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Dining in Beijing

Article contributed by: Imperial Tours

Cuisine for the elite...

Set in a traditional courtyard home in the elite government district, this restaurant presents a contemporary yet quintessentially Chinese sophistication. Having driven along labyrinthine, bustling hutongs, you finally arrive before an unassuming pair of red doors. Entering, you step into another world. Antique Chinese furniture, intricately carved wooden doors and window lattices, as well as many other light touches make the setting a worthwhile experience in and of itself. The menu though, takes you on a further journey. Filled with historical anecdotes, it includes such dishes as 'Gold Fish in a Carp Pond' (delicately carved cucumbers and carrots marinated in a light vinaigrette), 'Scholar's Contemplation' (seasonal vegetables and meats served on a bed of crispy rice), 'Dream of the Red Chamber Aubergines' (a medley of vegetables in a sweet, tangy sauce topped with toasted pine nuts), and 'South of the Winds Fish' (fresh fish and scallions grilled on a woven bamboo mat)- each of them the favourite of a former dignitary or statesman. (And before you leave, don't forget to ask one of the waitresses, dressed in elegant silk qipao, for a peek at the bomb shelter turned wine cellar beneath the courtyard.)

Sophisticated fusion cuisine...

Recently voted one of the world's fifty best restaurants by Conde Nast Traveler, this restaurant is definitely the most elegant in town. Enjoying a superb location on the moat of the Forbidden Palace, it is divided into three sections, the lower of which houses one of Beijing's most acclaimed contemporary art galleries. The subdued and sophisticated restaurant on the ground level is complimented by a dark and sultry cigar den on the upper level. The food, best described as Continental with an Asian accent, is prepared by Chef Rey Lim, who apprenticed at Bouley in New York. His exotic creations include such dishes as cashew-crusted lamb chops infused with spices from China's Muslim northwest and garnished with roasted lotus root or maple-glazed duck with Beijing-style pancakes and julienned turnips. His dessert menu is also one of the best in Beijing featuring such delectable choices as lemon-lime cream with a Mandarin orange compote or lychee sorbet.

Elegant tea house... This tea house offers a serenity rarely found in the bustle of modern day Beijing. This charming restaurant-tea house is the creation of Suzhou-born J.R. Zhang, whose impeccable taste is seen everywhere from the simple wood furniture and rice-paper lanterns, to the eclectic selection of ceramic serving dishes and bamboo utensils displayed uniquely in each separate order. The hand-written menu includes such creative dishes as dumplings steamed on a bed of pine needles as well as soothing tea infusions of chrysanthemum and rose bud. Many of the teas are prepared at the table by the waitress, who performs an elaborate process to give you the perfect brew. (One ought to bear in mind that the Japanese tea ceremony is in fact an export from China - for more information visit Hangzhou's Tea Museum.)

China's new face...Walk through the enormous metal doors of this night club come restaurant and you'll find yourself in a night setting as urbane as any in Hong Kong, New York or London. Except of course for Henry Lee's touches which make it undeniably Chinese; opium beds serving as seats, Buddhist statues placed in the wall niches and, finally, the Chinese partying 'til dawn.