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Beijing - China

Beijing offers a bewilderingly wide choice when it comes to dining out. Not too long ago, foreign visitors were relegated to the Beijing Hotel as their only option. But how quickly times have changed! Restaurants open and close at the blink of an eye, and sometimes it is difficult to keep track of the gastronomic scorecard.

Given that this is the capital, it is not surprising that there is a wide mix of international cuisine available. Diners can take their pick from French through Thai to African food. There are also many regional specialties in Chinese cooking—diners can try food from Shanghai one night and Tibet the next, without ever having to step outside Beijing!

You will find most of the city's restaurants in east and central Beijing, in the Chao Yang and Dong Cheng districts, respectively. Due to the wealth on offer, it is not possible to cover them all here. However, the places in the following areas are highly recommended.

Chao Yang District—This district is a foodie's haven housing a majority of Beijing's most talked about restaurants. Anything you want is here. For Chinese try Green T. House, with its devotion to taking the culinary history of China to a new level. Ever tried Beijing style duck? Beijing Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant, with its long standing popularity, will surly provide you with the experience you crave. What about Japanese? Try Hatsune with its plethora of fresh sashimi and delectable rolls. There is also Brasserie Flo, the famous French restaurant which is as close to Paris as you can get in Beijing.

Chao Yang Park—This once humble park is rapidly becoming one of the hippest spots for dining and drinking. For spicy, finger-licking Cajun and live blues, try the Big Easy. Enjoy its authentic atmosphere—a beautiful pink building, seemingly transplanted straight from New Orleans! Beijing's favourite Italian restaurant, Annie's, can also be found here.

San Li Tun—It starts at Alameda the swank Brazilian restaurant that has won restaurant of the year on several occasions. With a delicious price fix menu and wonderful wine to go with it, you can't go wrong. For drinks, Japanese nibbles and moody jazz, Jazz Ya is a hip and popular spot for hanging out. Down the street from there you will find the intimate Golden Elephant, which serves well-prepared Indian and Thai food. Frank's Place offers good burgers and fries as well as other pub-grub favourites. For something more sophisticated try the award winning Morel's where you can get some of the best Belgian food and beer in town. If you are looking for upscale Thai cuisine try Purple Haze, the much talked about restaurant and bar that has received honourable mention from several different Beijing city guides . Any place on San Li Tun Bar Street is good for a drink, but for those who want more ambiance with their beer, Havana Cafe is alive with Cuban rhythms and beats. Q Bar, the bar sporting Beijing's best cocktails, can also be found here. With so much to choose from picking the perfect drink is a difficult task so don't limit yourself to one.

Jian Guo Men Wai and Ri Tan—From fast food to fine dining, this area has it all. Naturally, you will find the standard Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Starbucks franchises. For those who want more variety, Once Upon a Time Restaurant offers exotic Middle Eastern food. Mexican Wave, an expat favourite, serves decent Tex-Mex. For Chinese food at affordable prices and in a romantic courtyard atmosphere, the Xi He Ya Ju Restaurant near Ri Tan Park is an excellent choice. Also located near the park is the fabulous Schindler's Tankstelle, a which serves delicious cold beers and tasty German food you won't get anywhere else. If you are craving wood-fired pizza, then Adria is the spot to provide that Italian fix.

Northeast Third Ring Road—This area is renowned for its plentiful restaurants. The place to go for authentic Thai food in an elegant, modern setting is Red Basil. For those who crave Thai but are on a budget, the Asian Star is a good bet. You can also sample a variety of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian dishes here. As an longstanding city favourite, San Si Lang offers Japanese dishes and fresh sushi at very reasonable prices. For American food with hearty servings, the Hard Rock Cafe and T.G.I.Fridays are hard to beat. Salsa Cabana, a South and Central American restaurant, serves wonderful South American food in a festive atmosphere.

Dong Cheng District—With many different styles of restaurants from east to west, this part of town is yet another of Beijing's culinary treasures. For classic and delicious Chinese fare order yourself a hot pot at Ding Ding Xiang. Their sesame sauce will be hard to forget. Looking for a place to take a date? Head over to the famed CourtYard Restaurant, for exotic cuisine and romantic ambiance.

Xi Dan and Xuan Wu—For Beijing Duck, you cannot go wrong at any one of the Quan Ju De Roast Duck Restaurant branches in the city. But for sheer opulence, try the flagship branch on Qian Men Avenue.

Hai Dian District—To fit the student budget, there are many cheap "hole-in-the-wall" style establishments that serve some of the best Chinese food in town. Wu Dao Kou, known as Korea Town, has many small, authentic Korean restaurants catering to the large, Korean student population. If you want to eat like the locals and love Korean barbecue, Han Na Shan is an absolute must. For those seeking an exciting and non-traditionalist dining affair, a trip to Blu Lobster is in order. The cook's innovative style will have you eating combinations you have never tried before including hot rice with cold ice cream.

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