Lost in Beijing

I have waited a bit to write this post, but one of my absolut favorit places to dine in Beijing is Lost Heaven near the Forbidden City in the south-east corner of Tiananmen Square, located in the area I believe housed the US embassy until 1949. Lost Heaven have two restaurants in Shanghai, and the one in Beijing, and serve Yunnan cuisine (which is one of my absolute favorite areas for food in China).

Usually, I complain that most Chinese food served in Europe has been modified to an extend where it rarely is possible to link it back to its origin, and as there is so much delicious Chinese food, this is often a crime. The Yunnan food at Lost Heaven seem to have been modified for a European pallet, however, this must be the exception that confirms the rule. Especially, the Lijiang Stir Fried Beef, Shrimp Spring Rolls, and Samosa are extraordinarily good – and never forget to order the Copper Plate Pot Sticker Dumplings, that are absolutely brilliant. Finally, as an added bonus they serve splendid cocktails at Lost Heaven as well. The staff varies slightly and some are better trained than others if you want to move outside the menu, nevertheless, if you stick to the cocktail list you won’t go wrong. So order your dumplings and a Yunnan Mule, and for dessert go for the Paperback Daiquiri.

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Visiting the hutongs of Beijing

The hutongs of Beijing are a very nice area to walk around in experiencing the more traditional housing from an age before the invasion of the skyscrapers. I especially like the area near the drum tower on Gulou Dongdajie and Nanluoguxiang. Nanluoguxiang is a walking street filled with various small shops, bars and restaurants, and is usually a fairly crowded area. There is a metro station for line 8 in the south end of Nanluoguxiang, line 2 north of Beiluoguxiang at Andingmen station, and finally line 2 and 8 goes to Yonghegong Lama Temple. Both Lama Temple and particularly Confucius Temple a bit to the south of Yonghegong station are worth a visit.

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Beilou Ace Bar

I discovered this small roadside bar earlier this year and not only do they make very nice cocktails, but both the staff and the owner is very nice and hospitable, making this an ideal refuge from the otherwise buzzling Nanluoguxiang. Beilou Ace Bar is a combination of cocktails and coffee bar and as such is open during the afternoon. The local charm and atmosphere of the place combined with good craftsmanship behind the bar makes this one of my favorite places to hang out in the inner city. Here children are playing in the street while people and life passes by in a simple pace, as you sip on a daiquiri – or just a good cup of coffee.

Mai Bar

Mai bar is located a bit further north of Beilou bar, also on the right hand side, and this more traditional cocktail bar typically opens around dinnertime. It is a fairly popular venue focusing on both making good cocktails and developing own variations on more traditional recipes, making it a nice place to spend a few hours with friends after dinner.

Amilal Whiskey Bar

The final bar in this post is the Amilal Bar near Goulou Dongdajie. This bar is tucked away a few meters down an alley from the main street where you can sneak through a small door into an even smaller courtyard and into a very charming small whiskey bar. So if you are a fan of whiskey this is definitely a must on your visit into the inner city of Beijing. The bar has a very nice selection of different brands, and the traditional interior and wooden structure nicely complements a glass of whiskey.

Mr. Shi’s Dumplings

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If you are in the mood for traditional Beijing dumplings I think Mr. Shi’s is the place to go. There are two venues just parallel to Beiluoguxiang; the main shop and kitchen on the east side of the street and an additional place to dine a bit more to the south on the west side. Here you can order most traditional chinese dishes which are very good, but the main star is really the traditional northern dumpling that looks a bit like a meat-filled pancake. The number of different dumplings you can order is overwhelming including different meats and vegetables. You cannot find my favorite Shanghai dumplings at Mr. Shi’s, but somehow you easily forget these when served with the equally delicious fried dumplings from Mr. Shi.

Dali Courtyard

Hidden away in one of the small alleys of Goulou street is a gem of a Yunnan restaurant. It can be somewhat challenging to locate as it only have a small slightly anonymously sign hanging in the alley. However, once inside you will find yourself in an immensely charming courtyard restaurant. This is probably my second favorite Yunnan restaurant – and no spoilers for a later post on my favorite. The restaurant has a set menu and the only decision the customer has to take is on drinks and when they ask for allergies, so that the kitchen can avoid these dishes. This is particularly a nice place if you are a smaller group, as the number of different dishes seem dependent on the size of the group. The food served is much more vegetable based than I usually prefer, but the seasoning and also a variety of meat dishes actually works surprisingly well. The food have a very rustic and authentic feel to it, and eating under a clear evening sky in the center of Beijing is amazing.

Café Zarah 

Named after the daughter of German friends to the owner, this café has recently undergone a thorough renovation, and is as charming as the story behind the name. The menu looks very similar most western cafés and is a very nice place to go for lunch as well as for working on your laptop. After the renovation of the café they also made an expansion into the courtyard, as well as a small rooftop area which is usually open in the evenings around the weekend. You can find more information about the café here on their homepage.

Vineyard Café

Another nice café with a more western menu is the Vineyard Café close to Lama Temple. Here you can order burgers, pizza, as well as eggs Benedict for those weekend mornings where this is needed to kickstart the day.

Notes from a foodie

In 2011 I visited Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra to participate in what turned out to be a very nice course on academic leadership and university governance. Here I meet some excellent people, loads of weird animals, and a very interesting food scene with east asien influence. Not many days after my arrival I encountered the term foodie for the first time – as I have keen a non-research related interest in good food and drinks. Since then I my travels takes me to a number of different places where I enjoy discovering different restaurants and cool places to hang out. So I am not a professional critique, but over the years I have grown confident that my recommendations are worthwhile, so perhaps you the reader, will enjoy some of my favourite places around the world as well. I plan to group the different posts with tags for the city and the type of foodie related experience for easy access.

I could also have started this journey in my home city of Copenhagen where I at some point was encouraged to research in the elusive qualia, but as my research have yet to move into this area Canberra will be my starting point, and the best lunch restaurant near campus has to be the Shanghai Dumpling Cafe, at 35 Childers Street. The place looks like any other Chinese restaurant, but it serves up great soup dumplings, and perhaps I am biased in the sense that I rarely find places that serve good dumplings in Europe where Chinese cuisine often is as far from home in distance as it is in content. However, the dumplings at the Shanghai Dumpling Cafe actually takes me back to 2010 where I tasted some amazing soup dumplings in the old city of center of Shanghai. Often the steamed dumpling can have a slightly bland taste which is why I think many prefer the fried variations, but stock inside the dough before steaming is really a stroke of genius.

So if you are visiting ANU consider having lunch or dinner at the Shanghai Dumpling Cafe.