We make it our job (literally) to know the best of Beijing so we can tell you what’s good. Here’s our guide to the very tastiest things to eat. Get started licking the marrow out of bones, slurping up what we call ‘crack noodles’ and sinking your teeth into some delicious sweets.
Braised pork belly with abalone
Cai Yi Xuan
Luscious, fatty cubes of pork belly are ‘red-braised’, or hongshao, in light and dark soy sauce and aromatics – a common enough treatment, sure, but this version’s been turned up to 11 with slabs of abalone and generous shavings of black truffle. Oh hell yeah.
358RMB (plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT).Where? Cai Yi Xuan Second Floor, Four Seasons Beijing, 48 Liangmaqiao Lu, Chaoyang district.
Roasted bone marrow
‘You’re an animal.’ That’s what she said! No, really, that’s what she will say when you’re licking this braised oxtail bone clean of its marrow. Luscious, creamy and topped with chanterelle mushrooms, caramelised onions and a green chermoula sauce, it’s not the kind of dish to make you behave. Not for first dates. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
80RMB/160RMB.Where? Pinotage Dongmen Building, 12 Dongzhimen Waijie, (opposite the Qatar Embassy) Chaoyang district.
Red miso braised tendon
It’s hard to order poorly at Vin Vie, so you’ll always have that on your side. But with this one, the kitchen’s really pulled out all the stops. Achingly soft tendon (still with a bit of chew) has been braised in red miso until submission, then – blammo! – a soft boiled egg. Get baguette slices for dipping and you’re set. This is such a perfect winter dish that you’ll even want it in summer.
45RMB.Where? Vin Vie 8 Maizidian Jie (off Nongzhanguan Bei Lu, across from Home Inn), Chaoyang district.
Toast at The Orchid
The Shaksuka (a traditional Middle Eastern breakfast bowl) at The Orchid combines two poached eggs on a seasoned tomato base with a side of zhug – a mixture of coriander and chilli paste, and some toasted bings to help shovel it all down. This hearty skillet also comes with fruit.
Chicken with sweet sour sauce
A little bit spicy, a little bit sweet and a little bit sour, this is pretty much perfection in a pot. It’s the ultimate balancing act that Chinese cuisines excel at. Don’t like chicken? You will now. It’s impossible to resist snapping up strips of this succulent wangfu paojiao ji (王府泡椒鸡).
32RMB.Where? Nanjing Impressions Fourth Floor, Shimao Department Store, 13 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang district.
If we had to pick sammie to be king of the Middle Kingdom, it’d be the donkey ‘burger’ (lürou huoshao
, 驴肉火烧). Lean, protein-rich meat packed into an impossibly flaky bun – you’ll fall in love with this donkey quicker than Eeyore.
Where? Wang Pangzi 92 Dongsi Bei Dajie, Chaoyang district.
Can one bite be a dish? At the hands of chef Andrew Ahn, it is. Beef carpaccio is great any way you cut it, but Ahn has upped the game in a serious way. A paper-thin slice of beef is wrapped around a sesame-soy-sauce ‘sphere’ and a raw quail egg, then topped with black truffle, pear, pine nuts, and chive. It packs the punch of a full meal in only a bite. We’re all in.
18RMB per piece.Where? One Pot B1-238, Tower 2, Sanlitun Soho, Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang district.
Complex, mesmerising, and with a squeeze of lime, this is dandan mian like you’ve never had it. When you can get a bowl for 6RMB, why would you ever pay more than five times that? Cause it’s elegant, inventive and there’s nothing else in the world like it.
Where? Transit N4-36, Third Floor, Taikoo Li North, Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district.
Sure, sometimes you want inventive, but other times you just want a blow-your-socks-off rendition of a classic. And this is exactly what Zhang Mama serves up. Packing blistering chilli heat, yet still surprisingly complex, this is a huiguo rou (回锅肉) you won’t forget.
28RMB.Where? Zhang Mama 76 Jiaodaokou Nan Dajie, Dongcheng district and 4 Fensiting Hutong, Dongcheng district.
Douse anything in brown butter and it's hard not to love. But Bistrot B's version of the French classic is exceptional – you won't just fall in love, you'll be obssessing. Tender sole lightly battered, pan-fried and anointed with a browned butter, parsley and lemon sauce studded with capers. Count our hearts conquered.
Price 280RMB (plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT).
Where? Bistrot B First floor, Jing Guang Centre, Rosewood Beijing, 1 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang district.
Xi Yi Lang
So, it's not exactly a single dish, but the tempura – pretty much all of it – at Xi Yi Lang is unbeatable. How can you choose just one ingredient? We've picked a whole menu. Go for the 300RMB set which will load you up with more ethereally light, fried goodness than you can imagine.
Where? Xi Yi Lang 101, Building 20, New 5 Building, Vanke Park, Tianshuiyuan Jie, Chaoyang district.
Cream and curry flavoured dough stick
Madam Zhu's Kitchen
If you’ve ever thought a youtiao
is the poorman’s doughnut (we get it, no sugar), Madam Zhu will change your mind. Tinged with yellow curry and stuffed with shrimp, fried dough has never felt so wrong but been so right. They won’t keep so eat them all. Permission granted.
