1. Small courtyard residences called hutongs used to be the common style of residence in Beijing. Many have since disappeared, but you can still get the feel for the old city at The Courtyard, and the food is a creative and refined take on Asian-European fusion.
2. One Chinese specialty that you can’t miss trying is the dumplings, or bao. Shanghai is known for its xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings, and Din Tai Fung has the best ones in town.
3. Don’t worry about finding vegetarian in Beijing – or about being dragged along to a vegetarian restaurant if you’re a carnivore! Everyone can find something to enjoy at Pure Lotus, where you can get a lot of your favorite meat dishes in vegetarian form — or just vegetables that don’t pretend to be anything but themselves. Either way, all the dishes here are delicious to vegetarians and carnivores alike, and everything’s very unique.
4. For upscale European dining in Asia, one of the top standouts is Capital M. The modern take on pan-European cuisine is uniformly good, and the wine list is unbeatable in this town.
5. China has a variety of cuisines, and Sichuanese (Szechuan) cuisine is famous for its flaming hot chili oil and peppercorns. Try some spicy hot pot if you dare at Haidilao.
6. Although you may think of soy sauce and pork when Chinese food comes to mind, far out west is the Tibetan plateau, where an entirely different type of cuisine reigns supreme. Sample curries and even yak at Ganglamedo.
7. For some seriously good steak, think about heading to Alameda. This Brazilian stalwart is hard to beat in the meat department.
8. If you’re looking for some unusual cuisine, try the French-Vietnamese fusion served at Muse, where you can get Vietnamese standbys like spring rolls and pho but with a European twist.
9. Where can you get some of the best sushi, yakisoba and other Japanese fare outside of Japan? That would be at Hatsune, where the fish is fresh and the sake is fragrant.
10. The dish that Beijing is known for is peking duck, and the place to get it at is Da Dong Roast Duck. Sweet and spicy with crackly skin, it would be a crime to head out of town without getting a taste of this delicacy.
[photo courtesy of Bernt Rostad]