with dill, fennel and chives.

Local Expert tip: You can't hit Beijing without trying the jiaozi, and this place has one of the widest arrays of dumplings in Beijing.

Read more about Golden Cat Dumpling City →


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Xi Cheng District
Fangshan Restaurant


Beautifully located on the banks of Beihai Lake just northwest of the Forbidden City, this courtyard restaurant serves up imperial dishes once favored by the emperors of the Qing Dynasty. The restaurant was established in 1925 by three royal chefs, and the traditional ambiance is maintained right down to waitresses in period costume. This is a banquet-style meal, and it's always popular. Reserve in advance and arrive early.

Local Expert tip: For a flash-back to the Qing dynasty past, head to this beautiful restaurant dressed casually.

Read more about Fangshan Restaurant →


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Fujia Lou


A cheap and cheerful option, but one that offers great value for money. Inside an old grey building with latticed wood screens is a pleasant little Chinese diner. Interestingly, the menu is written on pieces of wood and hung from the rafters. The food is fresh and tasty, and service is fast. Recommended dishes include "zha qiehe" (slices of eggplant deep-fried with pork), "kao yangrou" (thin-sliced roast mutton), and the "banli shao chizhong" (soy chicken wings with chestnuts).

Local Expert tip: For cheap, local integration this is the place to head. Don't be shocked by the local dining etiquette, which is seemingly nonexistent.

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Huajia Yiyuan


Locals love to crowd into this diner late at night for the generous portions of home-style Beijing fare. You must try the spicy crayfish ("mala longxia") and the "larou douya juanbing" (pancake rolls of spicy bacon and bean sprouts). Wash it all down with green beer. A good place for meeting people.

Local Expert tip: This home-style eatery gets packed at night with heavy smokers, if that isn't your bag head elsewhere.

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Xicheng West District
Jiuhua Shan Kaoya


Located on the west side of the city, this is a Peking Duck restaurant popular with locals, especially Communist Party officials. Whole ducks, relatively low on fat and crispy, are very reasonable for 88 CNY. They roast only 200 birds a day, so get there early. Another branch opened in late 2007 inside the east gate of Workers Stadium (phone 6508 5830).

Local Expert tip: An affordable option for Peking Duck, but don't expect the same frills as the fancier duck joints.

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An open-kitchen restaurant specializing in Beijing cuisine, located inside one of the city's major hotels. All the local street food is served here, except that it's guaranteed fresh and elegantly presented. Try some of the small dishes as appetizers - oder dou zhi (fermented bean puree), ma doufu (mashed soybean), and zhajiang mian (wheat noodles with black bean mince). Peking duck and Beggar's chicken are the pick of the entrees.

Local Expert tip: An affordable local favorite, avoid the lunch rush as that's when the locals and expats swarm the place daily.

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Xi Cheng District
Whampoa Club


This stunning restaurant was opened by acclaimed chef Jereme Leung who also boasts a Shanghai branch of the same name. Proclaimed as "New Beijing" cuisine, the delicious dishes are inspired by ancient imperial cuisine coupled with modern Chinese fusion. The results are delightful – try the soy-braised pomfret fillet terrine; the cabbage and spinach rolls with shrimps and scallops, flavoured with yellow mustard and wasabi jelly; and the Beijing pancakes with goose liver and pork filling. Scrumptious!

Local Expert tip: A stunning feast amid elegant decor, dress to impress for this fancy eatery.

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Delicious, tender Peking roast duck baked in a traditional oven. This is a more authentic option than the commercial Peking duck restaurants that most tourists are lured to. A very friendly atmosphere in this tiny, family-run restaurant, which is situated in an old courtyard house and hidden down some backstreets in the Qianmen neighborhood.

Local Expert tip: Peking Duck is the Beijing specialty, and this is one of the best spots in town to try the local best

Read more about Li Qun Roast Duck Restaurant →


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Xi Cheng District


An elegant but traditional Chinese restaurant set in an old courtyard house, beautifully located on the south side of Houhai Lake. The restaurant is named after Mei Lanfang, a famous actor from Peking opera who starred in women's roles. Opera memorabilia decks the wooden walls in this ornate setting. Set meals start at 200 CNY for lunch and 300 CNY for dinner. Delicious Shanghai and Zhejiang favorites such as shrimp with water chestnuts and pineapple salad are offered along with traditional but light Chinese fare.

Local Expert tip: Best for quiet elegance and charm, but on the pricy side for local cuisine.

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Meet Lauren Johnson

Lauren has been living in Asia for the past five years. She holds a master's degree in Asian history. Lauren spends her free time reading, writing and traveling and visiting zoos in every city possible.

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