Where? Madam Zhu's Kitchen B1, Building D, Vantone Center A6, Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang district.
Fried chicken sub
Great Leap Brewpub #45
Healthy? No. But our love of fried chicken knows no bounds. We’ll take it any which way – Korean, Taiwanese or deep South. Crackling crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, this fried chicken’s stuck in an Italian sub and topped with peppery rocket. Sheer brilliance.
At their worst, scallops are rubbery, albino knobs of a thing. At their best? You’ll find them at Mosto. Seared, then set on a bed of sautéed shitake mushrooms and a dollop of parley mojo, capped with onion compote, these babies have something serious going on. Seasonal availability.
Where? Mosto Third floor, Nali Patio, 81 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district.
Three cup cod fish
Jing Yaa Tang
We’re fans of pretty much everything at The Opposite House’s paean to regional Chinese and Peking duck, but the ‘three- cup’ cod fish is bonkers. At once both sweet and savoury, this claypot dish offers up tender chunks of cod fish tossed with basil and cloves of roasted garlic. A simple classic, yet totally seductive.
238RMB plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT.
It feels wrong saying that the best thing on the menu isn’t a taco (though man, those shrimp ones? Daaayum!) but we might just have to. Tossed in a light batter, deep-fried and served up with pickled vegetables and a spicy aioli, a dish of this crispy calamari can’t survive five minutes on our table. Order one per head, and you’ll still have at least one too few.
Where? Taco Bar Unit 10, Electrical Research Institute (next to Home Plate), Nan Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district.
Dry pot cauliflower
(干锅花菜) is a common enough dish on the standard Chinese menu, but Nice Rice hits it spot-on. Like all of this Hunan eatery's dishes, the ingredients in its dry-pot cauliflower are inarguably fresh. Tossed with chillies and touch of Chinese bacon to kick up the flavour, this dish is A+.
Where? Nice Rice 23 Dongsiertiao, Dongcheng district.
We call these ‘crack noodles’. Spicy from the chilli, tangy from the vinegar and with the perfect amount of chew, you’ll be addicted in no time. Unlike any other you’po chemian (油泼扯面)… there must be something extra in the He family’s ‘secret sauce’.
Where? Ling Er Jiu Building 1, Xingfucun Zhong Lu (across from April Gourmet). Pork meatball sandwich The Meatball Company
These hoagies come four ways (pork, beef, chicken or veggie), but our favourite by far is the meat on which this country's cuisine was built. Pork all the way, baby. The meatball sandwich is the ultimate deli sammie and classic Italian America. A crusty sub roll slathered with garlic butter is the only way we ever want our meatballs served up.
Green Cow City Café
Sorry Aunt Jemima – this, friends, is a pancake. Farm-to-table is gospel here, and the humble pancake gets a major upgrade because of it. Stuffed until nearly bursting, the fresh ricotta is made in-house with milk from cows on the restaurant’s farm. You can almost taste their life of idyll in these pillow-soft flapjacks. Breakfast here is a dream – drizzled in syrup, of course.
Where? Green Cow City Café Courtyard behind Building 13, Sanfangjie, Jiuxianqiao, Chaoyang district.
If you turn down a threesome covered in gold flakes any time, you’re a fool. But it’s especially true at Opera, where pistachio in three ways – ice cream, custard and whole nuts – form a sultry, unforgettable trio. It’s not on the menu anymore, but order and thou shalt receive.
Where? Opera Bombana LG2-21 Parkview Green Fangcaodi, 9 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang district.
For a dish named after Beijing’s biggest Debbie Downer, chef Nello Turco’s creation is remarkably restrained in its attempt to hasten the demise of our health. ‘Chocolate’ cookies made from reduced coconut and crystal sheets of dried pineapple jut violently from a quenelle of pineapple sorbet and dulce de leche crumble. A cloud of rosewood smoke lingers over the hectic pile of shards and spikes, but somehow its complex, dynamic flavours all make sense together – much like our fair city itself.
Price 138RMB plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT.
Where? Mio Four Seasons Hotel, 48 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang district.
The house-made pappardelle with rabbit ragu wasn’t enough? Brace yourself for the creamiest panna cotta in the city, an ultra-rich, espresso-packed tirasmisu and an Italian rice pudding cake. It’s unreal.
Where? Mercante 4 Fangzhuanchang Hutong, Dongcheng district.
Macaron and Éclairs
The shop's location might be an unassuming hole-in-the-wall in the chaos of Gongti, but its éclairs are anything but modest. Piled high and bursting with rich cream, these decadent éclairs come in every flavour you could imagine and are the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Treat yourself. We won't judge.
Passion fruit tart
Jiang Mai Tang
Sometimes we miss the extravagance of a true French pastry. Then we remember Jiang Mai Tang. The almond-chocolate croissants are to die for, but the passion fruit tart is that and then some. Sinfully velvety and the perfect size to eat yourself. We won’t tell.
Where? Jiang Mai Tang (Formerly L'Atelier) Unit 102, Tower 20, Central Park, 6 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang district.