Monday, 16 July 2007

Vegetarian Beijing

As I recently toured the vegetarian restaurants of Beijing with my dad and sisters, I decided share with you what sort of culinary delights this city has to offer, especially since it seems there is no comprehensive listing of vegetarian restaurants in the web in English, or at least I haven't found one. There is one in Chinese at Let's go with this by the district.

东城区 (Dongcheng district -- the eastern parts of central Beijing, with the limit being around the 2nd ring road)

First, there's my local one, the vegetarian buffet at 雍和宫 (Yonghegong) lama temple, opposite the temple of Confucius. I read an interview of the chef long ago claiming all dishes would be vegan, and verified some dairy-looking things to really be vegan, but at the very least their ice-cream does have dairy and the desserts probably do also. I tend to skip things that look like they might have dairy or eggs, but if you feel more interested in them, do ask the staff, they might just be vegan. Lunch buffet costs 48 CNY, dinner buffet 58 CNY. Also serves individual dishes by order, and has bigger private rooms for larger groups.
Address: 北京市东城区国子监大街甲26号 登品素食(原叙香斋) -- Opposite the temple of Confucius, walk south from Yonghegong station exit C and you'll see a sign that says "vegetarian restaurant" even in English on your right hand side, around 100m from the station. There you turn right and it'll be the first restaurant on your left hand side quite soon.
Tel: 64046568
My rating: 4 stars

Next metro station, Andingmen (安定门) would host 莲花海素食 -- well, it's not actually at the station but not awfully far from there. In fact the restaurant is in a hutong. It's a cosy little place, and sometimes serves good food, but the quality seems rather random. Some of their stuff is just... plain at most.
Address: 安定门内大街车辇店胡同河北饭店对面. So it's opposite Hebei Hotel (河北饭馆), that's an easier thing to spot, in Cheniandian hutong, off (towards west) Andingmen neidajie. If going by bus, take 104 or 108 to 安定门内 (Andingmen nei).
Tel: 64036169
Opening hours: 10 AM to 10 PM daily.
My rating: 2 stars

Away from metro lines but certainly worth a visit is Wo xing wo su (我行我素茶食坊), which you can find at the north end of the city wall ruins park (皇城根遗址公园). This is also a tea house, and has nice and simple wooden decor. There's no smoking, no alcohol served, and no eggs in the food. Really good things here include the special tofu of the chef, Xihu (West Lake) vinegar "fish", black pepper steak, and the "meat pie", although many others are well worth trying also.
Address: 东城区地安门东大街61号,在平安大道霞光街口,皇城根遗址公园对面 (61 Di'anmen dongdajie)
Tel: 84011287
My rating:
4 stars

Closer to the city centre there would be 马娘娘斋饭 on Chaoyangmen neixiaojie. It's a nicely decorated (apart from the terrible toilets!) restaurant with usually good quality food, but can be a little random at times. Lower than average prices though. There's no egg in the foods.
Address: 北京东城区朝内南小街221号 (221 Chaoyangmennei nanxiaojie)
Tel: 65594161
My rating: 3 stars

Then there's Still Thoughts (静思素食坊), the place where the Vegan Social Club of Beijing has the Vegan Thursday dinners, but the restaurant is obviously open at other times too. The prices are fair, lower than most vegetarian restaurants in Beijing, the service and atmosphere good.
Address: 美术馆北大佛寺东街甲18号 (18 Dafosi dongjie). Refer to the map at the Vegan Social Club site.
Tel: 64008941
My rating: 3 stars

Name: 功德林素饭庄 (Gongdelin -- the oldest veg. restaurant in Beijing)
Address: Seems to have moved to the proximity of Chongwenmen metro station. From the line 2 station head west for half a block on the south side of the street, it's the big restaurant at the corner, seems to have no English signage. Should be Chongwenmen Xidajie, not sure of the house number, about 10.
Tel: 67020867/65112542 -- not sure if these are valid for the new location!
My rating: 2.5 stars -- based on visits to the old location, they may have changed

(Name: 绿色天食 (Green Angel)
Address: 东城区灯市口大街57号 (157 Dengshikou dajie). A bit off Wangfujing. Take bus lines 108, 111, 103, 104 or 803 to 灯市西口 (Dengshixikou).
Tel: 65242349/65242476
Closed since the summer of 2006. The food was nice and didn't have egg, and the location was a selling point to this rather expensive restaurant, but I don't know if it'll reopen or not.
My rating: 3.5 stars)

西城区 (Xicheng district -- the western parts of central Beijing, roughly within the 2nd ring road)

