In the West, dim sum, the Cantonese
pronunciation of dianxin (lit. touch the heart, or snacks),
is perhaps the best known of all Chinese delicacies.
Originating in South China, dim sum consists of artfully
prepared dishes cooked in bamboo steamers. It is served
from pushcarts by waitstaff shouting out the names of
their merchandise like pushy street vendors. Tea is
the traditional complement to dim sum, which is why
another name for the brunch-like meal is yincha which
translates into drink tea. It is also sometimes referred
to as zaocha, or early tea.
Despite its fame in China, you will
be hard pressed to find good dim sum north of the Yangtze
River. The very term dim sum won't be recognized outside
large cities as the term is Cantonese. Predictably,
Beijing's average attempts at dim sum are decidedly
The dim sum at Windows on the World,
however, is a notable exception. The restaurant makes
an admirable attempt at bringing authentic dim sum to
Beijing. Dishes are prepared individually so they come
to your table fresh and hot. And the panoramic view
from the top floor of the CITIC building is an added
Be forewarned: if you have enjoyed
dim sum in Hong Kong, or even outside China, Windows
on the World may disappoint. Also, there are no pushcarts
so you'll have to wait for each dish. If it wasn't for
the excellent service this might be frustrating as dim
sum is, by definition, only a little more substantial
than finger food. There are more than two dozen types
of dim sum on Windows on the World's menu. Most dishes
cost RMB12 each, and the highest price is no more than
RMB16. There are some snacks that must be ordered simply
because they are classics.
A good starting point is Steamed
Prawn Dumplings. These aren't typical Beijing dumplings,
as they sport a slick, semi-transparent skin and freshwater
chestnuts mixed into a shrimp filling. Another must-order
dish is Glutinous Rice with Assorted Meat in Lotus Leaf.
Think zongzi, the traditional sticky rice treat made
for the Dragon Boat Festival, except with a meatier
flavor and in a squat, box-like package.
Another old favorite is Steamed Barbecued
Pork Buns. This dish throws in a touch of sweetness
as it pits tender chunks of pork against a white, doughy
cover. The Deep-Fried Taro Dumpling looks a bit like
a porcupine as it comes to the table with a crisp, flaky
skin hiding a moist, tasty interior. Windows on the
World pulls off a trick as it not only features this
hard-to-find classic, but also does it just right and
doesn't skimp on the presentation.
To complement the dim sum, the restaurant
features a full menu of dishes, all neatly printed in
English and Chinese. However, as for this common fare,
there's nothing here that can't be found cheaper elsewhere.
For a satisfyingly different and economical meal, stick
to the dim sum.
Windows on the World
28/F CITIC Building, 19 Jianguomenwai Dajie
Tel: 6500-3355, 6500-2255 ext. 2828
Food: *** Ambience: *** Service:
*** Cost: YYY
So you've already checked out all
the party people at The Loft, Beijing's newest club.
But have you tried the food?
In a city where it is common practice
for bars to spill over from crowded interiors and turn
sidewalks into alfresco dining areas, The Loft, located
a stone's throw from Sanlitun, distinguishes itself
by being fashionably difficult to find. The quest for
its impressive metallic doorway requires the weary gastronaut
to venture down a narrow alley and ignore a series of
signs that contrive to deliver him, hungry and unfulfilled,
to a barren construction site. Instead, he should follow
the trail of sharply dressed young Beijingers waiting
to file into this, the capital's latest nightspot.
As we enter, the spacious glass-walled
dining area opens up on our left, offering a panoramic
view of the aforementioned construction site. But do
not despair, The Loft has far more style than this unfortunate
vista would suggest. Despite its deceptively compact
exterior, the inside is a spacious concoction of bright
lights, soft materials, steel chairs and television
sets - a mixture of industrial minimalism and cocktail
glitz. Tonight the entertainment is taking place in
one corner: folk rock band Wild Children jam with vocalist
Dou Wei in front of a small TV set showing videos of
Cultural Revolution model operas.
Claiming center stage in the dining
area is the V-shaped, impossibly glitzy neon-lit bar,
behind which bartenders stand attentively, adjusting
their bow ties like butlers in an exclusive London club.
A couple of them, having obviously watched pirated copies
of "Cocktail" one too many times, are juggling empty
drink mixers to entertain the crowds.
We take our seats and are attended
to immediately by a group of immaculately dressed waiters.
They hand us drink menus, which we eagerly peruse. Fortunately
we are presented with a more adventurous selection of
beverages than the standard range of cheap but tasteless
zhapi and overpriced cognacs. To mark the start of summer
- and put the avid cocktail juggler to a real test -
we all choose Pimms No.1 cocktails, at the very reasonable
price of RMB28. To our welcome amazement, the drinks
arrive with little fuss in the appropriate tall, curvaceous
glasses, complete with a selection of fruits - and not
a drop spilled.
Flair and confidence are two qualities
that most characterize the atmosphere at The Loft. The
menu is adventurous without being overly ambitious,
and presents a colorful variety of simple, yet authentically
tasty Mediterranean cuisine. We order the Garlic Prawns
which are cooked to perfection and not in too much oil.
Other favorite starters were the Polenta Pasticciat
and the refreshing Caesar Salad with its crisp array
of fresh vegetables. For second course, those who prefer
a lighter meal can opt for the Penne Pasta an ample
portion of al dente pasta topped with cream cheese,
smoked chicken and artichokes. For those with a larger
appetite, try the Herb de provence roasted chicken.
The meat is incredibly tender and arrives on a bed of
spring vegetables, including Brussels sprouts and crispy
hash browns. For something more adventurous, the Seafood
Casserole will certainly not disappoint.
With appetizers and soups starting
at RMB15 and second courses averaging at RMB40, The
Loft reminds us that good European food in Beijing doesn't
have to come at the price of an plane ticket to Italy.
No. 4 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District
Tel: 6501-7501 Fax: 6501-9588
Food: **** Ambience: **** Service:
*** Cost: YYY