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Cuisine: Korean BBQ
Price: 75-100 RMB per person
Tan Tan Da Lu may just be the best Korean barbeque in Wudaokou. The food is straightforwardly good, never playing with your expectations. The place is full of rowdy students, giving the place a collegiate, greasy spoon kind of atmosphere.
Dinner began with the usual spread of banchan, cold appetizers. These were pretty average, but we appreciated them all the same. They are just the frills.
Tan Tan’s radish pickles are particularly nice (and good to look at, too).
We settled on a bottle of makgeolli (生米酒). At 35 RMB it’s not too pricey, and its milky, lemony taste is very pleasant. Tan Tan Lu always feels kind of festive, what with the waitresses rushing around and students making a ruckus, and a bottle of strong rice wine heightens the effect nicely.
Our grill was quickly brought and heated up: the waitresses seemed to be performing some kind of grilling relay race, one looking after it for five minutes, then wandering off, then another coming around. We never touched the thing ourselves (I always like doing the grilling myself, and you can at Kaorou Le, but sometimes it is nice to sit back and let it be done for you).
Eventually the meat was done, and plates began to stack up on our table. The beef (we ordered the seasoned rib at 88 RMB) was absolutely delicious, sweet and made VERY smoky from the grill. The flavor was smoothed down a little when we wrapped up the meat with lettuce and chili paste.
Our grilled vegetables looked much better than they tasted: mushrooms turned into blocks tasting of nothing but smoke, as did the potatoes. The sweet potatoes were the only things that could stand up to the smoke – they tasted terrific off the grill.
We left, completely stuffed, faces hot from the grill and the makgeolli, another pair of students feeling lucky to be in Beijing.
Tan Tan Da Lu/坦坦大炉
4F Dongyuan Building, 35 Chengfu Lu (across the street from Lush…)
Open until 11 p.m.
Price: Highly variable – we paid 48 RMB each for lunch, but dinner might run up to 100 RMB per person.
On the surface, there isn’t much attractive about Wangjing. A series of blank, beige-grey highrise blocks, an enormously wide road. One of those sections of Beijing that’s a bleak architectural equation: lots of people, as many cars, not enough space.
What makes Wangjing special – and worth visiting – is its vibrant Korean community. Here there are more families and professionals than in student-y Wudaokou, and the area has food to match, with a greater variety of delicious restaurants.
For lunch at Purple Cloud Gate, we tried the bulgogi lunch set (烤牛肉套餐), at RMB 48 per person. First, in a theatrical touch, our waitress stir-fried our beef at the gas burner in the center of our table. After she portioned out our beef, she poured a bowl of soup into the same pan, handily deglazing it and adding flavour to the soup (brilliant!)
Soon we were wrapping up the beef in lettuce and dipping in a sweet soy sauce, already happy with our lunch. But then the side dishes began to arrrive: kimchi, of course; pickled green onions, a green salad with rice vinegar, tofu wrapped in fried egg, a salad with chili paste dressing – this was turning into a proper feast.
Just about everything was delicious – though meant for two, this meal could easily have fed three, or even four. But the most exciting thing was a small bowl, whose contents we didn’t even recognize at first. The bowl came sizzling and hot, but only had a thin layer of what looked like chopped vegetables at the bottom.
It took us a few minutes to realize: this was chili paste, seared in the stone bowl with vegetables until it tasted even smokier, sweeter and richer. (This genius treatment for chili paste would be easy to do at home, too!) We proceeded to eat this with our beef and, when that was gone, stirred it into our soup, ate it on top of rice…seriously, this paste would have made a napkin taste delicious.
Definitely a meal worth traveling for.
Purple Cloud Gate/紫霞门韩国料理
5th floor of Zhongfu Baihuo Building, Building 201, Huguang Bei Jie (near Nanhu Bei Lu)
Subway: Wangjing Station
Open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. (I highly recommend going at lunch for best value).
Price: 59-159 RMB
Note: SdC Patio is not to be confused with SdC Grill, which is located on a different hutong just east of SdC Patio’s location.
Warm weather is here at last!!! It’s time to eat outdoors in this perfect in-between season. Saveurs de Corée Patio offers not only some of the best Korean food I’ve had in Beijing, but a serene, quiet little outdoor space to enjoy the sunshine while you eat.
We showed up just before 2:30, when the lunch shift was ending, but we were still graciously ushered in.
Ingredient quality is remarkable here, particularly the purple, fragrant rice. All the dishes we had were sensational for their contrasts: crunchy and soft, sweet and sour, cool and hot, rich and refreshing.
Here are the highlights:
Pomegranate soju was incredible. Soju is a great mixer because its flavour is very robust but also gets along beautifully with other flavours. Plus this is one beautiful cocktail.
Deep-fried tofu with pickled onions came with the basic set menu. This is a pure texture dish, crunchy outside and meltingly soft inside. The pickled onions were very strongly flavoured and went beautifully with the bland tofu.