First this area has my favourite restaurant that I introduced earlier, 嘉禾园素食. Since it has been introduced, I'll simply mention the details now. And that it does serve beer, as I didn't mention last time. Average prices, prepare for up to 100 yuan per person.
Address: 德胜门西大街甲5号(积水潭桥西360米路北地铁集团院内). Close to Jishuitan metro station, head west past the petrol station and turn to a courtyard that says 北京地铁, then it'll be on your right hand side quite soon.
Tel: 62261846
My rating: 5 stars

Next, 慈海素心. This nice restaurant stands in the basement of a hotel called 齐鲁饭店. It's rather friendly and some of the staff speak English... enough to bother me actually, when I speak Chinese to them and they reply in English. But the food is pretty good, they also have a mock Peking duck which isn't bad, although I didn't try it the last time as we had the mock duck in Bodhi-Sake. The fruit juice is quite expensive and so are some of the dishes, depends much on what you order. The menus are in Chinese and English but without pictures. The restaurant is quite close to Lotus Lane and the Qianhai and Houhai lake areas that have lots of bars and lights at night, it can be a lovely place for a stroll, especially a romantic one. Pricing a little above average, prepare for 100 yuan per person.
Address: 西城区地安门西大街103号,齐鲁饭店后院内. (103 Di'anmen xidajie.) Bus lines 107,118,810,850,204 and 13 take you there, get off at 东官房站 (dong guan fang zhan).
Tel: 66571898, 13301259664
My rating: 3.5 stars

妙膳素食 was the very first vegetarian restaurant I found in Beijing, and it's in the same area near the lakes. However, when I last went there (2006), the place had changed and was no longer completely vegetarian. They had a very extensive range of vegetarian options though, including a lot of mock meat things.
Address: 北京西城区鼓楼西大街76号. (176 Gulou xidajie.) Either take the metro to Gulou exit B and walk south all the way to the Drum tower, turn west and continue a bit -- overall a 15-20 min walk. Or take bus 5, 815, 819 or 839 to 甘水桥站 (Ganshuiqiao). Or walk from Qianhai.
Tel: 84045899
My rating: 2 stars -- the food is good and place nice, but the presence of meat lowers the score

There's also one near Xizhimen station, I'm not sure if this is still in Xicheng district or not, but let's assume so. 静思素食坊(分店) is a nice and clean place, but modern and lacks personality. The food is good and tasty but nothing really fancy about it.
Address: 北京市梅苑饭店高粱桥斜街甲30号(交通大学南门梅园饭店1-2层). Around the south gate of the Jiaotong university.
Tel: 62255792
My rating: 3 stars

And then there's Shifangzhai (十方斋素食宫), haven't tried them yet:
Address: 平安里西大街甲6号 (平安大街赵登禹路路口往东100米路南) (Location on map.)
Tel: 66166691/66166692
Info: No eggs, no five roots, no alcohol. Seats 300, tables for 8 but can be joined to seat over 30 people together.

宣武区 (Xuanwu district -- south of the city centre)

This has Bodhi-Sake restaurant, of which I wrote earlier. It's not terribly far from the Temple of Heaven, although it can be a bit of a walk for those not used to walking at all.
Address: 10-16 Heiyaochang jie. 200 metres to the north of north gate of Taoranting Park.
Tel: 010-63557348
Opening hours: 10am-10pm
My rating: 4 stars

朝阳区 (Chaoyang district -- north-eastern parts of the city, outside 2nd ring road east and north)

Close to home in Hepingli 和平里 area but a little hard to find is 荷塘月色 or Lotus in Moonlight, and it's worth a visit even though I got a bad impression the first time I went there as they gave us a complimentary dish containing dairy and the waiter denied it -- it's the lie that makes it worse than the dairy, it doesn't claim to be dairy free. However, it is a Chinese restaurant like all of these and the dishes with dairy are few and far between. Average prices, for 1-2 people prepare for 100 yuan per person, for more people it'll be less.
Address: 朝阳区柳芳南里12号楼(104路柳芳东口下/18路左家庄下) -- the bus instructions there tell you to get off from 104 at 柳芳东口 (liu fang dong kou) or from 18 at 左家庄 (zuo jia zhuang). If you're walking along Hepinglibeijie (和平里北街), turn south to Zuojiazhuangdajie (左家庄大街) and walk for a few blocks and pay attention to your right hand side, there will be a sign for the restaurant telling you to turn right, walk for 100m or so and find it on your right. I don't remember if there was any English in the sign.
Tel: 64653299/64663114
My rating: 3.5 stars

