Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

question to peter: any gourmet restaurants in china?

question to peter: any gourmet restaurants in china?

Old May 20th, 2004, 05:48 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 41
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
question to peter: any gourmet restaurants in china?

Peter: we will spend 18 days in china. We are sort of gourmet restaurant freaks. We have been told that "you don't go to china for the food". Are you familiar with gourmet restaurants in Beijing, Xian, Hong Kong, Lhasa, Kumming, Guilin, and Shanghai.
Thank you
manenita is offline  
Old May 20th, 2004, 07:03 PM
  #2  
Airlawgirl
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Let me dive in here initially, Peter, if I may, and recommend two restaurants, since I just returned from China, and I am a foodie. Let me say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the sophistication of Beijing's restaurant scene. Two restaurants in Beijing that are musts: 1. The Courtyard (Sihueyuan) 2. The Red Capital Club.
1. The Courtyard is owned by a Chinese-American lawyer, and is on an absolutely special little street filled with lovely shops. It sits right on the moat of the Forbidden City, which allows you an incomparable view of the East side of the Forbidden City at night while dining. But it is the small cigar room at the top of the stairs that really awes and inspires. It has this huge open window, so you can sit on an old leather couch with your coffee and cognac and just stare away at tableaux of the Forbidden City in front of you. It was magic. Food is Pacific asian/fusion cuisine-very good, with prices on a par with major American cities. A glass of Puilly Fuisse was about US11-I think. A meal for two with wine, dessert and after-dinner drinks came to around US 130.00.

2. Red Capital Club-located down a very old hutong, with a beautiful courtyard area, and traditional Chinese decor, this restaurant has been described as a "romanticized version of China at the cusp of revolution." It's awesome- I loved everything about this place, beautifully presented Chinese food, the Chinese furniture, the dishes said to be the favorites of the top Politburo members- a bar done up in Politburo memorabilia. A bit more pricey than the Courtyard, if I remember correctly. Lovely Chinese food, beautifully presented. I'd go back to both in a heartbeat.

As far as Shanghai- I can recommend only one restaurant: "M on the Bund"-it's on the 7th floor of the Huaxia bank, and has a magnificent terrace with stupendous views of the Bund at night. Excellent international cuisine, with a renowned chef. It is supposed to have a lovely brunch as well, and is well worth going to just for a drink. Also, I liked the Westin Shanghai for afternoon tea- it was very reasonably priced, in the piano lobby, with a very good assortment of salmon and egg sandwiches, cakes, and scones. very relaxing.

Okay..Peter can take over now...
 
Old May 21st, 2004, 01:45 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You don't go to China for the food??? As Chinese cuisine is, arguably, the finest in the world, I'd have thought that there might be at least an outside chance of scoring a decent feed somewhere in the Middle Kingdom (and on that note I'll hand over to the experts too.)
Neil_Oz is offline  
Old May 21st, 2004, 07:34 AM
  #4  
epi
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 231
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The answer to this question depends on what you mean by gourmet food. If you mean western-style, you are correct that you will have to look for it. However if your definition of gourmet includes Chinese food, you can have some of the most incredible meals you have ever had. We found that the least interesting meal we had on our recent trip was at M on the Bund, because we could have had that same meal, probably for less money, at a restaurant in the US. If you want special Chinese meals, I suggest going to traditional tour books, and pick out what looks best to you. For example, we ate at a wonderful restaurant in Shanghai which is in Frommers: meilongzhen. We have eaten there twice in 3 years and enjoyed it both times. I unfortunately don't remember the names of other restaurants,
but there is excellent food to be had in China. Hopefully others will come up with names for you. If Western food is what you want, that is also available in big cities - mostly at the expensive hotels.
epi is offline  
Old May 21st, 2004, 08:19 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 41
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Just to clarify: we are not looking for americanized food. We can get that at home. We are looking for local gourmet food!!!. We are open minded travellers and enjoy new flavors. I am taking careful note of any responses and appreciate them fully!
Manenita
manenita is offline  
Old May 22nd, 2004, 07:27 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,210
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I wonder if Peter is away, as he hasn't answered this post. He did post a long list of great Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong for me. If you do a search on this board, you'll find it. I was requesting restaurants for special lunches in Hong Kong.
Kathie is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2004, 01:28 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 23
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
In Beijing try the Louisiana in the Hilton Hotel.. a wonderful version of cajun cuisine. Most meals under $25.00 U.S. without wine.. Great wine selection from around the world from about $40.00 up. Current Chef is named Dan Segall and he is a master. There is wonderful Chinese food most everywhere but this is really great for a break.
pooky is offline  
Old May 25th, 2004, 07:24 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 518
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi -- I'm a food lover living in Beijing, and while I disagree that you don't go to China for the food, I will say that you don't go to China for an elegant dining experience. That being said, I offer a few recommendations:

