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Beijing, Shanghai and Surrounding Areas


amyknyc
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You have a lot to learn about concierges and senior lobby staff in Asian hotels :biggrin: .They are miracle workers, Mr. Fix-it-alls, go-betweens, supreme diplomats, and above all, your wish is their command. Your requests will be acted on with aplomb, professionalism and good nature. Go ahead, try them. :smile:

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Just a quick reply - but dutch muse, you may want to forego Quanjude. I know it's the most famous, but I've never found it to be that great and I've been to all the locations. The best one of them, I personally thought, was the one in Wangfujing by the Union hospital (aka "sick duck").

However, one good friend I know who does a lot of eating out in Beijing sings the praises of Made in China - which is in the Grand Hyatt in Wangfujing. The duck there is supposed to be really good. Also, you might try 'Roast duck king' restaurant too - sorry no details at present!

As for other restaurants, it depends what you're looking for...Beijing food, other types, western food. for Fusion, I reckon the Courtyard is one of the best restaurants I've been to. But if you want really typical street food, definitely go to Wangfujing snack street or Donghuamen street market (although at a price more than one would pay at the regular street stalls!). For cleaner and air-con street food type eating - try the mall in Oriental Plaza.

All of these are VERY near the Pennisular Palace.

Actually the restaurant in the Pennisular (Huang Ting) is pretty good (although expensive). If you want to spend big bucks and reserve in advance for some unique food, Li family Restaurant is where it's supposed to be at (I've never managed it though...but plan to go this June!).

Anyway, just a quick response....

Fongyee

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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I agree with Ben that it's a good idea to talk to the concierge, but do all the other things he suggests, too. There's one drawback to relying on a concierge: If you're a Westerner, he's likely to tell you what he thinks Westerners will like (not to mention what places might be giving him a commission), rather than what someone who really wants the real stuff will like. When we asked the concierge desk at the Peace Hotel in Shanghai to write out directions for a cab driver to get us to a dumpling house far away on the other side of the river, the man at the desk at the time was astonished, because he told us that that was a place he liked to eat at in its former, closer location, but he never would have expected a tourist to know of it and never would have recommended it to a tourist (not fancy enough). The dumpling house ended up being very good but conceivably not worth the long cab ride more than once. Unfortunately, I've forgotten its name, anyway, and which budget guidebook we got it from.

By the way, I have been to the Li Family Restaurant in Beijing and had the best meal of my life there. You can do a search and find my report, with photos. It was more than six months ago, though, and I am not a resident of Beijing, so keep those things in mind for whatever they're worth.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Hi all!

I've been reading the various China travel threads and thought I'd ask a few questions of my own, since I'm going back in June. I've been to Beijing a couple of times, but this time we are adding new stops to the itinerary -- a few days in Shanghai, an overnight in Suzhou to see the gardens, and an overnight in Jinan and Tai'an, north of Beijing, for the hot springs.

So here are my questions, slightly different from everyone else's:

1) Where are the best xiao long bao in Shanghai? What about other Shanghai specialties -- stir fried rice cakes, "ti pang" (sorry for the misspelling and the bad English translation, but basically, braised fatty pork shank), lion's head meatballs, etc. -- which restaurants should I check out?

2) What about the high-end restaurants -- are any of them worth going to? I haven't been to a Jean Georges restaurant yet, so I was considering trying the one in Shanghai.

3) Suzhou, Jinan, Tai'an -- any can't miss restaurants, food stalls, whatever? High end and low end are both fine by me.

4) Beijing: We went to Quanjude last year (the one in the Dongcheng district, I think; anyways, close to Oriental Plaza) and I was disappointed. The duck was fine, but the duck soup was watery -- is there somewhere else where I can get really good duck AND duck soup? I'll try Made in China's duck -- everything else was excellent last time and I plan to go back.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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Some Shanghai suggestions:

For excellent xiao long bao and lots of other good dumplings, including what I think was called shen jian bao (see picture below), try Crystal Jade.

shen%20jian%20bao.jpg

We also had great xiao long bao at a tiny place that we read about on chaxiubao's blog. Have a look in his June 2005 archive for all sorts of good reading about eating in Shanghai. It's called Kaika Tongbau. It was hard to find and I don't know how we would have gone without local Chinese speaking friends - either finding it or ordering - but it's worth the adventure.