Next up, 草木间, although it's quite far from me but it is worth a visit. They have the greatest fake fish, albeit the last time they had changed their menus and I didn't see it and tried other things. Those weren't quite as special, but the atmosphere in the restaurant is nice as it hosts a little stream and a bridge over it. The menus are in Chinese and English and have pictures too. Prices slightly above average.
Address: 朝阳区劲松三区甲302号华腾达厦二层. So it's on the 3rd ring road east, not terribly far from the Temple of Heaven if you're into walking a lot, but most people wouldn't go for it (like I would, haha :-P). By public transport you might take the metro to Guomao (国贸) and either walk south for 20 minutes or jump into any bus going to Jingsong bridge (劲松桥), it's very near. The restaurant is on the second floor like it says there in Chinese, enter through the main entrance of the building. There are signs for vegetarian restaurant even in English on the side of the building.
Tel: 87730135, 87730136
My rating: 4 stars

For upper class dining, try 净心莲素食餐厅. It's rather popular so it would be recommendable to reserve a table in advance. The dishes are set up in quite fancy ways and this shows in the prices too, but on the international level it's still rather cheap, perhaps 100 yuan per person will do if you don't go for the really fancy things. There are no eggs in the dishes and the place doesn't serve alcohol. The menus are huge, in Chinese and English, but without pictures of the foods. Try the mock shark at least, it's yummy.
Address: 农展南里10号中国文联院内. (10 Nongzhannanli, inside the courtyard of Chinese cultural federation.) It's very near north-east from 长虹桥 (Chang bridge of the 3rd ring road east. That means if you head east from Dongsishitiao you will eventually get there, but it is a relatively long walk. Bus lines 350, 707 and 特3 get there.
Tel: 87036669/65923627
My rating: 4.5 stars

And again one I haven't been to yet:
亚运村北苑路阳光广场北侧,公交:358、803、417支、758、858大屯站或秀园站下 / 64976535

海淀区 (Haidian district, north-west of the city outside 2nd ring road)

香阳小筑 is a nice restaurant that unlike many of the other vegetarian restaurants in Beijing seems to be practically only for locals. Also the Chinese-only menus without pictures don't attract foreigners. The price level is more suitable for local budgets than the other vegetarian places mentioned. The food has no eggs, no MSG, and no alcohol is served. There's also a small shop for mock meat stuff in the front.
Address: 海淀区北三环路大钟寺古钟博物馆大门西侧20米. On 3rd ring road north, 20m west from the entrance of the clock museum of Dazhong temple.
Tel: 82112104
My rating: 3 stars with a little extra from the no MSG part

Near the east gate of Tsinghua university you can find Heaven's Kitchen (天厨妙香(清华店)), which is another busy restaurant, book or be prepared to have to wait for a table. The food is really good though, there's no eggs, no smoking, no alcohol served, and it doesn't use the root vegetables the Buddhists don't eat. The prices are rather reasonable.
Address: 清 华正门外,清华科技园,创业大厦一层西侧。A little hard to find perhaps, head west from the Tsinghua east gate (outside campus) within the courtyards where you can walk and it should be one of the first restaurants that come your way. There's a coffee shop with bigger signs at the same entrance. Bus lines 110, 307, 320支, 331, 355, 355支, 375, 375支, 628, 726, 731, 732支, 743, 749, 825, 913 and 951 go to Tsinghua east gate.
Tel: 62797078 / 62780859 / 89833390
My rating: 4.5 stars

Then there should be two restaurants I haven't visited, so I'm just posting the information from the Chinese website here:
Name: 百合素餐厅(稊园店)
Address: 海淀区昆明湖路50号,颐和园新宫门东南50米(乘坐374,374支,704,905,992等公交车在颐和园南门下车即到). 50 Kunminghulu, 50 m southeast of the new gate of the Summer Palace. Bus lines 374, 374支, 704, 905, 992 and others serve the south gate of the Summer Palace.
Tel: 62878726
Special information: No eggs, no alcohol, no five roots

Name: 六和斋
Address: 海淀区西三旗立交桥东南角
Tel: 86490060/86394733

昌平区 Changping district

Here's another one I haven't tried yet:
Name: 般若素食
Address: 昌平区鼓楼东街33号. (33 Gulou dongjie.) Take bus 21 to Changping 2nd highschool and head north for five minutes. Here's the original instruction too: (乘轻轨到龙泽,换乘21路公共汽车,到昌平二中下车,向北5分钟即是)
Tel: 86694425,13141386173
Special information: no smoking, no alcohol, no meat, no eggs, no five roots

Friday, 13 July 2007

Fruit cake

Yes, fine, I am a fruit cake, but that's not what I mean. :-P What I'm writing about is a fruit cake we made a couple of days ago with my sister Suvi. This one is suitable for raw vegans too... You see there are no ovens in China, so we have to inspire, just like my wok-baking. This fruit cake is just layers of different fruits. Does it stick together you ask? No... but who's to care, it looks pretty and tastes great, what else can you ask of a cake?