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Guide to dining out in Beijing
16:58, July 11, 2008

You'll find a selection of great restaurants around almost every corner in Beijing, but some areas have built their reputations on their cuisines.

Here's Xinhua's brief guide to Beijing's best known food areas.

Houhai, or the Rear Lake

Restaurants and bars are scattered along the sides of a serpentine lake north of the Forbidden City, the very center of Beijing, making a great place to sit back and enjoy the views, particularly at night when the lights glisten off the water.

Restaurants here offer a range of Chinese and foreign cuisines,including the Hakka cuisine from south China, spicy Sichuan and Yunnan dishes, light Vietnamese and heavier Russian food.

Most of the restaurants offer a cozy dining environment. Many have a lake view, some set up tables in the open beside the water, while boats offer dining on the lake.

How to get there? Take subway Line 2 to Chegongzhuang station. It will cost you about 15 yuan (about 2.17 U.S. dollars) from the subway station to the lake area by taxi outside peak times. Ask the taxi driver to stop at the north gate of the Beihai Park, one of the popular tourist sites. Cross the road and you will find the southern end of the lake. This is the easiest way to get there.

You can also get off subway Line 2 at Jishuitan and Guloudajie stations, where you can walk through the narrow and labyrinthine lanes, or hutongs, to work up your appetite.

Nanluoguxiang, or South Gong and Drum Lane

The south-north lane, about 800 meters long and quite narrow in places, is about a block east of Houhai, said to exist when Yuan Dynasty founded by Genghis Khan built its capital here more than 700 years ago.

Many restaurants here are hidden in small and quiet traditional courtyards, or siheyuan, offering a good experience of life in old Peking on idle Sunday afternoons. However, the cuisines on offer are new, and you can sample a selection of fusion foods, such as Kung Pao Chicken pizza. There is also an authentic Chinese yoghurtsweet shop.

Many restaurants here have English and even French menus, catering to visitors who like to browse the lanes quirky shops.

How to get there? Take subway Line 2 to Andingmen station, from where it should cost no more than 10 yuan (about 1.5 dollars) by taxi. But the roads around there are quite narrow and may be crowded during rush hours. This area is perfect for bikers.

Guijie, or Ghost Street

The 1.4-km-long east-west street in eastern downtown Beijing was used for peddlers who sold groceries 60 or 70 years ago. The fair usually started at midnight and ended in early morning, and those peddlers who were dimly lit up by kerosene burners, looked like ghosts.

But for becoming more auspicious, the Chinese character for ghost was replaced by another character of the same pronunciation, which stands for a food basket.

However, many of the restaurants still carried on the tradition and are open around the clock.

Dozens of restaurants stand on both sides of the wide street and the busiest time is between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m. The dining is cheap, and the food popular with common Chinese.

Spicy foods set the tone. Several old restaurants are well known for dishes such as hot and spicy crayfish, and roast fish with chili sauce.

Don't bother dressing up. Shorts and slippers are okay and don't be timid about speaking loudly as you may have to compete with guests at tables next to you.

How to get there? Get off subway Line 2 at Dongzhimen station and you will find yourself at the east end of the street. Get off subway Line 5 at Beixinqiao station to come from the west end.

Donghuamen Night Food Bazaar

Hemmed in by food stalls, this short street is renowned for its snacks from Beijing and other parts of the country, and conveniently located near the Wangfujing shopping area.

The snacks on offer can be scary, fitting with the stereotype that Chinese eat anything that moves. There are baked bugs or scorpions on a stick. More conventional are roast mutton skewers, fried dumplings, sugarcoated fruit, yellow pea cakes, fried flour tea and boiled beef tripe served with sesame paste.

There are few seats and the novelty comes from eating while watching your next order being cooked. It's not for the queasy or hygiene-obsessed: these are street foods, cooked and eaten on the street.

How to get there? Get off subway Line 1 at Wangfujing station, walk north through the shopping area. It is at the end of the pedestrian street on the left.

Worker's Stadium and Sanlitun

Near the heart of Beijing's diplomatic area and Central Business District, the restaurants here cater to the up market white-collar crowd.

The Worker's Stadium complex, a rare piece of green land in the city's downtown, has a range of restaurants inside the complex amid its gardens, but you'll pay for the setting.

Outside the complex, along the Sanlitun road, Beijing's famous bar street, and in the area east to it, you can find high-end Cantonese, Taiwanese, Middle East, Thai, Japanese and French eateries. Some offer performances as well.

How to get there? This area is relatively large, spreading between the east Second Ring Road and Third Ring Road. The nearest subway stations are Dongsishitiao on Line 2 and Guomao on Line 1. The new subway Line 10, scheduled to be open before the Olympics, will also run through this area.

Xinhua will run more detailed introductions to each food zone with restaurant names and contact information in the coming month. The map will be updated as more information comes in.

Bon appetit.


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