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11th Mar 2014
Produced in association with Contiki - Need an insider's guide to the best street and fine dining eats in the sprawling cities of Asia? Look no further than our Hong Kong-based resident connoisseur and Contiki Insider Emilie Sullivan. It gives us great pleasure to present the third of four courses in Emilie's Guide To Chowing Down On The Best Asian Eats: Part Three - Beijing.
Beijing is a fascinating fusion of old and new. Space age architecture towers over cycle-drawn rickshaws amongst the uniquely Beijing haze. Of all the places I have visited in Asia, Beijing (so far) has felt the most foreign. English language skills cannot be expected and Google is definitely not allowed. As a result, I felt I was getting a sense of how it was to travel before this kind of information and navigation become so accessible. Beijing is, without a doubt, retro, but embrace the dorky charm and I promise you will reap the rewards. The following dining spots are four diverse foodie highlights from my most recent trip.
PENINSULA HUANG TING
Tucked into the basement of Beijing’s historical Peninsula Hotel is the quaint Huang Ting restaurant. Modelled on the traditional interiors of a noblesse tea-room, it's all Zen bamboo, polished timbers, marble sculptures and attentive hosts dressed in flame colored Qi-piaos’ (traditional female dress).
Huang Ting is well known for its offering of Cantonese cuisine, useful information if you love Oriental flavour but struggle with the spice and chilli focus found in Szechuan and Peking culinary traditions. Of 10,000 eateries reviewed on TripAdvisor – Huang Hing is in the Top 100.
Located in the trendy Wangfujing neighborhood, it's well located after a day of shopping and people watching. To order, I recommend the Beijing Style dumplings fried rice, prawns with mayonnaise/egg yolk and the steamed whole cod with garlic. For a more affordable approach you can skip the à la carte dinner option and visit for a delicious weekend dumpling brunch.
Photos via Dining City, The Peninsula
WAYFUJING NIGHT MARKET
Wayfujing Market is Chinese fruitiness at its best. Situated within a 15 minute walk from the must-visit Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, you walk through stunning traditional arches to find a riot of tourists and strange-looking street food.
The street treats are generally served on all manner of skewers - bugs, spiders and spuds all take on the same form as they are dipped into boiling hot vats of oil before being served to you with a flourish. It’s against the lucky-dip spirit to recommend one delicacy over another, so just dive on in.
It is overwhelming, but totally worth it for the chance to take selfies looking brave and adventurous as you gamely consume a who’s who of creepy crawlies.
LI QUN ROAST DUCK RESTAURANT
Down a little alleyway lies Beijing’s worst kept secret - I came to be here on Kylie Kwong’s recommendation. Renowned for their Peking duck, this Beijing institution is tucked behind low-lying buildings in a Spartan suburban neighbourhood. Upon arrival you sit outside on rows of chairs that appear to be lifted from the closest wedding/conference venue. Waiting for a table is the perfect entrée, as warm aromas of roasted duck and charcoal waft from the doorway.
I knew we were in for a treat when Canadian families were leaving as we sat, whose two teenage sons were enthusiastically enquiring if they might be able to return tomorrow for breakfast. Once they were ready for us we were led through a rabbit warren of hallways and sat at a little table laden with plastic cups, chopsticks and Formica. From here it is pretty straightforward – order your duck set and wait to be amazed.
We took the conservative route which included the melt in your mouth skin (shaved from the underbelly) duck pancakes with cucumber and hoi-sin, minced duck served as san choy bow, and finally the deep-fried bones which can only be described as fried chicken meets pork crackling (sans flesh).
This is nose-to-tail cuisine at its best, with every course glowing with flavour as the result of the long roasting process over varying kinds of smoked woods (cherry, apricot). As a night out it was one of my favourites in this madcap city. Sitting amongst local families and wall shrines of famous happy patrons (think Boris Yeltsin and Al Gore) you can depart with the satisfaction that you've been inducted into a gastronomic club of in-the-know duck devotees.
DARA LIFE LOUNGE
One of the most exciting aspects of China today is its art scene. The combination of communism, capitalism and cosmopolitanism has a created a unique environment for artists to thrive. 798 is Beijing’s creative ground zero, an expansive area of factory and warehouse space originally built by the East Germans. Today this industrial setting has provided the perfect backdrop for progressive contemporary curators to set up shop and created a burgeoning artistic district in an increasingly sophisticated city.
Creative precincts require nourishment quarters for long afternoons of wine and art critique. The current darling of this genre is the super eclectic Dara Life Lounge, a spin off of the well-regarded interiors expat-fave which shares the same name. The menu is focused on European cuisine, with each dish being individually prepared by the capable hands of Robbie Wu (of Temple Restaurant notoriety).
Highlights of the menu include the smoked salmon with fresh bread and the slow cooked Australian beef cheek with wild mushrooms and oxtail sauce. To finish, indulge in the luscious, deliciously decadent butterscotch toffee cake. As with all western focused cuisine in Asia, it's on the pricey side and requires a reservation. However it’s a nice respite from the Asian flavours and a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of the cities much talked about emerging socialite scene.
Address: 798 Xi Jie, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District
Phone: 6434 5382
Hours: 8:00am - 8:30pm Daily
Photo via Time Out Beijing
Article via Pedestrian.tv