Sanlitun might be more famous for its nightlife than its restaurants, but you don’t want to party on an empty stomach. Grab a bite at one of the best restaurants in the area.
Duck de Chine
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Peking duck is Beijing’s signature dish, and according to a vote by local people, this upscale restaurant prepares the best in town. Situated inside 1949 The Hidden City complex, Duck de Chine roasts its duck over aged date tree wood, which infuses the crispy skin with a sweet fruity flavour. The slicing of the duck is a show in itself, and just wait until you sink your teeth into the paper-thin pancake loaded with roasted fowl, spring onions, cucumbers and a glossy hoisin sauce.
CHAO is one of Sanlitun’s most exciting boutique hotels, and Drawing Room is not your regular hotel restaurant. Sitting on the second floor of the hotel’s ultra-modern clubhouse building, this open kitchen delivers one of Sanlitun’s most sophisticated fine-dining menus made up of both Chinese and Western-style dishes. The three breakfast options on offer – Eastern, Western and Healthy – and the refined afternoon tea will also make you salivate.
This Nali Patio restaurant opened its doors in 2008 and has been a star of Beijing’s culinary scene ever since. Mosto offers a taste of affordable luxury in a sophisticated hacienda-style dining room, with a separate playroom for the kids – perfect for families. The menu blends Chinese, South American and European flavours across its range of ‘to start’, ‘to follow’ and ‘to finish’ dishes – the grilled beef tenderloin earns rave reviews.
This restaurant isn’t for everyone. But if you’re looking for authentic Sichuan food in Beijing, then look no further. Located in the north gate of the Workers’ Stadium, San Yang Cai plates up huge portions of all of your super-spicy Sichuan favourites. The name means ‘three dishes’ in Chinese, referring to the three staple ingredients of eels, loaches and bullfrogs that are typical in Sichuan cuisine.
The name might be French, but Vin Vie is a typical Japanese izakaya. Make a reservation because Vin Vie’s cosy booths are always full of diners enjoying the small, shareable, well-priced plates of sashimi, pan-fried clams, and steamed vegetables served with a creamy garlic sauce. The drinks list is also impressive – sip on something from the menu of sake, soju, whiskey and the range of imported wines that give the venue its name.
Jing Yaa Tang has won a Michelin star for its decidedly different approach to peking duck | Courtesy of Jing Yaa Tang
Designed by Michelin-star celebrity chef Alan Yau, Jing Yaa Tang is one of Beijing’s hottest hotel restaurants. This corner of the Opposite House luxury hotel used to be a nightclub, but the dance floor has been converted into an elegant dining room that serves regional specialities from around China. The speciality though is the city’s signature dish – the Peking duck coming out of the wood-fired oven is some of the best you’ll find anywhere in Beijing.
Stumble out of a Gongti nightclub in the wee hours of the morning, and you’ll spot dozens of takeaway places trying to lure you in for a late-night feed. This tiny hole in the wall, however, stands out from the crowd. Ling Er Jiu produces huge bowls of biangbiang noodles – a Shaanxi province speciality of chewy noodles coated in a rich, meaty sauce. In other words, exactly what you’re craving after a few drinks.
The Middle 8 empire has introduced the cuisine of Yunnan province to a trendy young crowd in the Chinese capital, and the Sanlitun franchise is one of the chain’s flagship eateries. Middle 8 showcases distinctive Yunnanese ingredients – plenty of wild herbs and mushrooms, as well as exotic bits and pieces like insects, flowers and algae – from China’s south-west corner, where spicy Vietnamese, Burmese and Thai influences make their way across the border.
On the surface, Must Guette has an English theme – there’s even an iconic red postbox out the front. However, once you scan the menu, you realise that this gourmet hotdog and bagel joint takes its inspiration from all over the globe. Feast on the Spanish-style tapas dog, the British take on garlic fries or a hotdog topped with a whole Canadian lobster in hutong-inspired surrounds in Taikoo Li South.
China shares a southern border with Vietnam, but Southeast Asian cuisine isn’t that popular in the Chinese capital. This Vietnamese fast-casual restaurant is trying to change that. Also found in Taikoo Li South, Saigon Mama plates up authentic Vietnamese fare in a modern, graffiti-caked dining space. Tuck into a huge bowl of phở, some crunchy fried egg rolls and cuttlefish cakes, or a crusty bánh mì slathered with duck pâté.
Restaurant Y is known for light Mediterranean dishes that are packed with flavour. Highlights on the menu are the MrY roast chicken, the spinach salad, and green curry quinoa. Pair your meal with their speciality cocktail made from sugar cane and saffron. The menu is especially suited to those with an affinity for seafood; the kitchen serves up juicy prawns form Argentina and fresh surf clams from Liaoning. Set on the second floor of the Taikoo Li shopping mall, Restaurant Y boasts an expansive view of Sanlitun and is decorated in vibrant hues and tasteful furnishings.
Sanlitun has a decent selection of fine-dining options, but it also has a range of restaurants serving those simple yet delicious home-cooked dishes that the local people love. One of the best examples is Ms Lady Chai’s beef noodle restaurant, which has been a Beijing institution for the past three decades. They serve a deliciously filling bowl of soup noodles, a melt-in-your-mouth plate of braised beef and an unmissable kebab of lamb chuan’r – all at budget-friendly prices.