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.

Lunch near Zhong Guan Cun Dong Lu

I often visit Beijing to teach on the Neuroscience and Neuroimaging programme at the Sino-Danish Center of Education and Research, and in the last few years the classes have been taught at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Teaching Building in the Zhongguancun campus. During this time I have visited several of the restaurants in the area and although these often does not look particularly fancy there are a number of great places to have dinner or grab a quick lunch. Unfortunately, my Chinese is too rusty to decipher the names so I have marked them on the maps below including a picture of the main entrance.

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The muslim restaurant serves a variation of tradition Chinese dishes, with an emphasis on lamb, meat skewers, and naturally, no pork. However, this is an amazing restaurant, and probably my favorite spot for lunch near the CAS campus. Here one of the dishes that is an absolute must, is one of the two bread and meat dishes (either meat and bread fried together, or served on top of a round bread looking a bit like a pizza with serious topping). Also, the noodles are very good, which like most places in China are freshly made. However, if this is bought as a shared dish it is worth considering getting the sliced noodle variation over the pulled noodles. Both types are amazing, but as the length of the noodle is an omen for life span the pulled noodles can be somewhat of a challenge to serve with chopsticks.

The Yunnan restaurant serves dishes from the southern parts of China, and this is one of my preferred regions in the Chinese kitchen. Yunnan is a province neighbouring Burma and Laos, which seem to be a large influence on this region. Favouring ingredients like lime, mint, and chilies, the dishes have a lightness compared to many more northern specialties. Any order should include the chicken and lime dish as well as the Yunnan version of a hash browns, both of which are brilliant, and for the more adventurous it is also possible to order roasted bees and larvae. Finally, they also brew a nice lime and mint drink which is not only very good, but also works quite well to quell the heat if you get a bit too much chilli.

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On the corner on the other side of Zhongguancun dong lu along the alley towards the Park Plaza hotel there is also a very nice chinese restaurant, that serve traditional dishes like the sweet and sour pork, fried beef and onions in an iron skillet (lower left picture), as well as the pork variation of the Peking Duck (also in the picture).