What’s a good meal without a little legwork? Off the main drag, these are Beijing’s four best-hidden restaurants.
Sleepy Youqizuo Hutong is the last place you’d expect to find a proper bistro, which makes the discovery of Le Grenadier so rewarding. Its menu is concise, just three pages of classic Gallic fare and a superb wine list. From the kitchen comes the requisite seared foie gras, fillet steak and hearty seafood rice studded with squid and shellfish. For dessert, dig into panna cotta topped with pomegranate jelly and seeds from the restaurant’s own pomegranate tree.
Brick and Wood
Push open the door beneath the spotlight and step from a dark laneway into Beijing’s most tucked away Japanese restaurant. The mindset at Brick and Wood is omakase — i.e. chef’s choice, with no menu — and you’re in good hands with chef-owner Kevin Yang. Kaiseki (set meals) are available here in four prices ranges — ¥280 (about $45), ¥380 ($61), ¥500 ($80) and ¥1,000 ($161). Yang is meticulous about sourcing quality ingredients, and one bite of monkfish liver pâté or buttery salmon sashimi with chopped okra will have you singing his praises. That the restaurant is a little tricky to find makes it a haunt for foodies who don’t mind a hunt.
Walking distance from the Forbidden City, this restaurant is essentially hidden in plain sight, seeing as how it’s housed inside the Sichuan Provincial Government’s office. A massive, fluorescent-lit space that’s basically a cafeteria for Party workers, Chuan Ban has little ambience of which to speak. When it comes to authenticity, though — well, let your chili-flecked lips decide. Star ratings on each dish let you know how much kick to expect. An expat favorite is mapo doufu, cubes of white tofu suspended in a fiery red broth, best paired with a bowl of white rice, and the cooling mashed potatoes with pickled cabbage. Those who fear peppercorns won’t go hungry; most of the vegetarian dishes here are mild.
Duck de Chine
This French-inspired Peking duck eatery is housed in the 1949-The Hidden City complex. A refurbished factory from 1949, the site rests in the shadows of skyscrapers in Beijing’s Sanlitun neighborhood. Duck de Chine serves classic Peking duck but utilizes French roasting techniques. The star of the menu, the fowl can be prepared confit, in tacos, and, of course, roasted to a perfect crisp. An extensive wine list and China’s first Bollinger champagne bar make this a dining destination for locals and in-the-know travelers.