Without dianping.com, I would be totally lost among the huge number of restaurants and cuisines on offer in Beijing. This post is aimed towards expats who know a little Chinese but need a little help navigating the site.
The effort is well worth it: Dianping offers a much more up-to-date and comprehensive guide than any English-language book or website out there.
So, first, go to www.dianping.com.
(if you read/write good “food Chinese,” you’re golden from here on. If you don’t, read the rest of the tutorial.)
You’ll see this homepage:
Make sure the top left corner, where you can see the “city” setting, is set to “Beijing,” or 北京站.
Next move your cursor over to the left-hand menu, and run it over the “food” or 美食 tab.
From top to bottom, left column first:
北京菜 = Beijing dishes (you’ll find roast duck, 烤鸭 here).
川菜 = Sichuanese
湖北 = Hubei
奥菜 = Cantonese (dim sum or 点心 is a sub-menu)
新疆/清真菜 = Xinjiang/halal
云南菜 = Yunnan
素材 = Vegetarian
海鲜 = Seafood
日本 = Japanese
东南亚菜 = Southeast Asian
自助餐 = Buffet
鲁菜 = Shandong
湘菜 = Hunan
江浙菜 = Jiangzhe
东北菜 = Dongbei
西北 = Xibei (“a hybrid of Mongolian and Shanxi fare” according to the NYT).
贵州 = Guizhou
火锅 = Hotpot
小吃快餐 = Snacks & fast food
韩国科理 = Korean
西餐 = Western food
面包甜点 = Bakeries & dessert
This time I picked “Western food.” Once you pick your cuisine, you’ll see a list of all such restaurants in Beijing. Don’t pay too much attention just yet. Look at the menus on the left:
The upper menu offers subdivisions. You won’t see this all the time, but “Western food” is a large category and has plenty of subdivisions. The top menu reads: French, Italian, Russian, American BBQ, Middle Eastern, steak, pizza, “simple” Western food (no idea) and “other.” If you’re wondering how to read this list, just copy anything you don’t understand into Google Translate.
The next menu down is subdivision by area. You can use Google Maps, which has both Chinese characters and romanization, to figure out what your area is named.
Once you’ve chosen your settings (I went with Italian food and didn’t specify a location), you’ll see a proper list that accords with what you want.
Restaurants are listed, given an average price per person, and then ranked out of 30 on three measures: flavour, atmosphere and service. (see the rows of numbers to the right of the restaurant name). You want high ratings, usually 20-30. I’ve never seen a restaurant actually get a 30 on anything though.
Because flavour counts for me the most, I enter “25-30” in the two boxes at the right above the list and click on the “flavour,” 口味 button. That automatically gets me the highest-rated restaurants for flavour.
So! The best-tasting Italian restaurant in Beijing, according to Beijingers, is called “Kitchen Igosso.”
The restaurant’s page shows its ratings, some photos of the dishes customers ordered, and exact location and hours. (There’s a map, too; to manipulate it, just click the button I circled in red.)
For easy finding, copy and paste the address, (it’s whatever’s printed after “地址”, meaning address), print and show to a cab driver. Or plug that restaurant name into Google Maps Beijing.
I really have to try this Kitchen Igosso place!
Anyway, happy hunting!