We've been sampling a lot of restaurants around our apartment and in the nearby environs, so I thought I'd share some of the places we especially like so far (and write them down so we remember.)
[Note: I've included the Chinese names where I have them. If you see a bunch of boxes in the post, it's because you don't have Chinese fonts installed. If see a bunch of non-Chinese looking characters, try changing your encoding to Unicode UTF-8. In IE, go the View menu and choose Encoding and then find Unicode (UTF-8).]
Din Tai Fung (鼎泰丰 - ding3 tai4 feng1): This is a well-known Shanghai-style chain from Taiwan known for their insanely good and juicy dumplings. We love this place and have been several times. The ones here in Beijing are much nicer than the one I went to in Taipei. In case you're looking for one, they also have branches in Los Angeles, Japan, Korea, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Jakarta. There are two branches in Beijing. The older one seems to be everyone's favorite (quieter, more private rooms), but the one at Shin Kong Place was fine too.
Guo Tie Zhou Pu (锅贴粥铺 -- guo1 tie1 zhou1 pu1): How can a place named "Potsticker Congee Spread" be bad? As the name implies, they specialize in potstickers and congee. They have a wide variety of fillings for the potstickers; we stuffed our faces with three different kinds of potstickers: pork and chive, pork and pickled vegetables, and egg and spinach. We didn't even get to the lamb or seafood parts of the menu. The noodles in the zhajiangmein (a Beijing specialty) were home made and lovely too. This is definitely a locals restaurant at local prices; we spent 50 RMB- US$7.31 for all four of us!! The most expensive part was probably the liter bottle of Sprite they brought out (it was the only size). Even better, they had English menus so we could more easily order. This is a winner; we'll be back. Address: 朝阳门南小街，金宝街西南口，向南100米 (从长安街国际饭店往北走)
Chaoyangmen Nanxiaojie, Jinbao jie xinankou, xiang nan 100 mi (cong Changan Jie, Guo Ji Fan Dian wang bei zhou). Thanks to Savour Asia for the find (they have a bunch of other places listed too. Must go try them as well.)
Isshin (日本料理 - ri4 ben3 liao4 li3): Isshin is a very good Japanese restaurant. The tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) I had was better than most of the tonkatsu I'd had in Japan this summer -- tender and juicy meat with a very crisp coating. Michelle's tempura was good too, and Andrew (11) and Michael (8) ate a ton of tamago (this sort of scrambled egg thing, normally served as sushi but here they had just the egg) and tekka maki (tuna sushi rolls). Even the edamame (boiled soybeans) were better than average. To top it all off, they were very friendly - even giving Transformer toys to the boys after dinner as a gift. We went to the branch in Jianwai SOHO. It's in building 15 on the western half of this huge complex -- make sure you go to the correct part. The cab dropped us off on the eastern part, so we had a long hike in the cold and wind to get to the right place. There are at least three other branches in Beijing in the northwest part (closer to my office! Yippee!)
Meeting Point: This is a very decent family Italian restaurant in the basement of "The Place" shopping mall. Their pasta is all freshly made and served with tasty sauces (I almost stole half of Andrew's carbonara). The thin crust pizza was good as well as was the Montepulciano by the glass Michelle ordered. Perhaps the most amazing thing, however, was the hot chocolate the kids ordered. It wasn't the hot chocolate drink we expected (although it was on the beverage menu and served in a mug); it was more like a hot chocolate pudding with just the right level of sweet and bitter chocolate flavor. The boys didn't like it much, but Michelle and I gladly finished the rest. Unfortunately, the salads were disappointing. More room for hot chocolate! The Italian owner is very nice too.
Xiao Wang Fu (小王府 - xiao3 wang2 fu3): Yum, yum, yum! Very tasty Beijing-style food: good duck, killer jiaozi (dumplings), to-die-for salt and pepper ribs, and the list goes on. The one we went to on Guanghua Lu (near the Kerry Centre behind Guomao) was decidedly not fancy, but let me say again -- yum. The Ritan Park location is apparently much nicer (and more expensive) with a patio. We were especially thrilled to learn they deliver to our apartment (with a delivery fee of only 1 RMB - about US$.14 -- yes, fourteen cents -- per dish.) Xiao Wang Fu was also pretty cheap; we spent 172 RMB (US$25) for six dishes. Finally, they have what I consider the perfect menu -- Chinese, English, Pinyin, and photos. Address: 朝阳区光华路东里2号, Cháoyángqū Guānghuá Lùdōng Lǐ 2 Hào, GuoMao.
Paulaner Brauhaus: The famous German brewery has a microbrewery/restaurant in Beijing where they make their own beer. Michelle and I had a nice, authentic lunch there -- good wurst, pretzels, and beer. Only the onion soup was bleh. Except for the Chinese waitstaff, we could have been in Germany. It's in the Kempinski Hotel near Lufthansa Center.
Pekotan Butcher and Deli: This is a great shop in our neighborhood with amazingly good bread (especially the baguettes); it just smells like a French bakery when you walk in. They have some attractive set menu lunches for 28 RMB (US$4) that we still need to try plus a good selection wine for purchase. After 9:00pm the baked goods are half off (and they're not expensive to begin with); I've braved the cold a few times already to get the still-yummy bread for half price (it's so dry here that the stuff doesn't really get stale.) Address: Central Park Apartments, Tower 12.
Yonghe King (永和大王 - yong3 he2 da4 wang2): This is a huge fast food chain with hundreds of outlets across China. Fortunately for me, there's a branch just a short walk away from the office. They're clean, open 24 hours a day, cheap, and delicious. I've had breakfast there several times and dinner once. The congee is very good as are the dan bing you tiao (kind of an egg coated flaky tortilla around a fried non-sweet donut -- hard to explain, but trust me, it's great.) The beef noodle soup is good too. They have a few set menus with photos on the board, so I can order something; I need to translate more of the non-photo items to try more stuff out. This is cheap too; I spend I think 10 or 12 RMB for breakfast (about US$1.50).
Yotsuba (四叶 - si4 ye4): This is widely considered to be one of the best (if not the best) sushi joints in Beijing; we saw no reason to dispute that view. They fly their fish in daily from Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market, so everything is very fresh and oishii (Japanese for delicious). The first one is in Chaoyang; we went to the one in Shunyi at Lake View Place (near Dragon Bay Villas); this is walking distance from our house!