Beijing has one of Asia’s finest Chinese and international dining scenes. The Beijinger, City Weekend and Time Out Beijing all have extensive restaurant listings and reviews. Expats are continuously reviewing and commenting on their restaurant experiences on The Beijinger, City Weekend and Time Out websites, which have interactive features that allow browsers to find restaurants by genre and neighbourhood. The restaurants listed below are all well-reviewed and popular with expats. It is always recommendable to call ahead for dinner reservations at any international or high-end Chinese restaurants. Credit cards are accepted at most international restaurants, although it’s always a good idea to carry cash just in case and to ask beforehand.
The heart of the dining scene is in Sanlitun and near Chaoyang Park, as well as near the tourist sites in Dongcheng. Shunyi used to be relatively devoid of interesting Chinese and international restaurants, but that’s changing due to an influx of new residents and better Metro access. Many of the most popular restaurants have opened up branches in these areas. The listings below highlight some of the best options in these neighbourhoods, although many restaurants have several locations.
The ultra-popular Shanghai-born chain is hugely popular with expats seeking healthy American-style comfort food. The menu offers an array of fruit smoothies, leafy salads and low-fat grilled sandwiches. It’s also an excellent place for breakfast. They’ve got a great kids’ selection and change their menu every six months. Delivery available.
Grandma’s Kitchen specialises in American comfort food. It could have been transported directly from the American Midwest, offering simple, well-prepared classics such as meatloaf, pancakes and skillets. For desert, of course, there’s homemade apple pie.
Rm 0103, 1/F, Bldg B, Jianwai SOHO, 39 Dongsanhuan Zhong Lu
(010) 5869 3055/6
The only place in Beijing where you can get genuine New Orleans Creole fare, Nola offers romantic alfresco dining on the rooftop overlooking the surrounding greenery. Their specialties include pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon and served with plums and warm apple cobbler. True to New Orleans style, the bar serves drinks late.
This Shangri-La hotel establishment sounds like a steak house and, indeed, one page of the menu is dedicated exclusively to steaks. But the menu at Grill 79 is tantalizingly creative, featuring lamb sirloin, elaborate salads and several other elegantly prepared dishes served in a velvet dining room illuminated by chandeliers. Lunch options are more limited, but it’s great place to impress nonetheless.
6:30am-10am, 12pm-2pm, 6pm-10pm
79th Floor, China World Summit Wing, 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie, China World Trade Center Phase 3, Chaoyang
(010) 6505 2299
These are large, juicy and highly coveted American-style pizzas, completely authentic with layers of cheese and bubbly crusts. There are plenty of classic pizza options or you can try one of the house specialties and get sides of other American favorites such as curly fries or onion rings. The atmosphere is charming and homey and it’s a great place to sit in a booth with the family or throw a party. Additional location in Sanlitun.
35 Xiaoyun Lu, opposite the Renaissance Beijing Chaoyang hotel
(010) 8391 3131
Tim’s Texas BBQ
Tim’s does a great job of re-creating a Texas BBQ, complete with kitschy décor and massive portions. The BBQ dishes are the signature, however, the sandwiches are also popular. Tim’s also serves as a sports bar with over 25 bottled and tap beers. One downside: The service gets mixed reviews.
2 Xiushui, 14 Dongdaqiao Lu
(010) 6591 9161
The Hungry Horse
A family-style American diner that serves burgers, salads, breakfast platters, pastas and pizzas; all done well. Don’t expect authenticity, but you can count on a pleasant experience in a family-friendly restaurant.
Mon-Fri 10am-10pm, Sat-Sun 8.30am-10pm
Stall 609, Pinnacle Plaza, Tianzhu Real Estate Development Zone
(010) 8046 5519/5521
Union Bar & Grille
Conveniently located, unpretentious and high-quality American staples – these characteristics of the Union Bar & Grille keep it full of expats. The burgers are made from premium marble steak raised in Mongolia and supervised by US agriculture experts. You can also order all kinds of delicious appetizers and pastas. The bar carries a decent selection of American microbrews on tap.
S6-31, 3/F, Sanlitun Village, 19 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang
(010) 6415 9117
Mosto is a very popular Mediterranean spot in Sanlitun that’s particularly suited for a date night. The brick walls and exposed kitchen give it a stylish and romantic feel. Patrons recommend the tuna tartar, the fois gras and pumpkin raviolis, as well as their weekend brunch.
12-2.30pm daily, 6-10pm Sun-Thu, 6-10.30pm Fri-Sat
3/F, Nali Huayuan, 81 Sanlitun Bei Lu
(010) 5208 6030
Aria Bar and Restaurant
Widely recommended as one of the best dining spots in Beijing, Aria provides splendid service, an elegant atmosphere and phenomenal food. Aria is renown for using Tajima Wagyu 9+ beef and perfectly blending Mediterranean flavors. The wine list is very impressive as well.