Here's a photo of the building so you'd know what you're looking for. I think it's 777 Zhousan Nan Lu, not 727 as on the blog.

kaika%20tongbau.jpg

I took a photo while we were eating but unfortunately was too immersed in the dumplings to think to do it while this steamer was full or when we got to the second or third steamers underneath (it was an exercise in greed I'm afraid).

kaika%20tongbau%20dumplings.jpg

For lions head meatballs, Xia is great. Here's a photo to whet your appetite.

lions%20head.jpg

If you want a high end restaurant, I'd recommend the Whampoa Club, Jereme Leung's restaurant on the Bund.

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What is that liner in the steamer basket? I like it --- whatever it is!

In that Eastern area, look for WuXi Ribs -wuxi pai gu - 无锡排骨. I know this is a WuXi dish, but it MUST be found all over that area,----- I would think.

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I'd second Guyi in Shanghai. Another option, though, is Jereme Lung's Whampoa Club, which is on the Bund. If you only have one day in Shanghai you probably should see the Bund and it looks its fairytale best at night. Whampoa Club would fit your upscale requirements, and it is rooted in Shanghai cuisine. Some dishes, like the drunken chicken, are modern interpretations but many, like the kou shan si (see below) and the braised pork knuckle, are close to their orgins. It's beautiful cooking.

kou%20shan%20si.jpg

Read this review of both of them by the IHT's Patricia Wells - it might also help you decide. You could also go to a bookshop before you leave New York and browse through a copy of Leung's book New Shanghai Cuisine to see if his food appeals to you.

I'd also put Crystal Jade into the mix, especially if you're after noodles and dumplings. It's in Xintiandi, which is a very fashionable part of town. You could have a drink before or after at TMSK. Maybe it's an option for lunch?

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I made my last comment over 18 months ago. I regret that I was blunt and direct. Apparently that might have offended some of Chung King Mansions fans.

However, my impression on Chung King Mansions has not changed.

If you have stayed in Chung King Mansions for over ten times through out the years and did not have a single unpleasant experience, I am happy for you. But suppose someone were to tell me that he’s been to Harlem over ten times and has never been robbed, would it lead me to conclude that Harlem is a safe place? I think not necessarily.

My advice came from my own experience. I did not read about Chung King Mansions in a website on the Internet where anybody can modify the content. Where do you find accountability on the accuracy of the information posted? Just by an Internet online name and an IP address along with a modification date?

I used to live only 1 block away from Chung King Mansions for over 10 years. I had my share of seeing police cars and ambulances parked outside the building with flashing sirens and reading about robberies and homicides that happened inside the building on local newspapers. And I was chased down the corridor inside the building once by 2 guys who tried to rob me.

Maybe things have changed for the better over the years. Or maybe not. I heard from a friend who told me, from her personal account, that only as recent as a year ago that she had seen some guy dropped dead (well, presumably dead) at a side entrance of Chung King Mansions with a needle still stuck to his forearm.

Back to the spirit of this thread, it all comes down to what the readers want to do while they come to Hong Kong. For those who would visit Hong Kong, the capital city of all kinds of great Chinese food, for only a few days, and would have a strong urge to get some Indian food “to die for” (and this term may take a literal meaning) in a dirty building which is well known for crime and drug problems, please don’t let my comments stop you!

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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[...]But  suppose someone were to tell me that he’s been to Harlem over ten times and has never been robbed, would it lead me to conclude that Harlem is a safe place?  I think not necessarily.[...]

[tangent]Actually, Harlem is pretty safe and fairly rapidly gentrifying nowadays.[/returning you to your scheduled programming]

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'd add to Pan's comment that Chungking Mansions isn't Harlem.

So anyway, you say "My advice came from my own experience. I did not read about Chung King Mansions in a website on the Internet where anybody can modify the content. Where do you find accountability on the accuracy of the information posted? Just by an Internet online name and an IP address along with a modification date?"

You're right. But all I said was that I found that information to be spot on. What I meant was it reflects my own experience of the place, which I first visited around 1986, and stayed in numerous times over the following ten years, and during the next seven years living in Hong Kong, visited whenever I wanted to eat Indian food, buy Indian ingredients, or show visitors a different side of Hong Kong. Your own information was anecdotal, lacked footnotes and bibliography, and moved on into a pickpocketing incident that took place elsewhere - NOT Chungking Mansions. Though now you've remembered that you were the victim of an attempted mugging, which at least shows (to Wikipedia standards of credibility) that you've actually been inside the place.

