Of course, what travelogue of a Chinese city would be complete without a discussion of food? I was among the very few that were comfortable doing all Chinese food all the time while in Beijing, because as I was growing up my parents introduced me to all sorts of Chinese food. When other students from the program began arriving, they looked to me, among others, to order.
I made sure they did not get Americanized Chinese food that first day they were there.
That day, we discovered Sino Hot Taste, a hot pot place across Huixin Dongjie (惠新東街) from UIBE. It smelled great, and there were always a lot of people there, so the six of us had to sit outside while we waited.
We got the twin-flavor pot, with clear broth on one side and medium spicy broth on the other. Can you tell which is which?
Thin-sliced ribeye was the staple of this and other occasions at Sino Hot Taste.
Sara loves balls.
At the end of the meal, Mark challenged Ted to a round of rock-paper-scissors. The loser had to drink a shot of the spicy broth. Here, the gents discuss the proposed shot.
Mark lost, and decided to sip his punishment.
Along the way to the Olympic Park the next day, we espied this grand-looking restaurant.
It's just as nice inside as out.
Later that day, we got lost looking for Bodhi, a massage place near Workers' Stadium. We ended up having dinner at this Hunanese place, that had dog on the menu. We did not eat the dog. Mark was so disturbed by the thought that he could not eat much.
One of the highlights of the welcome banquet was the duck. Head included.
On the first day of class, we tried a beef noodle place across the street from the east gate of UIBE. I don't think we ever went out that gate again, at least to eat.
One of my favorite places was Xue Jun (雪峻); our first foray included a delicious but (relatively) expensive spicy shrimp dish.
Among the fancier places we went to included a Cantonese place called Jin Ding Xuan (金鼎軒) ...
... and a Taiwanese place calling itself Bellagio (although in Chinese it is named 鹿港小鎮, after Lukang, a town in Taiwan where my mother grew up).
Of course, we could not stay away from Sino Hot Taste. We raved about it so much, we had to organize a large party there.
We were split into two tables, and at the other table, one of the guys bought a flask of Chinese wine, which he shared with us. Ted proceeded to corrupt the new inductees with both spice and wine, even as they tried to knock him off his win streak.
The next day, for simpler fare, we returned to Xue Jun, where Rob demonstrated his proficiency with chopsticks.
Sara loves balls.
It's not just the restaurants that are interesting. Prepared "food" was interesting as well. "Target" carried, of all things, pineapple beer!
Of course, the alcoholic content was so low it was really pineapple juice with some fermented hops.
The Chinese have gotten better at marketing, I suppose. Nongfu Mountain Spring Water (農夫山泉) is touted as the official water of the taikonauts!
Now, I for one didn't mind Chinese food all the time. However, the others got a little nostalgic for Western food. So we went to Wudaokou (五道口) and had burgers at Lush, which sits above a book store. Lush has a quaint ambience reminiscent of Raleigh's on Telegraph in Berkeley.
We managed to find a seat next to the window overlooking the street.
The deluxe burger was 200g (almost half a pound) of beef patty so tender and greasy it melted on our tongues, with some bacon on top, held between focaccia bread. Aaron dearly missed American food.
My fourth time at Sino Hot Taste was also my second time there with a large group. Over half of our 12-person table (the table was designed for 8-10 guests) opted for the spicy option. Here they are before the meal ...
... and after.
All 12 guests somehow squeezed into one picture.
On the last day in Beijing, I stopped by Xue Jun again for one last ¥8 (~$1.10) lunch. This dish, preserved vegetables with pork shreds in soup noodles, is one of my perennial favorites.
Our last dinner was, appropriately, at Sino Hot Taste. Aaron doesn't usually eat spicy food, but he had hot pot at least three times in Beijing. Thus the expression on his face.
I'm really going to miss Beijing food prices!