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-10pm; Sat-Sun 6pm-10pm
2/F, China World Hotel, 1 Jianguomen Waidajie,
(010) 6505 2266 ext. 36
Salt melds fine dining with a casual, relaxed atmosphere and its big, open kitchen provides diners with a bird’s eye view of the action below. The menu is constantly changing, although most dishes have a Mediterranean flavor and the steaks are excellent. They serve lunch and brunch, too. Salt is very popular so be sure to make a reservation well in advance.
Mon-Sat 12-3pm, 6pm-10:30pm; Sun 12-4pm
2/F, 9 Jiangtai Xilu, opposite Japanese school Lido
(010) 6437 8457
Cabare has a feel of a go-to spot where you are guaranteed to get a good meal, and, weather permitting, enjoy it along the lake at the entrance of Solana’s Bar Street in Chaoyang Park. The food is Mediterranean style, although there are German, French and English options on the menu.
Bldg 15, 15-1, Solana, 6 Chaoyang Park Road
The Raffles Hotel Jaan, located on the ground floor of the 1917 property, consistently maintains its position as one of Beijing’s most glamorous restaurants. Jaan serves light, innovative French cuisine. A wide selection of French and New World wines complements the dining experience.
Raffles Beijing Hotel, 33 East Chang’an Jie
(010) 6526 3388 ext. 4186
This favorite with the French community boasts an authentic ambiance and homestyle French cooking. The crepes are the main attraction, but La Taverne offers much more, with a blackboard of specials that change daily. The outdoor terrace is a major draw in the summer.
7 Gongti Xili
(010) 6551 8967
This authentic Italian restaurant in Ch’ienmen 23 serves up quality cuisine prepared by Michelin-starred chef Claudio Sadler. Enjoy views of Tiananmen Square from the balcony bar or enjoy the spectacular presentation that stands out in the muted ambiance and muted interior. The service is gracious and professional.
Ch’ienmen 23, 23 Qianmen Dong Da Jie
(010) 6559 1399
A cozy Italian place that seems to do everything right. Patrons rave about the service, the welcoming environment and the child-friendly atmosphere. There’s nothing fancy about the food, but it’s tremendously satisfying. Several locations across town.
CBD: 1/F, Ruisai Building
Shunyi: 5 Laiguangying Dong Lu
This traditional Bavarian brewery chain near the German Embassy serves up hearty German fare in an inviting, wood-paneled setting. They have an excellent stock of German beer, too.
Kempinski Hotel Beijing, 50 Liangmaqiao Lu
(010) 6465-3388 ext. 5731
If you are itching for a taste of central Europe in Beijing, Schindler’s Tankstelle can provide the sausages, sauerkraut and strong German beers to scratch it. The atmosphere can be jovial in the evenings, and the German-style breakfast can fortify you for the day. There is a back terrace and nearby Ritan Park is a nice place to walk off the meal.
South Gate of the Ritan Park
Niajo is reputedly the top paella spot in Sanlitun, and the Valencian owner can talk up the origins of each dish. The service is also excellent and the state-of-the-art ventilation system keeps patrons cozy next to third-floor window seats with a view.
3/F, Nali Patio 81 Sanlitun Bei Lu, Chaoyang
(010) 5208 6052
Maison Boulud á Pékin
Since its beginnings in 2008 as a fledgling newbie staying afloat amid the Olympic frenzy, Maison Boulud has certainly established itself, winning an unprecedented eight TimeOut food awards in two years. Their success, apart from the fantastic atmosphere in the old American Legion, lies in their ability to combine French cuisine with Pacific Rim ingredients. Reservations are a must.
This tiny, old-style Japanese restaurant is, according to Fodor’s Beijing, the best in town. It consists simply of a sushi counter and two small tatami-style dining rooms. The seafood is flown in directly from Tokyo and prepared silently and diligently by a Japanese master. Reservations are a must.
Bldg 2, Xinyuan Xili Zhongjie,
This new branch on the third floor of the Nike building of the legendary sushi restaurant has already been a huge success. The sushi is not purely Japanese, but more aptly described as fusion California-style. Patrons always come away satisfied. The original Hatsune is in the CBD.
This cozy traditional courtyard house has been turned into one of Beijing’s most popular spots. The alfresco dining area is furnished with antiques and a ‘chill’ feel pervades the place. The specialty is the marinated beefsteak, served with lemon-herb vinaigrette and the run-scented banana flambé as a dessert.