Great as Hong Kong is for Chinese food, that too is often to be found in the most unpromising surroundings - dirt, pollution, 19th century hygiene, and yes, drugs and crime. I lived and worked in Wanchai and Western among other places, which had all of that and more.

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[...] Your own information was anecdotal, lacked footnotes and bibliography, and moved on into a pickpocketing incident that took place elsewhere - NOT Chungking Mansions. Though now you've remembered that you were the victim of an attempted mugging, which at least shows (to Wikipedia standards of credibility) that you've actually been inside the place.[...]

The pickpocketing and the attempted mugging were 2 different incidents happened at two different times. I am sorry if the readers get confused. The former case occurred inside Royal Pacific Hotel during one of my visits. The latter case occurred inside Chung King Mansions a long time ago when I used to live in Hong Kong.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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[...] Your own information was anecdotal, lacked footnotes and bibliography, and moved on into a pickpocketing incident that took place elsewhere - NOT Chungking Mansions. Though now you've remembered that you were the victim of an attempted mugging, which at least shows (to Wikipedia standards of credibility) that you've actually been inside the place.

[...]

My own information was anecdotal, lacked footnotes and bibliography...

Hearsay...

Okay.

Hmmm...

Doing a quick search on Google turned out the following. Unfortunately I don't have membership to some of the local newspaper online sites to do a more in-depth search in older time frames with more details. But this maybe enough for an illustration...

7/28/2001 The owner of a hostel inside Chung King Mansions found killed inside the building

(News report)

http://pdf.sznews.com/big5/content/2001-07...ntent_60414.htm

3/25/2002 Foreign man died from attack at Chung King Mansions

(News report)

http://www.epochtimes.com/b5/2/3/25/n178979.htm

August 2002 A prostitute found killed from over 70 slashes inside Chung King Mansions

(Mentioned in this newspaper article)

http://news.sina.com.hk/cgi-bin/news/show_...4-29&id=1058527

These sites are from reputable news organizations, not a site that anybody can enter the contents.

Do you want to go and eat inside that building? I don't know... maybe that adds some excitement...

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I live a couple blocks from Chunking Mansions. I eat at restaurants in there. I shop at the spice shop on the main floor. I take visitors there to eat, and they often later return on their own. I take a short cut through there whenever I need to get from Nathan Road to Minden Row. Friends of mine have stayed in the (rather grotty, and not recommended) hostels there.

Chunking Mansions is not pretty, but I've never had a problem in there. I've never heard of anyone I know having a problem. You are more likely to be pickpocketed in the tourist streets or malls of TST or Causeway Bay. Hong Kong is a very safe city.

Kitchens in Chunking Mansions aren't any dirtier (or cleaner) than other similar price restaurants anywhere in HK. I haven't gotten sick from eating there over the years, but that's not statistically significant one way or the other.

Chunking Mansions is not especially dangerous or 'exciting' to visit. The usual common sense is all that's required.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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I would have to agree with Ah Leung. Chung King Mansion is a pretty dangerous place. 3 people dying in the span of 2 years is a significant trend. There is also the issue of race. Sometimes we people like to be politically correct and sidestep the issue. But in Asia, especially in Hong Kong and China, most common criminals and gangsters will NOT use violence against foreigners (read: Caucasian). This is from my experience living in Hong Kong. Yes, foreigners are sometimes targeted by pickpockets and certain shops that are tourist traps, but in general they stay away from Caucasians. This is a fact.

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  • 2 weeks later...
So here are my questions, slightly different from everyone else's:

1) Where are the best xiao long bao in Shanghai? What about other Shanghai specialties -- stir fried rice cakes, "ti pang" (sorry for the misspelling and the bad English translation, but basically, braised fatty pork shank), lion's head meatballs, etc. -- which restaurants should I check out?

2) What about the high-end restaurants -- are any of them worth going to? I haven't been to a Jean Georges restaurant yet, so I was considering trying the one in Shanghai.

3) Suzhou, Jinan, Tai'an -- any can't miss restaurants, food stalls, whatever? High end and low end are both fine by me.