1. For peking duck, I like Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant which is located in a Beijing hutong. They have an English menu, which makes it no less authentic, just easier to order. The phone number: 8610-6705-5578.
2. For thai food, try We Serve the People (Wei Renmin Fu Wu) in the Sanlitun area of Beijing.
3. For a bit of elegance, I second the vote for The Courtyard. Alternatively there is the bizarre Green T. House.
4. In Shanghai, I like Dintaifeng for soup dumplings. Also, the newly opened Jean-Georges would probably satisfy your inner gourmand.
My final tip: When you arrive in a city, try to find the local English-language magazine. The restaurant sections will be newer and more up-to-date than your guide book, and they'll have listings of bars, clubs and events around town. In Beijing, the local publications are That's Beijing and Beijing City Weekender. Shanghai has That's Shanghai. Bon voyage!
petitepois is offline  
Old May 27th, 2004, 02:57 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 100
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Most of the chefs in the major hotels were sent to France mostly to learn how to bake bread and rolls, as you know bread baking is not a forte of the Chinese. I had the most delicious pasta in the Jeng Jing hotel in Beijing I have ever had in my life and I just got back from Tuscany last week with pasta everyday sometimes twice a day. This was my 3rd trip to Italy, to make the point you can get some of the best international fare in China that can be had anywhere in the world, Buck
buckspc is offline  
Old May 27th, 2004, 07:52 PM
  #10  
Airlawgirl
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Hello Petitepois-(hope Peter doesn't mind us hijacking his thread!). I read your restaurant list with interest, since I very much intend to return to Beijing as soon as I can-I think I'm hooked! There are a few things I wanted to ask you, if I may- (1) I am SO glad you mentioned the Green Tea House-where is that place? I apparently had an incorrect address for it, and although the front desk staff at my hotel were helpful, no one knew of it-it is apparently in Sanlitun, but I didn't see it-I would like to know your impressions of the food, ambience, etc. as it sounded like a very good place for Chinese food, (2) What do you think of the Red Capital Club? (3) How do you enjoy being an ex-pat in Beijing? (I'm curious about what its like to like there....)
 
Old May 27th, 2004, 09:45 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 518
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Airlawgirl -- Glad you enjoyed your visit to Beijing! Here are the answers to your questions. 1. The Green T. House is a bizarre dining experience. The menu is a graphic designer's nightmare, with different texts and fonts -- it's impossible to tell what's a first course, entree, or side dish! The decor is extremely unusual with most diners seated at a long 10 foot mirrored table. The food is fusion-cuisine, and many items are suffused with green tea. It's definitely an experience, with spectacular presentations, for example, our cheesecake dessert was served in a steaming cauldron (effect courtesy of dry ice). However, prices are extremely high, especially for China, and I'm not sure the food warranted the expense. For western food I prefer simpler fare -- Morels (Belgian) or La Dolce Vita (Italian) are homier and more my speed. If you DO decide to visit the Green T. House, be sure to make a reservation. The address is: 6 Gongti Xilu, phone 8610-6552-8310, 8610-6552-8311. It's near Sanlitun, but not walking distance.

2. I've never been to the Red Capital Club, so am afraid I can't offer you an opinion there.

3. I'm really enjoying my time in Beijing. There are definite negatives to living here, but it's an incredibly exciting time to be in China. And expat life is very easy here -- you can find many, if not all, Western goods, which is one of those unromantic things you never think about before moving overseas.

If you do come back to Beijing, I suggest you visit 798 which is a converted factory that's been turned into a Bauhaus-style set of galleries, artists' studios, restaurants and cafes. It's different, and vibrant, and some might argue, embodies what China hopes to become.
petitepois is offline  
Old May 28th, 2004, 06:12 AM
  #12  
Airlawgirl
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Petitepois-"cheesecake served in a steaming cauldron with dry ice???? What more fantastically bizarro dining experience could one have than that in Beijing? I think I might have asked for a glass of champagne with the cheesecake to complete the experience! oh WHY couldn't I find that place when I there?? How can ANYONE think that going to tired old Europe for the umpteenth time is better than experiencing something like this? Petitepois, thanks-I know I'll have more questions-but in the future I'll query you directly!
 
