updated 4/30/2007 10:50:33 AM ET 2007-04-30T14:50:33

Best Beijing Duck: Beijing's most famous dish is available at dozens of locations, but nowhere is it as crisp and fine as at Beijing Dadong Kaoya Dian, just east of the San Li Tun. drinking district on the East Third Ring Road.

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Best Sichuan: The use of fertilizer and hormones in Chinese produce has dulled the flavor of many raw ingredients, so locals have turned to the fiery food of Sichuan to provide their culinary kicks. At Mala Youhuo, in the south of town, you'll have to wait for a table every night of the week; such is the draw of their heavenly spices.

Best Cantonese: Horizon, inside the Kerry Centre Hotel, serves nicely executed upscale Cantonese food and high-quality dim sum in a luxurious setting at less-than-luxurious prices. The raucous Otto's Restaurant offers for-the-people southern dishes, rarely found outside Guangdong, Hong Kong, and the largest of U.S. Chinatowns.

Best Hot Pot: Searingly spicy Sichuan-style hot pot in an unusually classy setting can be found at the immensely popular Huangcheng Lao Ma. Out of the way but well worth the trip, Taipo Tianfu Shanzhen features a mouthwatering broth made from 32 kinds of mushrooms and a whole black-skinned chicken -- the city's most delicious do-it-yourself dining experience.

Best Noodles: Available in dozens of shapes and sauces, Shanxi-style noodles at the fashionable and aptly named Noodle Loft are among the most satisfying in Beijing, and without the crimes of hygiene perpetrated by the more typical noodle joints.

Best Karma (Vegetarian): A favorite among Buddhist monks, clean and bright Baihe Sushi serves food to match its decor: mushrooms and tofu masquerading as meat, light and flavorful vegetables. No animals anywhere, but you won't miss them. No smoking either.

Best European: Aria is one of the capital's most thoroughly satisfying dining experiences, from amuse-bouche to dessert. More than one visit may be necessary to do justice to a menu of thoroughly intelligent yet understated dishes, served with helpful suggestions for accompanying wines in very comfortable and relaxingly woody surroundings. The unassuming Belgian restaurant Morel's, once considered the greatest Western eatery in Beijing, is your best source of waffles, steak, beef stew, and beer.

Best Asian (non-Chinese): Stylish decor and creative rolls make Hatsune the best Japanese option in Beijing. Overpriced but superbly decorated, Nuage in the Back Lakes offers creative Vietnamese. Cafe Sambal is much the same for Malaysian cuisine. The gaudily decorated Xiyu Shifu provides Beijing with its best Uighur food, including some divine lamb skewers.

Best Wine List: High import duties and poor selection make life in Beijing tough on wine drinkers. But The CourtYard, one of the city's most celebrated restaurants, both for its excellent menu and for its location in a courtyard house overlooking the Forbidden City moat, offers an astonishingly sophisticated wine selection you'd have to go to Hong Kong to equal, with many top wines available by the glass.

Best Quintessential Beijing Setting: Built inside the prayer hall of an old Daoist temple in a sea of crumbling residences near the Back Lakes, Dao eschews the polished gardens and pavilions of the city's other atmospheric restaurants in favor of something far more appropriate: the fast-fading intimacy of one of Beijing's last hutong neighborhoods.

Best Decor: With its high ceiling, pleasing juxtaposition of black and white furnishings, and gracious owner, Green T. House is the most stylish restaurant in Beijing. Flavorful and artfully arranged fusion dishes complete the visual package.

Best Breakfast: Despite the appalling service, Riverside Cafe would be our first choice for breakfast, but it only offers a full breakfast menu on weekends. For a hearty American-style breakfast every day of the week, Steak & Eggs, run by a former navy chef, should be your first choice. They even have grits.

Best Coffee: Despite the silly name, Tasty Taste, just west of the Worker's Stadium, is the city's best alternative to Starbucks. The cakes are excellent, and the Italian coffee hits the spot every time.

The Most Unforgettable Dining Experiences
Dao Jia Chang (Guangxi Men Beili 20; tel. 010/6422-1078): Loud as any street market, with service like a hurricane, this inexpensive eatery offers the most memorable experience of the capital's native cuisine, from shouted welcome to final belch.

Kejia Cai (Southeast bank of Qian Hai; tel. 010/6404-2259): There are fancier places to eat in Beijing, but none can top the Hakka minority food of this charming establishment. Literally every item on the menu sings with flavor. The paper-wrapped fish is culinary Nirvana. Add a charming location, delightful decor, and reasonable prices.

Kong Yiji Jiulou (Northwest bank of Hou Hai; tel. 010/6618-4917): This crowded restaurant is decorated with the trappings of Chinese scholarship and named for the scholar-bum protagonist of a Lu Xun short story. It specializes in the delicate and delicious Huaiyang dishes of northern Zhejiang, the author's place of origin, as well as the birthplace of "yellow wine" which impaired his character's career.

RBL (Dong'an Men Dajie 53; tel. 010/6522-1389): Newly opened RBL oozes chic simplicity, and is the closest the capital comes to a serious upscale dining adventure. Aside from the excellent Japanese-inspired cuisine, there's an adventurous wine list and superb cocktails. Round off the occasion by taking in a world-class live jazz performance in the attached subterranean bar, Icehouse.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit our online dining index.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.


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