4) Beijing: We went to Quanjude last year (the one in the Dongcheng district, I think; anyways, close to Oriental Plaza) and I was disappointed. The duck was fine, but the duck soup was watery -- is there somewhere else where I can get really good duck AND duck soup? I'll try Made in China's duck -- everything else was excellent last time and I plan to go back.

Thanks in advance for your help!

1. I'm far from an expert on Shanghai, but to me, you must go to Nanxiang for xiaolongbao, it is the tourist spot, but this is one that deserves its reputation. There is also a favourite spot of Shanghainese for the local "dim sum" that I believe is on Nanjing Xi Lu around the Shimen Yi subway station (though I could be totally wrong).

2. I've only been to Jean Georges and M on the Bund, JG is worth experiencing just for the room. The lunch price is surprisingly reasonable. I swear by the Qiao Jiang Nan chain (in both Beijing and Shanghai) and was surprised when they were one of the few places I could get a last minute Friday night reservation in Shanghai last month. It's not THAT "high end" (figure around RMB 100-150 per person) and stick with the Sichuan dishes. I don't remember which one I was at in Shanghai, but in Beijing the Wangfujing and Dongzhimen locations are the nicest.

3. sorry, can't help you much with this

4. Made in China, being the place that it is (and more importantly charging the prices that it does) should offer one hell of a duck soup. Most of the duck places focus so much on the quality of the duck that the soup is just an after thought. In the Beijing restuarants forum I did suggest BianYi, my last duck meal there (well it was over a year ago) I was pleasently surprised by all of the dishes and the overall quality.

Edited by chengb02 (log)
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is Nanxiang the one in the area where all the tourists come to see some big temple? and the queues are so long you'd have to wait around 2 hours or so? if it is then i've been there. i was early to beat the queues and i was glad! had the *most* expensive brunch there, ever, in the whole world. the crab roe soup eaten/drunk with a plastic straw was peculiar. i still have the brochure between the pages in my China guide book.

beer lovers, such as i, may want to check out Fest Bier micro brewery/pub in the Bund.

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is Nanxiang the one in the area where all the tourists come to see some big temple?  and the queues are so long you'd have to wait around 2 hours or so?  i

Yes, yes, last night I was up very, very late and so some of my posts may amount to gibberish or be without important details, sorry about that. Nanxiang is located in the area around the entrance to Yu Yuan (Yu Gardens). The queues can be insane if you arrive at the wrong time...

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2) What about the high-end restaurants -- are any of them worth going to? I haven't been to a Jean Georges restaurant yet, so I was considering trying the one in Shanghai.

Ditto! Any updates/reports from Jean Georges in Shanghai? Is the menu there geared more for the Asian palate? How are the prices?

SDyson: What is that inside the split open lion's head? Are those slivers of shiitake mushrooms?

u.e.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

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  • 1 month later...

I would not say that the menu at JG Shanghai is geared more to the Asian palate. Indeed, many of the dishes coincide with dishes in NY. That said the differences in ingredients creates a need and opportunity for new dishes. This, of course, varies with the seasons, which are different than the States both in climate and the fact that many products have different seasons altogether. Anyone interested in this type of thing specific to Shanghai need only ask (even better if at the time of making the reservation). If something interesting is available at the time we're more than happy to make sure those interested experience it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just got back from a trip to Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Hangzhou. The food was really different from the Cantonese food my mom cooked - Shanghai dishes have lots of very sweet sauces. Loved the array of cold appetizers.

For Peking Duck/Kao Ya in Beijing:We went to Li Qun in a hutong near Qian Men. Both English and Chinese guidebooks rave about it, it's a total hole in the wall, but the duck was really delicious. It had a lovely smoky fragrance. You can walk from the main street, it's well marked by spray paint, don't let the pedicab drivers convince you that you'll get lost looking for it. The duck is 200 RMB. We ordered the soup, but they forgot to bring it!

Also order the glass noodle fen pi appetizer and duck liver appetizers!

Shanghai:

I was surprised by how sweet the food was. A Shanghai appetizer my uncle (who lives there) kept ordering was a lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice soaked in honey then sliced and served cold. I really enjoyed the wide variety of cold dishes the Shanghainese serve - much more varied than the typical Cantonese charcuterie plate of hams. Lots of cucumber, pickled vegetables, tofu. Smoked fish is a specialty in Shanghai but I didn't particularly like it. Again, too sweet. We also had the squirrel tail fish here, which I thought was also too sweet.