Old Jun 1st, 2004, 09:51 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 22
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
There is a plethora of great food in Hong Kong. It is considered by many to be a top 5 city for food along with New York, Paris, and San Francisco.

There is everything from outstanding, traditional Chinese and dim sum, to Italian to Western and many "fusion" style restaurants that blend local ingredients with western styles of cooking.

Some of my favorite restaurants while there are Felix, that has a gorgeous view of the harbor; Vong, that is a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant; Yu, some of the best seafood I've had anywhere in the world; and Fook Lam Moon for fantastic upscale, Chinese.

I would not recommend Cafe Deco at Victoria Peak for a "gourmet" evening that you might see recommended in various posts and websites. The view is magnificent and should definitely be seen. But the food is average. With so many great restaurants, you can do better eating elsewhere, and coming here for after dinner drinks to look down at Hong Kong.

These are just a few of the great restaurants here. Frommers.com has a pretty good list of restaurants with reviews, but note that this list is outdated and not completely accurate anymore. But it is a good starting point for ideas. Also, don?t miss the afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel. It is a unique experience that displays England?s influence on Hong Kong.
sjb0115 is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2004, 08:32 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 50
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am an expat from the States, that has just lived in Tokyo, now moving to Shanghai. Other expats from Beijing have told me how wonderful Lee's Family Restaurant is in Beijing. I know that sounds like a coffee shop name but it is wonderful. Mr. Lee has his own restaurant in his own little four building complex. He grows most of his own veggies right there. My daughter is a vegetarian and he created the most marvelous meal on the spot. The dinner was fabulous. Yes, it is real Chinese food at its best. I'd return in a minute and it is considered a favorite restaurant by the expat community. Myszka, now in Shanghai
Myszka is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2004, 12:21 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,778
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I've been avoiding this thread because I'm busy, because I think it's impolite to address individuals through a public medium like this, and because I don't think anyone should be expected to type out lists of restaurants for seven Chinese cities, when there are plenty of published sources available.

However, the question '[Are there] any gourmet restaurants in China?' is similar to 'Are there any legs on a millipede', but most of the recommendations listed above should be widely avoided unless you are a desperate expat with an infinite expense account. If you want to know about good eating in China the last person you should ask is an expat, with certain honourable exceptions the victim of whatever the latest trend is, based on a whisper from Jones at the Beijing office of Sue, Grabbit, and Runne who heard about it from the ambassador's wife, who read it in City Weekend magazine. They pay New York and London prices for good but unexceptional meals which they would consider overpriced at home, and (astonishing for those who actually live in China you might think) can list all the French restaurants at the drop of a hat, but can name nothing Chinese beyond Beijing's tedious rip-off Li Family and "Old China Hand"-cred I'm-so-clever-to-find-this Liqun (although the duck is pretty decent there).

Presumably, as Manenita confirms in her second message, the whole point for visitors is to try Chinese food, largely unknown to foreigners, as what's available in the West is predominantly an adulterated hodge-podge of different regional styles, and there's a very large range of styles and dishes to experiment with. Usually it's best to try these in their province of origin, but Beijing in particular is well-stocked with specialist chefs from all over the country running restaurants which are outside the expat ghetto entertainment areas, and thus realistically priced, too. A bad meal at any price level right down to the most basic street-side breakfast, is increasingly hard to find.

General guidelines: In Beijing and Shanghai pick up the free newspapers and look at the listings rather than just the reviews of new openings. Usually restaurants are listed by region. Pick ones if possible not obviously in expat entertainment areas or inside hotels. Start with local foods (Beijing's wheaty snacks in 'Lao Beijing' style restaurants if that fad hasn't moved on by the time you get there; Shanghai's oilier dishes; fat noodles, peppered eels, shengjian baozi), and then look for the speciality regional foods from places you won't be visiting. Beijing has for instance, a Shanxi (that's Sha1nxi1 not Sha3nxi1 or Shaanxi--some of the expat mags can't tell the difference) restaurant or two, with a vinegary cuisine using potatoes and flours made from various kinds of beans. There are a number of excellent Sichuan restaurants, too; but avoid the usual tourist/expat recommendations. Try, for instance, Shui Zhu Yu, a spicy fish soup you probably won't often find overseas, which recently had a run of being fashionable, and was suddenly being served by every restaurant (so look for directions to the original). More recently the fad has been for southern, ethnic minority dishes, and in particular those of Yunnan (sweeter, sometimes fruity, coconut-laced), and of the Kejia (Hakka) minority, now with several branches. Of course, since you'll be down in Kunming you can try the Yunnan dishes there.

