Posted on Sep 23, 2013 by Elizabeth Choi
The Chinese know a thing or two about the finer things in life. Recent trends have shown Chinese consumers enjoy everything from high-end handbags to imported wines. It’s no wonder the food industry in China has exploded alongside the country’s rapid economic growth.
When in China, travelers and residents alike can feast on just about whatever they please with renown chefs from Australia, US, UK and more flocking to the Middle Kingdom to share their culinary passion. But China also enjoys the comforts of local eateries where food resembles a home-cooked meal, made with a lot of heart. Whether you’re searching for the perfect place to propose or a truly authentic, local dining experience, you’ll find what you’re looking for in many of China’s provinces!
10. Laris - Shanghai
Scan any number of lists enumerating top restaurants in China and you’ll find Laris makes the cut. Chef David Laris, who hails from Australia, first established himself as a successful gastronomic entrepreneur in London before moving east to open several popular ventures in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Well-traveled foodies know to come here for a memorable European meal.
9. Lao Sun Jia - Xi’an
It’s hard to believe the original Lao Sun Jia is over a century old but it might explain the restaurant’s immense popularity in this area of Xi’an. With three branches, the best place to try this historic eatery is in the Lao Sun Jia hotel. Order the yangrou paomo, their legendary lamb stew cooked with chillies, coriander, garlic and bread you hand-crumble yourself to thicken the dish. Known primarily for their Muslim fare, locals will tell you to try the lamb dumplings (suan tang shuijiao) and the steamed buns with mince and flour (fenzheng yangrou).
8. Huangcheng Laoma - Chengdu
Who doesn’t love hot pot? This traditional Chinese favorite is practically revered at this beloved local spot. If piping hot food and eye-watering spices are your thing, this Sichuan restaurant is for you. Enjoy your hot pot favorites - fresh vegetables, noodles, thin cuts of beef and chicken - beneath the Chengdu-centric decor. If you’re not convinced by Laoma’s culinary reputation, perhaps you will be by the stature of the four story restaurant. That’s a lot of hot pot!
7. Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant - Beijing
Like Laris, Da Dong typically secures a top spot in most valuable restaurant lists. Unlike Laris, however, Da Dong serves strictly Chinese food. The perimeter of the restaurant is flanked by long queues each night with hungry patrons visiting for a taste of their signature Peking duck. But don’t be fooled: Da Dong has a notable menu beyond its crispy skinned poultry. Sources such as CNN recommend the lobster meat “noodles” or tantalising blowtorched steak (set aflame tableside!). Little known fact: Da Dong’s kitchen is equipped with 300 chefs!
6. Sakura Cafe - Lijiang
Located on vibrant Xinhua Street, Sakura Cafe is a must-see if you’re in the multicultural district of Lijiang. Boasting not only a restaurant but fully stocked bar and cafe, the beauty of this venue is in the details. Bonsais line the roof, large rustic wheels rest against the exterior walls and a peaceful canal runs just outside the building. Japanese, Korean and Western fare are all served here but patrons swear by the Korean barbeque and hot pot.
5. Fresh - Sanya City
As its name implies, you cannot get fresher than Fresh. Hidden in a tucked away corner of the Mandarin Oriental, Fresh may be the most ideal place to feast on choice picks from the restaurant’s saltwater and shellfish tanks. This contemporary Australian dining spot is heavily inspired by French and Japanese cuisine. Top recommendations include the crisp skin braised pork belly, Tarte au citron, and super fresh Tasmanian pacific oysters. On par with the beauty of each dish served is the beautiful setting: Fresh offers an entirely al fresco atmosphere with a picturesque view of volcanic rocks, coral bay and if you come at night, a canopy of stars above.
4. Dongfang Jiaozi Wang - Harbin
You can’t possibly go to China without trying a fair amount of dumplings. Dongfang Jiaozi Wang is a sure place to make a distinct mark on your palette as its popularity has enabled it to become a franchise within the province. The sight of watching the restaurant’s arsenal of chefs creating dumplings with rapid-fire speed is one thing to behold. Their mouth-watering dumplings are another. Put the sanxian (shrimp, pork, chive) and songren yumi (corn and pine nut) dumplings on your “must try” list. Frommer’s says this place it has some of the best dumplings in China so it seems a taste check is in order!
3. Lao Chayuan Jiudian - Kashgar
The landscape of China is so vast it often starkly contrasts itself from one region to another. Case in point: Kashgar, which seems to more closely resemble Arabia than it does Beijing or Shanghai. But Kashgar is, indeed, China though likewise, the cuisine served at Lao Chayuan Jiudian is far from xiao long bao or Peking duck. Frommer’s recommends the beef stir fry (chaokuo rou) and the dry-fried spring chicken (ganbian tongzi ji). Searching for vegetarian options? Don’t miss the ban san si, a medly of thinly sliced cucumber, onion, carrot and noodles or the field mushrooms (bachu mogu), prepared with garlic, bok choy and ginger.
2. Happy Island Restaurant - Zhengzhou
Located in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, several factors make Happy Island Restaurant unique. The restaurant, which serves Chinese and Western dishes, is jointly owned by 36 members of the Henan Happy Spirit Troupe, a performing group whose members are no taller than 1.4 meters in height. 18 of their members are employed as wait staff and on a nightly basis patrons can enjoy performances by the staff, all of whom used to be actors. The restaurant is meant to be a venture where these unique individuals can find acceptance and appreciation of their unique physical stature. Some of the employees note having been publicly humiliated in their younger years but find that Happy Island is a place that embraces their struggle and has led them to meet others who have had similar life stories.
1. Chao Tai Xuan - Shenzhen
Searching for the best Chaozhou cuisine in China? Chao Tai Xuan is your best bet. Spanning 5,000 square meters this establishment is loved by locals for scrumptious affordable snacks and stringent ingredient-picking process: only the best produce is used at this restaurant. Don’t leave without trying the Haruna, a local vegetable that is popular on the menu. Try the Scalded Haruna and the Fried King Salmon's Head with Salty Water for the full experience!
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