Mei Ling Guan, at Hotel 168 on Yan An Xi Lu near the intersection of Pan4 Yu2 Lu (the Shanghainese pronounce it Fan4 Yu2 Lu). The name comes from the original location, which was next to the U.S. Consulate. We loved the Fish Head Stew - in Cantonese we call it Saw Wo Yu Tou.

Hot Spicy Crab, also on Yan An Xi Lu, just west of the Howard Johnson All-Suites Hotel at No. 1155, at the intersection of Fan4 Yu2 Lu. Look for the big crab stenciled on in the window and Vegas-style neon lights. It's not really called Hot Spicy Crab. That's just what we started calling it. This place is fantastic - they have hot pots built into each table - but we had the crab cooked for us. You order them by weight and they show up with a gigantic pot of it and stick it in the middle of the table, it has tons of chiles, scallions and some nian gao dumplings.

M on the Bund. If you want to eat al fresco with a great view, this place has it. The food is ok, not killer, but the staff is great.

Grand Hyatt, High Tea. This is on the 54th floor of the Grand Hyatt on the Pudong side. They have a high tea dessert buffet from 3p to 5p for about 100RMB. Killer view if it's clear, and try to grab one of the very comfortable leather couches.

Suzhou:

Go to Shi Lu, the night eating market street. It's a smaller street on the edge of town.

There's a man who makes dragon beard candy at a table - ask for a fresh batch so you don't get stale ones in the premade boxes.

There are a lot of open stalls, but we ended up eating at an indoor restaurant because it started raining. I can't remember the name of it, but I'm sure they're all good. We had really good bullfrog - fried in a batter with chiles and scallions. The water snails are also a specialty.

Also, near the end of the street (far end from the stalls) there's a really good foot massage place. Very clean.

In addition to all the Chinese food, we ate ice cream every day to reward ourselves for sightseeing. I recommend the Magnum bars, the blue ones are coffee ice cream covered with chocolate. Mmmm.

Edited by wonderbread (log)
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I just got back from a trip to Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Hangzhou. The food was really different from the Cantonese food my mom cooked - Shanghai dishes have lots of very sweet sauces. Loved the array of cold appetizers.

For Peking Duck/Kao Ya in Beijing:We went to Li Qun in a hutong near Qian Men. Both English and Chinese guidebooks rave about it, it's a total hole in the wall, but the duck was really delicious. It had a lovely smoky fragrance. You can walk from the main street, it's well marked by spray paint, don't let the pedicab drivers convince you that you'll get lost looking for it. The duck is 200 RMB. We ordered the soup, but they forgot to bring it![...]

In the summer of 2004, when I was last in China, for 200 RMB, you could get a ~17-course Michelin 3-star quality meal at the Li Family Restaurant. Has there been tremendous inflation since then, or is 200 RMB for Ka Ya unbelievably exhorbitant? I see that 200 RMB = slightly more than $25 US as of Monday, June 19, 2006 (source: http://www.oanda.com/convert/classic).

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I just got back from a trip to Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Hangzhou. The food was really different from the Cantonese food my mom cooked - Shanghai dishes have lots of very sweet sauces. Loved the array of cold appetizers.

For Peking Duck/Kao Ya in Beijing:We went to Li Qun in a hutong near Qian Men. Both English and Chinese guidebooks rave about it, it's a total hole in the wall, but the duck was really delicious. It had a lovely smoky fragrance. You can walk from the main street, it's well marked by spray paint, don't let the pedicab drivers convince you that you'll get lost looking for it. The duck is 200 RMB. We ordered the soup, but they forgot to bring it![...]

In the summer of 2004, when I was last in China, for 200 RMB, you could get a ~17-course Michelin 3-star quality meal at the Li Family Restaurant. Has there been tremendous inflation since then, or is 200 RMB for Ka Ya unbelievably exhorbitant? I see that 200 RMB = slightly more than $25 US as of Monday, June 19, 2006 (source: http://www.oanda.com/convert/classic).

The duck at Liqun is not 200 RMB. Each duck is only 98 RMB. Perhaps 200 RMB was for the entire meal?

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