In Xi'an (Sha3nxi1 or Shaanxi) it's traditional to try yang rou pao mo (shred a small loaf of bread, add lamb soup, garlic and chili paste), and there are several famous restaurants for it, but try not to be herded into the double-priced tourist section. The made-for-tourists dumpling banquets are entertaining. There's more authenticity with special local dumplings at places like Lao San Jia.

In Hong Kong obviously dim sum and Cantonese (which you'll find to be a great deal more subtle that you are used to), as well as the goose dishes of Chaozhou (Chiu Chow). There are endless sources of published recommendations, not least the HKTB produce Best-of-the-Best guide (free) to those restaurants which won the annual cooking competition. Needless to say there are also very many first-class Western restaurants where you really do get levels of service and food worth paying for.

Not a great deal of choice in Lhasa, but there are recommendations in guide books for Tibetan restaurants.

In Guilin expect to be cheated. The food is more or less the same as in Guangdong (Canton).

On t the other recommendations:

The Courtyard is good enough, and the Sunday set lunch is reasonably priced, but some of its fusion dishes simply do not work, prices are in general very high (although the wine pairings are impressive), and the interior of the old courtyard house has been converted into a modern clean white space little different from anywhere else. What's this got to do with China? Oh--there's the Forbidden City just out of the window, but there are only two tables next to windows, so book well ahead or be well-connected. Or, better, as a visitor, stick to Chinese. If you want fusion in top-notch surroundings, Aria in the China World Hotel is considerably better than The Courtyard, in my opinion. But bring the deeds to your house.

The Red Capital Club is run by someone who regularly publishes apologies for the thugs in power, both in book at article form, and amongst the restaurant's decorations is furniture from the Cultural Revolution Reparations Committee. Likely the original owners didn't get it back because they didn't survive. There's a sofa said to have been used by members of the Politburo. Chic, or just sick? Decidedly the latter. The food is fine but three to four times the price for which you could find the same dishes elsewhere, and the service is incompetent. The owner now also hires out a limousine said to have belonged to Mao's last wife, one of the major orchestrators of the Cultural Revolution, in which you can be driven round town by a suitably dressed chaffeuse, drinking champagne. An entirely cod experience engineered by an expat to fleece expats, and in very dubious taste. Words (nearly) fail me.

The Liqun and the Li Family restaurants have it in common that expats can look clever by showing them to visitors, both being rather tucked away in soon to be destroyed hutong, and have a kind of slumming-it chic (ooh, aren't we brave and adventurous) like venturing into some dodgy area of New York because you heard the bagels are authentic. The duck at the Liqun is fine, and compared in price to other duck restaurants when I was last there, but you may well consider the location a slum. There are other, better, duck restaurants, and if you want to see what remains of the hutong just wander around on foot. The Li Family restaurant got its fame from the victory in a televised cooking competition of one particular woman who claimed to use recipes handed down from imperial chefs. She's long gone (to Australia), the prices are astronomical, the food so-so, the surroundings equally so-so. Only perhaps the Green Tea House is more pretentious and more ridiculously overpriced. A pot of tea there can cost as much as a major meal elsewhere.

Take a menu from your local Chinese take-away restaurant to try true Chinese versions of dishes popular in the West--just point to the characters which, while not the same as those in use in the mainland, will still be recognized. Don't be afraid just to walk in somewhere and try it out. Where expat magazines exist with bi-lingual listings don't be afraid to use them to show characters to taxi drivers to get around, within the guidelines already given.

Really, it's very hard to go wrong.