43 Doufuchi Hutong, Jiugulou Dajie
(010) 6400 4875
Considered to be a very authentic Malaysian restaurant with good service, décor and family-friendly atmosphere. The satays come highly-recommended, as does the green curry chicken, the seafood curry noodles and the vegetable dishes.
Bldg B, Ocean International Center, 58 East Fourth Ring Middle Road
(010) 5908 0075
Ai Jiang Shan
The upscale and orderly chain Ai Jiang Shan offers over 300 dishes, from barbeque to pancakes to shabu-shabu, and the decor and ambience makes the Zen dining experience worth the cost. There are also locations in the CBD and Haidan.
North Gate of Side Gongyuan, 39 Jiangtai Xilu
A replica of a British curry house, this jumping joint draws a lunchtime crowd with its generous and tasty Indian classics. With gorgeous wooden carvings, excellent service and a very dedicated staff of Indian managers and chefs, this restaurant is a sure thing for any fan of Indian cuisine. Additional locations in Lido and the CBD.
Euro Plaza, L222, Tianzhu, Shunyi
(010) 8046 3238
Indian Kitchen offers a staggering array of South Indian curries at reasonable prices, and is ideal for curry lovers. The service is friendly and attentive, and you can ask for richer curry. The lunch buffet is popular and a great value.
2/F, 2 Sanlitun Beixiaojie
(010) 6460 9366
Susu is located in one of the most stunning renovated courtyard spaces in Beijing, offering excellent, healthy food and commendable service. The Vietnamese spring rolls are a must-order, as is the la vong fish. Stay after dinner and enjoy one of the delicious house cocktails.
Qianliang Hutong, West Alley No. 10
(010) 8400 2699
Widely considered one of Beijing’s best Thai restaurants, Phrik Thai serves well-presented spicy soups that accompany tender green curry chicken. It is usually busy with regulars so book ahead. In summer months there is outdoor seating.
2/F, Lido Holiday Inn
(010) 6437 6688 ext. 2899
Beijing’s first South African restaurant offers diners a spacious outdoor terrace perfect for summer evenings, a menu of meats and curries, great service and an exceptional. The South African wine collection is cheaper than retail.
Lane Bridge Villa Compound, Laiguangying Donglu
(010) 6430 7010
Alsafa Arabic Restaurant and Coffee
This cozy Middle Eastern restaurant serves the best hummus in town and a range of other classic dishes at modest prices. Patrons highly recommend the baba ganouj. The second floor has well decorated private rooms, which are great for a date.
(010) 6468 9866
One of the most family-friendly restaurants in Beijing, Seasonal Tastes features live cooking stations of different breakfasts from around the world. It serves cuisine from Mongolian, Chinese, European and Indian origins, and the fresh seafood bar and dessert corner leaves everybody satisfied.
As one may expect, its difficult to find good South American food in China, but the Latin Grillhouse manages to succeed with its buffet that offers 13 types of meat. The serenading waitresses dressed in gaucho outfits are a bit tacky, but they provide good service. Try the chocolate fondu for dessert.
C1-11 building 1, Solana, No 6. Chaoyang Park Road
(010) 5905 6128
Some Chinese cuisine might appear vegetarian, but tofu or string beans have likely been enriched with animal fat, as meat is usually the stock of sauces. If you’re at a Chinese restaurant, explain to the staff ‘wo chi shu’ (I’m a vegetarian). Most Western restaurants that offer traditional vegetarian standbys such as pizza, pasta and salad, but quality vegetarian places are popping up around the city.
This vegetarian haven is run by Buddhist monks, and the warm tones and traditional artwork definitely calm the nerves. The menu transcends typical tofu and salad offerings by including meat-flavored offerings such as soy protein Beijing duck, convincing enough to win over meat-lovers. Pure Lotus doesn’t serve alcohol, but the tea selection is amazing.
10 Nongzhan Nanli
(010) 6592 3627
Lily’s Vegetarian Restaurant
Make your way through gray little hutong and be rewarded with some of the most tasteful, and thoughtful dishes free of meat and MSG in all of China. Though tucked away, this gem abounds with good taste and courteous waitstaff. Vegetarians love the hotpot with satay and the (imitation) shrimp, and so do meat-eaters.
A23 Caoyuan Hutong, Dongzhimennei Beixiaojie
(010) 6405 2082
Elaine’s quaint little garden provides generous portions of Chinese vegetarian fare. The imitation meat dishes, like deep fried “sausage,” are popular with non-vegetarian diners. The relaxing surroundings make the city seem miles away and seem to inspire vegetarianism.
Luoma Lake, Houshayu
(010) 8048 5088
Find out more about eating and drinking for expats in Beijing on our Listly list: