For Fun in Beijing. . .


Awfully Chocolate Beijing.jpg. . .try the single scoop of ultra “Awfully Chocolate” ice cream in a Chinese take out box. Expensive but still affordably exotic. I got this in the Raffles City Mall in Dongzhimen.
My time in Beijing this round is highly unscripted and not the sort of excursion in which I have sequenced priorities or established any order — but I have seen some great sites and visited some great clubs and restaurants that just didn’t use to exist in Beijing.
And what is really interesting is that these places are packed with Chinese, with an occasional foreigner here and there. What is growing here — even though there is still spectacular poverty in China — is an ultra modern, sleek Beijing that the Chinese want for themselves.
I hope that these links and some of this commentary about TWN‘s tracks in China are useful for others who visit.

First of all, it’s good to take a survey of what the various ‘wonk shops’ are up to. Two I recently dropped in on are Columbia University’s Studio X and also the Beijing Energy Network.
studio x beijing.jpgStudio X and its immediate neighborhood of college-ish cafes is a great place to drop in, hear what programs are going on and to meet other smart, connected Beijingers. And if you are into climate and energy stuff in China, the youngish policy activists in the Beijing Energy Network are a good place to start. This crowd regularly meets at the restaurant, Abella, next to Paddy O’Shea’s. Jonathan Watts, Asia Environment Correspondent for The Guardian, is speaking there tonight.
Great eating spots include Dali Courtyard which serves food from Yunnan Province and which is situated in the fascinating, old hutong zone of Beijing. Incredible food, but take your own wine.
chairman wang.jpgAnd then there is the best — which is to eat at the Black Sesame Kitchen, a cooking school by day, and very exclusive restaurant at night — only 20 people max. There are no signs for it — and you basically have to work your way through a fully lived-in hutong and get all the way into the back to find this gem of a restaurant started by former Newsweek journalist Jen Lin-Liu. Lin-Liu is author of Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China, which tells the story of not only the restaurant but profiles the lives and passions of some of China’s best chefs and how they dealt with the harsh, often inhuman realities of the Cultural Revolution. The adorably intimidating Chairman Wang and Chef Zhang — both key personalities in the book — both still cook at Black Sesame Kitchen. I have been there once with a lot of folks who run US firms and operations in China — but will be back there again soon, probably their only open seating, wine and dine night on Fridays. Thanks to McKinsey’s Jimmy Hexter for introducing me to both of these great dining spots.
Awesome lounges and hot spots are D Lounge where it really helps to know the owner and the owner’s good friends; Mesh at the Opposite House Hotel which is where I got a great tutorial on Chinese politics from one of Henry Kissinger’s best plugged in associates.
One of my best casual days here was spent exploring every nook and cranny of South Luogo Alley — not far from Beijing’s ancient Bell and Drum Towers. And then take the time and stroll down the many hutong that connect to this straight.
These duge.jpghutong are packed with former, mostly run down, residences of historically significant Mongolian generals, princes of the Imperial Court, former empresses, poets and writers, powerful chamberlains, and even the headquarters of Chiang Kai-shek.
And if you meet the right folks, the most beautiful courtyard bar I have ever visited and most detailed, magnificent boutique style hotel you might consider staying in is the DuGe Courtyard Hotel.
This place has come far and fast after many of my stays in Soviet-era massive complex hotels with stifling style.
— Steve Clemons


One comment on “For Fun in Beijing. . .

  1. Don Bacon says:

    Sounds great, particularly the Black Sesame with its ten-course gourmet dinner, with not as many calories as one might expect, probably.
    I have vague memories of sitting at a round table years ago with about ten fellow diners and having to drink some foul wine whenever one gave a toast. There was a distinction, as I recall, between two similar-sounding words for the toast. Kambay meant “bottoms up”” and “gambay” could allow just a sip (or something like that) as the toasts went around the table. Getting the words wrong could get one quite shnockered. Have you run into that?
    When I was there recently traveling by rickshaw in the Beijing hutongs I got terribly ill and had to repair to a neighborhood latrine, a nice feature when one is sick. I trust that you fared better. And the people are wonderful, aren’t they. You didn’t mention that.


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