Posted on Apr 08, 2014 by Luke James
With thousands of restaurants to choose from, foodies in Beijing have no shortage of culinary options. We explore some of the best restaurants and cafes that are working out exciting ways to blend nutritious ingredients to delicious ends.
158 Qian Men South Road, Xuan Wu District
Located just one mile from Tiananmen Square and opposite the Capitol Hotel, Gong De Lin is an institution in Beijing. The original restaurant was set up in Shanghai by a grand master in Chang Ji Temple at the start of last century in Shanghai, and the current site in Beijing has been serving Buddhist-style vegetarian food since its establishment in 1984.
The food at Gong De Lin is exclusively vegetarian, but it is made to mimic the flavours of meat so even committed carnivores can get a healthy feast without the associated cholesterol. Whilst the wait staff’s grasp of English can be basic, the extensive menu has photos of every dish, so pointing can usually get the job done -- or just tuck into the famous buffet with countless veggie options that will be sure to have you leaving satisfied.
Hegezhuang Village, Cuigezhuang Town, Shunyi district
If you’re looking for a change of scenery and away from the chaos of the city, The Orchard could be just the ticket. The restaurant is situated in a grand old farm house in the middle of an apple orchard in the Shunyi district, making for spectacular views in the spring when the trees are in full bloom.
The expansive menu features home grown, pesticide free herbs and vegetables as well as organic fruit. The menu is predominantly European but also includes a range of Chinese and Japanese cuisine options. Vegetarian and gluten free options are also available on request. Be sure to pre-arrange transport as The Orchard’s location in Shunyi can make it a challenge to get back to the city centre.
2 Wudaoying Hutong, Yonghegong, Dongcheng district
It seems appropriate that King’s Joy is situated close to Beijing’s Lama Temple since the head chef, Pan Jianjun, was a Buddhist disciple from a monastery in Jiangxi province, encouraged by his master to become an ambassador for vegetarian eating outside the walls of his monastery. The restaurant has rapidly established itself as one of the best Chinese restaurants in all of Beijing, and after having a meal in the idyllic courtyard, it’s easy to see why.
The focus is on vegetarian fare and whilst some ingredients come from Yunnan Province, the majority of ingredients are sourced from organic farms around the Beijing area. As with any restaurant, the holy trinity of taste, texture and appearance of the cuisine is of paramount concern, but there is also a strong focus on the nutritional content of the dishes thanks to owner David Yin’s nutrition degree from Fu Jen University in Taipei.
Even the drinks menu is loaded with healthy, delectable options: an oatmeal nut-melange soy beverage and chilled papaya milk, for example. If you’re after something a little more substantial, try the sauteed matsutake mushrooms served with chunky medallions of tofu, asparagus and gingko nuts.
8 Dongdaqiao Road South Tower, SOHO Shangdu, Room 4000, Chaoyang District
Whilst not a cafe or restaurant in the traditional sense, Healthi Eatz offers a delivery service for their range of low calorie, low carbohydrate and high protein meals. They don’t have the same overheads that a traditional restaurant incurs so are able to offer great quality, healthy foods at an affordable price.
Their delicious range of vegetarian and meat options includes quinoa, grilled salmon, chicken breast and lean beef salads. The Healthi Eatz informative website includes full nutritional details: calorie count, grams of protein and fats and more from each menu item. Designed to promote weight loss, the menu is full of flavour without the bad stuff. To order, click through to www.sherpa.com.cn.
Various locations, TaiKoo Li Station, Lido, Solana, Indigo, Parkview Green, Beijing Kerry Centre
Another Shanghai import, Element Fresh is a healthy take on traditional American food with a great range of wraps, pastas, salads and sandwiches as well as heartier options such as lamb racks and osso bucco. They change their menu in accordance with the seasons, making the most of fresh produce from around the area which is used in meals as well as the extensive range of healthy smoothies.
Thier commitment to outstanding service has earned Element Fresh a sizable fan base and outlets can get crowded during lunch. It’s best to arrive early or settle in for a late lunch to avoid the masses.
Floor 1, Building 4, Chaoyang Gongyuan Nan Lu, Lishui Jiayuan Xiaoqu, Chaoyang district
Across from the south gate of Chaoyang Park is the charming Rug Cafe, one of the first in the city to recognize Beijing’s growing appetite for organic produce. Their emphasis is on fresh, local produce and they exclusively use 100% organic milk from Green Yard, the only approved organic milk brand in Beijing.
The chic, elegant interior oozes style from the clean white tiles and blonde wood fitout down to the monogrammed cloth napkins adorned with tiny R’s. But, style without substance is hollow, so it’s fitting that the food is top notch too. The house made bagels are to die for, the homemade yoghurt and berries delicious and the carafes of freshly squeezed juice concoctions will make sure your thirst is quenched.
There’s plenty of outdoor seating to make the most of sunny days, whilst non-smokers will appreciate the staunch no smoking rules in the cafe both indoors and out.
3 Heizhima Hutong (inside Nanluoguxiang), Dongcheng District
Chinese American Jen Lin-Liu established Black Sesame Kitchen with the intention of giving guests an opportunity to come and enjoy a typical home-style meal in a traditional courtyard home. The restaurant is nestled in one of the most traditional and beautiful hutongs in the city and the ‘make yourself at home’ vibe is palpable as soon as you enter.
Catering more towards Western clientele, the intention of Black Sesame is that guests will walk away with a better understanding of Chinese cuisine, highlighting cooking techniques involved in preparing these traditional home style dishes. Ten-course banquets are cooked up right at the communal table so you can experience the meal rather than just consume it.
Best of all, if you enjoy the culinary creations served up at Black Sesame Kitchen you can learn the secrets of their production. Cooking classes are held each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Just be aware: with Black Sesame Kitchen’s popularity there comes stiff competition for one of the few tables at the restaurant. There is generally a four week wait to get a table, so be sure to book early.
Houshayu (LouMa/Roma Roundabout), Luoma Lake
Set on the banks of the Luoma Lake in the Shunyi district, Elaine’s Vegetarian Restaurant and Bar is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. This cozy haven features both an indoor seating area and an outdoor courtyard, so you can either escape the cold or enjoy a sunny day outdoors. Of note is that the in-house garden supplies a surprising amount of the vegetarian fare going into the dishes, of which there are many.
The fold out wooden menus are home to more than 100 generously portioned choices with a range of imitation meat concoctions such as soy chicken, duck and beef. Best of all, the meals are prepared with health and nutrition as a strong focus so there is minimal use of oil, salt and MSG.
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