I didn’t do as much research as I normally did when it came to Beijing Restaurants because I knew we had to eat at certain restaurants to please my grandfather(I was traveling with my mom, my uncle J, and my grandfather). Since we only visited for 5 days and because we crammed so much tourists sites, I could only pick out three meals of my choice even though I was footing the bill for the entire trip. The 3 meals I picked turned out to be the 3 best meals of our entire trip. The rest of the meals were very average.
When Shanghainese people think of Beijing, we automatically think dumplings and roast duck. For my dumpling meal I decided on Xian Lao Man. At least 30 varieties of various dumplings were offered at Xian Lao Man. That is in addition to another long list of cold appetizers and hot dishes. Good thing they put a star next to their recommended items or else I would have taken forever to order. I was slightly worried that the food quality would suffer because of the lengthy menu, but turned out I was worried for nothing. The dumplings were fantastic, much better than any dumplings that I have had anywhere else to this day. I also picked several of their recommended dishes and those were very good as well. Another plus is that Xian Lao Man was very clean with a clean bathroom.
My mom posing with the roast duck. There are many many places where you can eat Roast Duck in Beijing with each restaurant claiming to be the best. We tried several outlets, but all four of us agree that the duck in Made in China was the best and Quanjude the worst. Da Dong and Duck de Chine was good but not as good as Made in China. I loved the roast duck at Made in China so much that it landed a spot on 10 of my most memorable dining experiences.
I wanted to try a typical Beijing hotpot with the huge hole in the middle but was out voted by my relatives. They wanted high class so I picked 鼎鼎香. To date, this is still the fanciest hot pot restaurant I have ever been to. We each had our own pot that kept the broth at just the right temperature so that broth was always just slightly boiling. Their more expensive cuts of beef were shaped into roses. And their vegetables came in fancy glass vases. Prices were high and portions were small. But at least the quality of their food was excellent.
I was suprised to see mangosteens being sold by many street vendors in Beijing because mangosteens only grows in tropical climates. Being that they are my favorite fruit, I had to buy some. 2 pounds of mangosteens are shown in the picture, but it is mostly shell weight. Be sure to try them if you get the chance, it has a clean sweet taste. Remember only the white part of the fruit is edible and be careful of ants. Only buy Mangosteens whose shell color are like those shown above. Also though the shell should be firm, it should never be rock hard.
Quanjude known as THE Beijing duck restaurant was not a good meal. If extremely fatty duck with lots of visible fat not to mention grease, your idea of Peking duck, then Quanjude is the place to find it. Our waiter pressured me to order a whole duck because we had 4 people. But I took one look at that duck and knew that it would be subpar and insisted on only ordering half a duck. My mom called me cheap and said that it looked bad for 4 people to order only half a duck and wanted to change our order. I stood firm and said I am not going to waste money like that. Once she bit into the fatty duck, she she stopped calling me cheap. Price of half a duck at Quanjude is about $40USD which is expensive considering I can get a entire Peking Duck in New York for $35. And tastier as well. Environment is also noisy with lots of tourists foreign and domestic. Quanjude has 8 locations in Beijing. Pricing is on the high side considering our meal at Made is China was about the same price for much higher caliber food, service, and decor. My grandfather was immensely disappointed with our Quanjude experience. He kept on shaking his head throughout the meal. The only thing he enjoyed at Quanjude was their duck tongue and this aspic of some sort, both of which I did not try because I hate those kind of textures.
Growing up I heard so much about 狗不理包子 from my dad. This restaurant is famous for their 包子 aka steamed buns and has been in business since the late 1800’s. Maybe these buns were tasty back in 1800’s when eating meat was considered a luxury. These are just your run of mill steamed buns. I have had better from random street vendors in Beijing and Shanghai.
Very thick doughy skin that does not have any bite to it. The meat filling was bland and did not taste fresh. I also ordered some vegetable buns just to see what it was like. Better than the meat but that is not saying much.
Growing up in Shanghai I saw hawkers selling candied hawthorns quite often in the wintertime. Their cries of Tanghulu always called out to me but I was seldom allowed purchase one. My mom decreed that candy, chocolates, and anything sweet would rot my teeth so I can only recall eating candy a handful of times as a kid. To be fair to my mom, she was probably right as I have very straight teeth and never wore braces.) In Beijing in one of the tourist districts, I finally bought my first stick of Tanghulu after 20+ years of not having one only to discover that it wasn’t as good as I remembered it to be. Not that it was bad but the candy coating was so hard, I nearly chipped my front tooth. (2015 Edit: Turns out that one should never buy Tanghulu that has been exposed to the elements aka like the ones in the picture above. For the very best Tanghulu see my detailed review here.)