Peter N-H
http://members.shaw.ca/pnhpublic/China.html
PeterN_H is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2004, 12:15 PM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 41
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Many thanks to all of you that provided suggestions.
Peter, I apologize for having made a request to you in this public forum. I did not know (still don't know) how to address you personally. Also, I did not intend for you to give me "a list" of restaurants. I just thought you might have "some" recommendations.
Thank you for your observations. They are actually more pertinent and valuable than the names of specific restaurants. Now I know what type of cuisine to look for in each place.
You suggested to get guide books. I have looked for them and I only found one that was specific for Beijing and that has valuable information. I have found that, in general, guide books bought in the States are only marginally helpful. It seems that they are biased towards americanized restaurants. I'll keep looking.
Again, apologies, and thanks.
Manenita.
manenita is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2004, 04:51 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm new to this board, but am planning a trip to Beijing so found this thread interesting. All I have to say is -- wow Peter N-H sure put those stupid expats and tourists to China in their place! Seriously, I consider their advice as valuable as Peter N-H's, but with his squashing responses to their posts, why would anyone else ever want to respond to another post on China? Yes, Peter N-H's advice seems helpful, but not at the expense of everyone else's opinion. Isn't this a forum?
greentea is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 08:05 PM
  #18  
Airlawgirl
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Greentea-I think I have to jump in here again (as I am wont to do!) and respond-I certainly cannot purport to speak for Peter N-H, but I really don't think he intended in any way to squelch other opinions on this thread, quite the contrary. I think it's just his writing style is very straight-forward and candid, which I for one, find to be quite refreshing and amusing on occasion. Besides, he DID concede (albeit begrudgingly) that the Courtyard restaurant was at least halfway acceptable -AND he also offered up the Aria restaurant in the China World Hotel as another posh dining recommendation (much as it might have pained him to do so!) That's one that I certainly intend to try on my next trip to Beijing-after all, gotta keep up those "lao wei" (foreigner) appearances! (grin)

That said, however, I DO think our Mr. N-H was a bit rough on the ex-pat community. I think I'm going to turn Peter's statement on its head and say, "with a few honorable exceptions," most ex-pats I know in different parts of the world eagerly embrace local cuisine AND culture, not to mention search out the good local restaurants like pigs in search of truffles! (a somewhat unflattering comparison, but true enough, I think!)

I have to admit, though, that my experience with the one ex-pat recommended Sichuan restaurant I tried in Beijing was anything but good, and was a far cry from some of the better Sichuan-style restaurants that I have been to in the States. I felt like I had wandered into a German pub actually, what with solely ex-pats about! (the restaurant was Berena's Bistro in Beijing's Sanlitun district, by the way).

Anyway, now that I have the lay of the land, I'm going to take Peter's advice and search out more local restaurants in Beijing. Because so many Beijing restaurants are such festive, cheery-looking places- all flashing neon Chinese characters, festooned with flags and large red and gold lanterns-they make you want to come inside and eat-regardless of the language barrier.

 
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 11:00 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,778
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
All right all right I give in. Here are a few personal favourites in Beijing: nothing too adventurous, and some of them certainly discovered by expats, but all of them reasonably priced, if not necessarily the most glamorous restaurants you'll ever have visited; but you're there for the food. In other cases you'll likely be the only foreigner. Also note that I haven't been to Beijing yet this year, so it's quite possible some of these no longer exist. That's the way Beijing is. No time to list dishes, I'm sorry.

For roast duck, as recommended before more than once on these pages, the Beijing Dadong Kaoya Dian on the east side of the east third ring road, just north of Tuanjie Hu Park.

For lively traditional Beijing dishes Dao Jia Chang in Guangxi Men Beili. Get a Mandarin speaker to call 6422 1078 to get directions and right them down to show to the cabbie. Just beyond the northeast third ring road.

For the original (in Beijing) and best shui zhu yu, try Shui Zhu Yu in Liu Fang Bang Jie (although there's another older branch, too), just inside the northeast third ring.

General good quality Sichuan in better surroudings (also with versions of shui zhu yu, including a more numbing one) try Yuxiang Renjia. Several branches, including one close on northeast third ring near Hilton.

Old Character Hakka (Lao Hanzi Kejia Caiguan), well tucked away in a Sanlitun alley, but well-known to expats. There are several other branches now, too.

For Shanghainese I'm fond of Hujiang Xiang Man Lou on Ping'an Dadao not far from the Dong Shi Si Tiao metro station. This is point-to-order Shanghai snacks, with a supplementary menu of main dishes (the eels are good).

All of these are raucous and busy, but that's how real Beijing is.

More upmarket, and more highly priced, but ill-located, the Noodle Loft for Shanxi food. Dawang Lu, a southwards turning off Jianguo Men Wai Dajie east of the China World Trade Centre.

Peter N-H
http://members.shaw.ca/pnhpublic/China.html
PeterN_H is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2004, 09:33 AM
  #20  
Airlawgirl
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
ah, seeeeee, that's wasn't SO difficult, now, was it? (smile) and thanks for the Sichuan restaurants, Peter! Now, the Sichuan situation leads me to a burning question: which is the more, um, potent- numbing Sichuan or blinding vindaloo???
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information