Destination: China: Beijing
Cantonese food is popular in the capital city, with chefs imported from the southern Guangdong province to ensure the ingredients and styles are spot-on. If you have a business dinner with a local Chinese contact, they will appreciate being treated to an evening feast at Celestial Court or lunchtime dim sum. Seafood tends to be on the expensive side in Beijing, so ordering up fish or lobster will be doubly welcome. By the way, don’t be too surprised if, when dining with locals, they ask for a doggie bag for any leftover food. Old habits of waste-not-want-not die hard for people who grew up with Cultural Revolution food shortages.
Offering Thai and Indian food in homey surroundings, with plenty of cozy fixtures and fittings, this is the place to go for a simple meal or drinks. Face started in Shanghai; the Beijing outlet is also quite popular.
Li Qun Roast Duck Restaurant
Sadly, places such as this small family restaurant, in a hutong (traditional neighborhood), will not be around much longer, victims of the march toward modernization. Although many of the restaurant’s neighbors have already fallen prey to the bulldozer, Li Qun manages to carry on, cooking its scrumptious Peking duck in impossibly cramped conditions. The entire experience is like taking a trip back to the past, stooping into rooms that were not really designed for Westerners or, indeed, any diners from outside the immediate neighborhood. Most of the clientele these days are expatriates and in-the-know tourists; locals with half a budget would rather eat somewhere fancier, thank you very much. It is a marvelously ramshackle place that offers a hearty welcome and even heartier food. Visitors are welcome to inspect their duck, presided over by a chef whose job is to stoke the wood-fired oven and turn the roasting birds. Even with a few extra dishes and copious beers, two people would be hard-pressed to shatter the $30 mark. The experience is priceless. Try to arrive before dark, to wander around the hutongs and see what life was once like there.
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