The Beijinger 2012 Restaurant Awards- The Chinese Restaurant Winners and Alternatives

Part 2 of my ramblings about The Beijinger 2012 Restaurant Awards ( Part one and Part two) deals with something more familiar to the blog: Chinese restaurants!
I remember mentioning last year that i was not a big fan of the categories they had used but i gotta admit that i like the split this time around. Here are some quick stirs on this:

– Grouping Provincial Restaurants was a good idea IMHO. That said, if this category stays, I can see Chuanban winning it year in and out! It’s conveniently located, got good food and always jam packed. It’s a mainstay as far as Provincial Restaurants go.
– I’m kinda surprised that no western restaurant made it into the “late night dining” selection, especially the Den. I’m even more surprised that not a single Ghost Street establishment made it into the final 3. The whole street is an after hours mecca with some great food options like Xiao Yu Shan.
– Haidilao, Da Dong and Quanjude pretty much won everything with Duck de Chine and Jin Din Xuan making a good showing. It’s hard to argue that in this case, name recognition trumps everything else. The majority of The Beijinger’s readers are expats and let’s face it, it’s tough to remember the name of that restaurant around the corner where you had a mind-blowing meal. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all fantastic places and deserve patronage but there is better out there to be had…
-I would have like to see the “best kungpao chicken” or “best hot pot” categories… Those are always fun!

Now, let’s dissect the winners and look at some alternatives:

najia xiaoguan

BEST RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR (CHINESE)
Readers’ Choice: Da Dong
Outstanding: Din Tai Fung, Duck de Chine
Noodle Pick: Na Jia Xiao Guan

Predictable and safe! These cats are pretty much in the top 10 Chinese restaurants in Beijing and they will most likely always win the expat vote on name recognition. This is one case where Editor’s Choice is always better/more interesting in my opinion.
I’d give the nod to Na Jia Xiao Guan instead. This is a fantastic alternative with great food, beautiful location, fantastic service. The place is always busy, lunch or dinner! Did I mention the Venison stew yet?

BEST BEIJING DUCK
Readers’ Choice: Da Dong
Outstanding: Duck de Chine, Quanjude
Noodle Pick: Hua Jia Yi Yuan

Can’t argue here.. they all serve some amazing duck! Chinese and foreigners alike love them. That said, I’d love for some other establishments to get a bit of recognition for their duck. Hua Jia Yi Yuan, off of Ghost Street, is a fantastic alternative! beautiful duck, perfectly roasted, nice variety of dipping sauces and even funky wrappers with a little hint of wasabi. I just had it last week and it was amazing.

BEST IMPRESSING VISITORS (CHINESE)
Readers’ Choice: Da Dong
Outstanding: Duck de Chine, Haidilao
Noodle Pick: Xi He Ya Ju or Na Jia Xiao Guan

With Da Dong & Haidilao, I would really like to see a breakdown of which branch is being voted for. Sure, these places are guaranteed to impress tourist and you can’t go wrong with them. I’m personally a big fan of courtyards and believe that visitors really get off on being in a traditional setting. From that perspective, I would take them to Na Jia Xiao Guan or Xi He Ya Ju. Both restaurants are located in beautiful old-looking buildings, well refurbished, with great service and amazing food.

BEST LATE-NIGHT DINING
Readers’ Choice: Haidilao
Outstanding: Bellagio, Jin Ding Xuan
Noodle Pick: Xiao Yu Shan

This is really a surprise as I mentioned above… Not much more to say! I’m glad that the local restaurants had such a strong showing on this one. That said, I’d go anywhere on Ghost Street for a great late night meal with Xiao Yu Shan being the best option! The place has constantly delivered great fare of all types, may it be chuanr, duck, soup or roast fish.

