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Beijing has restaurants serving cuisine from all over China. However, there is one type of cuisine that you must try in Beijing as it's the only place serving it. This is Chinese imperial cuisine that originated from the imperial kitchens, where food was cooked for the emperors and their court. There are many restaurants in Beijing serving this style of cuisine. Here we list five recommendations, according to customers' reviews.
Established in 1925, Fangshan Restaurant is one of Beijing's oldest imperial restaurants. Fangshan is located in an ancient complex built during Emperor Qianlong's reign, comprised of Yilan Hall, Daoning Hall and other buildings. Set in the grounds of Beihai park facing the lake the restaurant is surrounded by very beautiful scenery.
The restaurant halls are decorated in dragon and phoenix themes. The furnishings are classic and elegant, with traditional colors used in the décor of the palace. Curtains, tablecloths, napkins, and chair covers are bright yellow whilst the tableware is imitation Qing porcelain.
Family Li serves imperial cuisine made with recipes and processing techniques handed down from their ancestors. The current owner is Li Shanling. His grandfather Li Zijia (厉子嘉) was deeply trusted by Empress Dowager Cixi and was appointed supervisor of the Imperial Household Department in charge of the meals for the royal family. He approved all the daily menus and tasted all the dishes before they were served to the empress and the emperor. He memorized every recipe he read, and wrote them down when he came home to later be used in this restaurant.
Family Li only serves dinner to ten people every day so you must make a reservation a few days in advance. The daily menu is informational only, you are not allowed to order your meal of choice. Family Li will present you with a meal suited for an emperor. Many celebrities have enjoyed such a meal, including Bill Gates, Muhammad Ali, former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and others.
Bai Jia Da Yuan is a garden restaurant of the Qing Dynasty serving mainly imperial cuisine and also Bai cuisine. Traditional Chinese pavilions dot the gardens and Chinese lanterns illuminate the complex at night. All the staff wear traditional Qing dynasty costumes which further adds to the unique atmosphere. The food served is outstanding, not only for the flavors but also for the unique presentation of the dishes. We won't spoil it here but this is definitely a restaurant you should try!
‘Mei Mansion Family Feast' (Mei Fu Jia Xi) is another imperial restaurant located around Houhai Lake. It serves the family dishes that Mei Lanfang (a master of Beijing Opera) ate during his lifetime.
The restaurant spans 1,100 square meters. It has 3 courtyards, and used to be the residence of a prince's wife in the Qing Dynasty. The courtyards are planted with magnolias, bamboo, and willows, as well as a jujube tree that is more than 200 years old. The mansion is divided into 4 halls: plum, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum. They are separated by a water wall, curtain wall and pools.
The chrysanthemum hall has two parlors, where photos and tableware, camera equipment, and an old-fashioned gramophone that Mr. Mei once used are displayed. The furniture is 1920s and 30s style, and each piece of tableware has a delicate orchid pattern on it. When enjoying the Mei cuisine, classic and original opera from the gramophone gives you a chance to appreciate the charisma and charm of the opera master for whom the restaurant is named.
Ritan Inn House is located in the southwest of Ritan Park, in the embassy district of Chaoyang District. It is a huge complex that serves imperial cuisine from private kitchens, Hong-Kong-style Cantonese cuisine, and teppanyaki. It also has an outdoor area and beer garden. Combine a visit to this restaurant with a walk around the beautiful Ritan park - an ancient park set in the middle of Beijing's CBD.
Beijing is a truly unique travel destination and our private 4-Day Emperor's Tour will show you the best of what this ancient imperial city has to offer. If you would like to eat at any of the above imperial cuisine establishments just let us know when inquiring.
If the thought of a food-based tour tickles your taste buds try our 13-Day Broad Taste of China Tour where you will visit China's travel highlights of Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Guilin and Hong Kong that coincidentally are also it's culinary highlights.
All our tours are customizable, so if you already know where you want to go you can tell us and we will tailor-make the trip of a lifetime for you.