August 17, 2017
Beijing has grown in stature on the world stage in the last two decades, and along with that has come some fine, accessible dining in one of North Asia’s most historic cities.
Beijing is one of the few metropolises in Asia that can boast of having extraordinary tourist attractions in the very heart of its city center. From the gray, grainy hutongs to the bright red of the Forbidden City itself, remarkable dining locations have woven themselves into the centuries-old history of the city.
For some diners, it’s all about the location, for others, it’s all about the food. Beijing’s rapid rise in the world of commerce means that chefs from around the globe want to get in on the decadent, indulgent rise of the Middle Kingdom’s capital.
TRB Forbidden City
The TRB Forbidden City follows on from the TRB Hutong – another celebrated fine dining establishment – but the Forbidden City location has an obvious draw for travelers: found in a building adjacent the Forbidden City’s eastern moat. Compared to the world wonder it stares upon, the interior is carefully minimalist. The food, however, is fit for an emperor – well, a French emperor.
The menu is modern European with an underlying French cuisine approach, complete with a deep, diverse caviar selection. As to their mains, the menu is split between surf and turf, with the crispy beef carpaccio highly recommended.
When you get a reservation at Capital M, be sure to get it outdoors.
Some restaurants may boast better or more exclusive locations, but the award for best fine dining view in central Beijing goes to Capital M. The brainchild of Michelle Garnaut – the mind behind M on the Bund in Shanghai and the M on the Fringe in Hong Kong – Capital M has a lively interior, carefully prepared European cuisine, and an unbeatable view over Tiananmen Square. Dishes are seasonal, dinner starts at 6pm, and the sites light up when the sun goes down.
This is pretty much a one-stop shop for sights of central Beijing, and if you fancy walking off the meal, the Square is just a short walk away. The pollution in Beijing can ruin the outdoor experience so book carefully and call ahead. You can’t go wrong with any of the options, but the suckling pig is their prize dish.
Brasserie Flo isn’t in a hutong, or near a landmark, or at a lush hotel. But it does have darn good food. The feel of the Brasserie Flo is a bit out of sorts with the surrounding area. One drives from the northeast Beijing traffic furor of the Fourth Ring to the busy area above Chaoyang Park and somehow lands in the tranquil lap of elegant French luxury that is Brasserie Flo.
While the location may seem out of sorts to most, Brasserie Flo – winner of the Best French restaurant in Beijing for 11 straight years – is found not far from the French Embassy in Lido.
Walking into the low light of the luxury dining room, the world turns from China to Europe. With a history that began in 1901, Brasserie FLO’s roots found their way inexorably to the Middle Kingdom in 1999 to become the name in French cuisine in China. Marseille native David Thiery is the chef at Brasserie FLO, combining signature, classic French cuisine with delicate new twists.
Da Dong Roast Duck
You’re in Peking, you’re going to want some Peking Duck. And, if you’re looking at a list of things to do in Beijing, you’re going to come across this restaurant’s name.
Da Dong has locations in Tuanjiehu and across from the Regent Beijing, but the location just south of the Dongsishitiao bridge (Nanxincang) is going the proper Da Dong experience. At first famed for their spherical wood-fired ovens, the Da Dong Roast Duck is a permanent feature for the Beijing local and tourist alike.
The prices might not be as high as one might find at the likes of TRB or Capital M, but this is proper Chinese fare, complete with a famously over-the-top 160-page menu. For newbies, here’s how it works: reserve your duck and your seat, dip it in the duck sauce, then the sugar, put it in the “pancake,” add the fillings, and stuff the whole thing in your gob. You’re welcome.
Try as one might with the charm of roast duck or French cuisine at the Forbidden City, few outmatch the Ritz-Carlton brand for luxury – Fred Astaire did a whole thing about it. Beijing is no different.
Indeed, the Ritz-Carlton in Beijing is practically a food court of fine dining options. There’s The Lounge, which is decked out in English manor style – a room Agatha Christie herself would feel comfortable murdering someone in – for champagne and tea. Then there’s the Yu, meaning jade, on the second floor featuring Chinese cuisine at its finest. If you’re not up for the tastes of China, Aroma in the lobby digs into Southeast Asian, Indian, Japanese, and Western dishes, and one floor up Barolo indulges your Italian tastes.
If one manages to try all of that (and live), there are still cigars and wines in the Davidoff Lounge and cocktails at the Ritz-Carlton Bar to consider. It’s quantity and quality together at last.