BEST PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT RESTAURANT
Readers’ Choice: Chuan Ban (Sichuan Provincial Government Restaurant)
Outstanding: Xinjiang Islam (Xinjiang Provincial Government Restaurant), Yunteng Shifu (Yunnan Provincial Government Restaurant)
Noodle Pick: Chengdu Representative Office

Can’t argue here… good choices and pretty much all 3 are at the top of their game. I would suggest the Chengdu Representative Office or Dali Representative Office, both smaller, cozier alternatives that serve some great food and are less likely to be jam packed.

BEST XINJIANG
Readers’ Choice: Crescent Moon
Outstanding: BLCU Muslim Restaurant, Xinjiang Red Rose
Noodle Pick: Xinjiang Islam (Xinjiang Provincial Government Restaurant)

this is like The Tree winning best pizza for too many years in a row. Crescent Moon is a good little place but they’re far from the best! Name recognition helps a lot on this one and good for them! They’ve been doing it for a few years in a row without any major complaints. The BLCU restaurant is completely out of left field! I would have expected a few other names before this one and can’t really understand how the votes came about. Our expats don’t tend to travel far so this is either voted on by students or we have a huge number of ex-students haunting the streets of Chaoyang.
I’d suggest people try and experiment by heading over to XiZhiMen and checking out the Xinjiang Rep Office for a more authentic taste.

BEST DIM SUM
Readers’ Choice: Jin Ding Xuan
Outstanding: Crystal Jade, Lei Garden
Noodle Pick: Tang Yuan

This is where branches come into play! Jin Ding Xuan delivers quaffable fare but the quality is really different between branches. The Ditan park location seems to still rule things as far quality but the others lag behind. I don’t know much about dim sum so I’d welcome everyone’s alternatives. My good friend over at Quirky Beijing used to swear by Tang Yuan over in Chaoyangmen. The few times i are there, it was impressive!

BEST YUNNAN
Readers’ Choice: Middle 8th
Outstanding: Dali Courtyard, In & Out
Noodle Picks: Aimo Town & Baoqin Dai Ethnic Restaurant

Not sold on these.. Middle 8th is a safe choice and the others greatly over-hyped. Name recognition reigns supreme yet again! I wish people would get the hell out of sanlitun more and try the likes of Aimo Town or the Baoqin Dai Ethnic Restaurant up in Haidian. Both of these places serve some amazing fare, quite worth the trips to Gulou or all the wau to Haidian. The noodles and potato balls at Baoqin are something to behold.

BEST DUMPLINGS
Readers’ Choice: Bao Yuan Jiaozi
Outstanding: Lao Beijing Jiaozi Guan, Xian Lao Man

No argument… I’m actually happy about this selection, or at least 2/3rds of it. I haven’t been to Lao Beijing Jiazi Guan yet. I’m not even gonna bother with alternatives here.

NEW RESTAURANT (CHINESE)
Readers’ Choice: Nanjing Impression
Outstanding: Green Bites To Go Dumpling Bar, IFW, Park Hyatt Beijing
Noodle Pick: Da Li Ren Jia

If there’s ever been a tricky category, it’s this one! It’s difficult to keep track of new Chinese restaurants or know when they open. The scene is just not covered enough by the magazines. Sanlitun voters got a few in there with Nanjing Impressions apparently worthy of the title. I personally haven’t tried any of them but will be making the rounds very soon.
I’d say that the restaurant that has made a huge impression last year was none other than Da Li Ren Jia. The place came out of nowhere and became quite the crowd favorite earning rave reviews from plenty of folks. It has gone through an ownership change since so I’m not sure how things are right now.

BEST SERVICE (CHINESE)
Readers’ Choice: Haidilao
Outstanding: Da Dong, Din Tai Fung
Noodle Pick: Man Fu Lou

Decent choices but safe selection again.. these are apparently the only restaurants people know in Beijing… maybe it’s time to get out and explore a little bit, no? I’ll give the nod on this one to Man Fu Lou. I’ve been singing their praise for years already and I was happy to see their name popup on cityweekend just recently. They’re my go to hot pot location and have been for years.

so… what are your picks? Any recommendations worth checking out?

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