Steamed pumpkin with kimchi was surprising and stunningly delicious. When our first kimchi side dish arrived, we found it too sour – however, it paired beautifully with the sweet and unctuous pumpkin. The flavour grew on us with every bite, the crunchy cold kimchi and warm soft pumpkin setting each other off. This dish alone would make a great lunch with a bowl of rice.
Bibimbap Oh my god so good. The wide bowl produced a ton of crispy rice at the bottom, and the gochujang was excellent quality. As compared to the other dishes, the flavour was a bit bland, but that just meant that the quality and fragrance of the rice had a chance to shine.
Cinnamon tea is spicy and cold and sweet. Boiling cinnamon for a long time gives the tea a kind of smooth, slippery texture – or maybe it tastes so unusually good because it’s missing the mouth-drying feeling that comes from tannic tea leaves. (And cinnamon is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Korean teas).
Street-food style chicken were the best dish by far! Please, please order these when you visit! The drumsticks were succulent, clearly having been braised for a long time in a sugary soy-y marinade, and crisped either by frying or broiling. These were fatty, crispy, sweet, salty, spicy – they hit every button, especially when topped with simple, sweet pickled daikon. These really did remind me of gochujang chicken kebabs I’d eaten in Seoul,
The silken tofu soup was a happy surprise: the broth had obviously been made with a whole lot of shrimp (and garlic for that matter). Tiny shrimp were lurking in the soup, too, which was wickedly spicy, as the waitress warned us. Meanwhile, the silken tofu slides across the tongue like a raw oyster! Great for those that like spicy food in hot weather.
The basic set menu includes banchan, fried tofu, bibimbap and cinnamon tea for 59 RMB- it’s really an excellent deal for this level of quality and service. It’s true that some of the noodle dishes are overpriced compared to what you can find elsewhere, but the set menu is definitely worth it. Our total bill came to 245 RMB – which could have fed 4 at 60 each (we really didn’t expect portions to be so generous).
And as a plus, there’s a mini Korean grocery store next door (and if you’re interested in making Korean food at home, do check out Maangchi’s blog – she deserves her own cooking show!)
Saveurs de Corée/韩香馆
20 Ju’er Hutong (off Nanluoguxiang)
Open 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m., lunch menu available 11:30-2:30.
Cuisine: Waffles & ice cream (and a few sandwiches)
Area: Wudaokou, Lido
Price: 30-60 RMB per person
Wudaokou has a lot of cafes to go around, but it’s not easy to find the perfect one for a study session on a lazy afternoon or for a snack before/after Lush/Propaganda. The Bridge has delicious club sandwiches but is almost always smoky and crowded. Sculpting in Time has pretty terrible food (as does Avocado Tree so far, if they’ve improved please let me know)…but now, may I suggest: Maan Coffee!
Even if you spend a lot of time in Wudaokou you may not have noticed it. It’s on Beijing’s Meat Street, aka Wangzhuang Street with its long row of Korean barbeque places. (My Korean classmates like Kaorou Le 烤肉乐 on that street, check it out!)
Maan Coffee is also deeply Korean. If you’ve ever visited Seoul, this will feel instantly familiar – the city seems to have as many waffle joints as barbeque restaurants. Seoulites took the Belgian waffle concept, added mountains of ice cream and fruit, and turned it into a delicious late night snack. And now, naturally, it has found its way to Wudaokou. If you can’t visit Seoul, come here.
There are a lot of plastic waffles to choose from:
On the middle shelf to the far left is my favourite so far: the chocolate waffle, with chocolate ice cream and a little fruit syrup. You can also see strawberry toast, honey toast, and the strange-looking “cheese waffle”, which I don’t plan to try.
This time we decided to try the “Mixberry waffle:”
If you have a sweet tooth like me, there’s nothing more satisfying…although this is a lot of waffle and definitely needs to be shared. The waffle is very good quality (I noticed while we were ordering that they have proper waffle irons, so it’s made fresh) and so is the ice cream, as good as Ben & Jerry’s in my opinion. This particular waffle had one scoop of strawberry and one of cherry.
Drinks were also very good – the fresh orange juice was 32 RMB but well worth it. They also have Snapple! Next time I visit, I’ll definitely try their affogato.
Maan Coffee’s one problem and the reason I might come here less often is that the decor, which is somehow both elegant and very over-the-top cute. That gimmick they have of giving you a teddy bear so the servers can match your order to you – it’s kinda funny, but makes me feel stupid.
But between decor and food, food always wins at least for me. So until further notice, I’ll call Maan Coffee the best study spot in Wudaokou.
On the west side of Wangzhuang Lu, north of Chengfu Lu. From Wudaokou subway station, walk east and take the first left.
(I actually linked to Kaorou Le, which is across the street. Google Maps doesn’t know about Maan Coffee yet. Don’t worry, the storefront is large and you can’t miss it).
五道口， 王庄路一号院 （王庄路西边）。 从五道口地铁站，往西走，到王庄路时往左拐。往前走就到。
Open until 2 a.m. daily.
7 Jiangtai Xilu (opposite Rosedale Hotel), Chaoyang District
See link for a map.