Bellini’s Beijing Dining Faves

[The Amateur Gourmet is on vacation and, while he’s gone, he’s asked his friends to cover for him. One of his friends, Jason Bellini, is a rock star freelance correspondent who you may recognize from his days as news anchor on LOGO, the gay channel. Jason filed this report exclusively for us while covering the Olympics; isn’t that cool? He’s our first official news correspondent!]

8 comments

  1. Great clip. Thank you Jason. I had read about Made In China – it was fun to see and hear your account. The duck looks amazing.

  2. This cute little video displays everything that is wrong about the way some Americans eat in China. It was seriously hard to watch, painful even. To get to the point this video describes the way one would eat in New York, not Beijing. When in Beijing it is foolhardy, no even better, it is utterly disastrous to eat in posh hotels and empty post-modern caves of boredom.

    First of all I was left with the impression that Jason Bellini spent his entire time in Beijing in his hotel room or taking taxis to other hotels to eat with similarly clueless foreigners. In the past three decades Beijing has skyrocketed to become one of the world’s premier cities, bringing such luxuries as the Hyatt and decent pancakes. That does not mean travelers should limit themselves to such offerings.

    Secondly, and this is important, a western hotel chain is not a good place to get Peking duck. It had to be said. Nor is an over priced empty restaurant with small portions of mediocre Chinese food a good sign, whether in New York or Beijing. That restaurant, Paper, undoubtedly put more money in its decor and cocktail selection than it did in finding the best chefs and crafting a decent menu.

    Thirdly, this video lacks any sort of adventurous spirit. As someone who has lived in China on and off for the past five years I am sure of the fact that the greatest meals I have had in this country did not take place in my hotel lobby, were not picked off an English menu and did not finish with an espresso martini. It pays to get out of your comfort zone walk down streets you’ve never been down, see what your Chinese neighbor just ordered or just pick something randomly off the menu. Better yet eat the street food.

    I wonder, does this well-meaning but misguided tourist know what he missed out on??

    I don’t think restaurants such as these two are completely useless. Its just that restaurants like them are largely only good for western and other foreign cuisines. I thoroughly enjoy them for that whenever I’m in Beijing. Ask any Chinese person in Beijing to name their favorite restaurants none of them would name these two places. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when it comes to matters of Chinese cuisine this blog and its contributors could do a better job.

  3. Yes I’m sure that they had plenty of time to visit every little street vendor or dingy food hall while they were covering the biggest sport event in the world.

  4. Yes I’m sure that they had plenty of time to visit every little street vendor or dingy food hall while they were covering the biggest sport event in the world.

  5. It is not what they have time for, but what they chose to do. There are plenty of joints with local flavor to get Peking duck and adventurous eating opportunities, both indoor and outdoor, are available on literally every street, even if you stick to the typical tourist trap areas. In fact I’d say it took decidedly more time and effort to find some forsaken asian fusian place that nobody has heard of (I’m in Beijing) than to step outside and eat anywhere.

    Expresso martini? Way to travel across the world to revel in trends that were over in NY 2 years ago. Maybe he’ll goto the XinTianDi mall next and have a “local” Beijing cupcake.

  6. I won’t vouch too much for Made in China because Jonathan makes a good point about it being a bit strange to go to the Hyatt for Peking Duck. However, it is definitely not a western restaurant, and it consistently wins awards for its duck that have to do with quality, not location. The worst thing about Made in China is that most people who live here don’t want to eat there because it’s in a pricey hotel. At any rate, I’m glad Bellini didn’t go to some hole like Quan Ju De, which thrives on a reputation for authenticity without paying half as much attention to quality as equally priced and less crowded venues.

    As for paper – I can’t fault Bellini for this choice except to say that even during the Olympics he was about 2 years too late. The restaurant wasn’t crowded because it just isn’t cool anymore. The food is actually pretty good, and the owner has some other interesting places in the neighborhood such as Bed and Sambal. It’s true that they all take a lot of style cues from New York. Nevertheless, these were once three of the most authentically trendy restaurants in Beijing.

    Actually, if two choices have to be made out of the sea of restaurants in Beijing, these are two solid choices. Made in China gives a tasty take on traditional fare, and Paper provides a modern interpretation of “Chinese” food. Neither are restaurants that anyone in Beijing would frequent, but they are decent examples for tourists who don’t have the opportunity to dine out here regularly.

    If I had to make two picks to highlight Beijing Duck and trendy Chinese, at the moment I would choose Duck de Chine and Source (although that may also be a bit passé). Neither of them are in hotels, but they still have high price tags that would prevent most of us from going often (But Jonathan, next time you come up to Beijing, I will take you).

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