Green T. House and Living
JinR is the beautiful multitasking artist, tea connoisseur, musician, chef and designer behind two of Beijing’s most stylish restaurants, the Green T. House (6 Gongtixilu.; 86-10/6552-8310) and Green T. House Living (No. 318 Cuige Zhuang Xiang Hege Zhuang Cun; 86-10/6434-2519), as well as the Bath House Residence (86-10/6434-2519), a transcendent spa on the city’s edge. She also just launched Green-T-House.com, a new online boutique that showcases furniture and homewares of her own design. “I am inspired by the beauty and elegance of my traditional culture,” JinR says, “but also wish to take this design vernacular forward and create a certain relevance to the modern Chinese.” A clear Plexiglas chair ($3,755) in the form of a traditional Ming Dynasty seat is a perfect example.
Daniel Boulud came to Beijing early, opening Maison Boulud in the former U.S. embassy adjacent to Tiananmen Square in 2008, a time when most Western chefs had made headway only in Shanghai. “Years ago, only French chefs from France were invited to open restaurants in Asia,” says the French-born, New York–based Boulud, who is both. “Today the world looks to New York restaurateurs.” Three years since opening, Maison Boulud still has the best French cuisine in town and has used its primacy to procure the choicest ingredients from local purveyors: Though the beef is Wagyu and the lamb is from New Zealand, chef Brian Reimer sources much from the area’s farmers, like eggplant and zucchini, which make their way on to the menu as an accompaniment to za’atar-dusted veal tenderloin wrapped in pancetta. At 23 Qian Men Dongdajie; 86-10/6559-9200; maisonboulud.com.
Midnight in Peking
For the release of Midnight in Peking, the new book from Paul French based on the true story of the murder of Pamela Werner, the young daughter of a former British consul in 1930s Beijing, Penguin China has put together a wonderful walking tour through many of the locations, from the hutong where Werner once lived to the legation quarter, which now houses Maison Boulud, to the ice-skating rink where Werner was last seen. For tour information, contact Abi Howell at Penguin China; 86-10/6409-6982; midnightinpeking.com.
China World Summit Wing
One of the city’s chicest new hangouts is Atmosphere Bar, on the 80th floor at the China World Summit Wing hotel, in Beijing’s tallest building. Often booked solid for a month (hotel guests receive preference), Atmosphere has Beijing’s best cocktails, while the crowd—beautiful, sophisticated and well-off—is among the city’s most stylish. Of the hotel’s 278 rooms and suites, the newest of the Shangri-La gang, try one of the Grand Premiere rooms, the only places where one can soak in a marble bathtub while gazing out over the Forbidden City. At 1 Jianguomenwai Ave.; 86-10/6505-2299.
While most wealthy Chinese are drawn to the new Lanvin and Prada shops at the upscale Sanlitun Village North, true cognoscenti head to the mall’s basement, where half a dozen shops by Chinese luxury designers have sprung up. The best is BNC, opened by media guru Hong Huang, who has a keen eye for up-and-coming local designers like Uma Wang and Pari Chen, whose knit dresses (from $470) and elegantly draped eveningwear (from $320) are sold at this store. At 09A Sanlitun Village N.; 86-10/6416-9045.
Temple Restaurant Beijing
Housed in a 600-year-old former Qing Dynasty temple compound (forgotten, buried and only rediscovered in 2007), Temple has been restored and is now one of Beijing’s most exclusive restaurants. Opened in mid-September, it’s also available for private parties, which include French-inspired tasting dinners and the warm care of Ignace Lecleir, the former general manager of Maison Boulud. At 23 Songzhusi, Shatan Beijie; 86-10/8400-2232; temple-restaurant.com.
Hong Kong Jockey Club
The 120-year-old Hong Kong Jockey Club opened its first and only mainland clubhouse in 2008 on Jinbao Jie, Beijing’s glamorous shopping district. After paying an admission fee of $39,165, members can stay in one of the club’s 90 lush guest rooms, dine at one of its two restaurants and hang out at the coffee shop and bar. beijingclubhouse.com.
A Personal Tour of the Forbidden City
As the Chinese economy grows, so does the percentage of the population that can travel, and a top destination for the Chinese is Beijing’s Forbidden City. Around 15,000 visitors pass through its heavy crimson doors daily, but few make it to Chonghuagong, the private chambers of the Qing Dynasty’s Emperor Qianlong, which are filled with the emperor’s calligraphy and jade treasures. To book a tour, contact Imperial Tours at 888-888-1970 or go to imperialtours.com (see “Top Asia Tour Guides”).
The Future of Food
Much of Beijing’s incipient culinary trends are taking shape at the Nali Patio, a cluster of shops and restaurants in Sanlitun, the expat quarter. At Apothecary ($ 81 Sanlitun N. Rd., 3rd fl.; 86-10/5208-6040; apothecarychina.com), a new amber-lit bar, local hipsters and savvy expats sip serious cocktails like the Secret Earl Grey, complete with hand-carved ice spheres and house-made bitters. Apothecary’s chef-partner Max E. Levy, a New Orleans native, brings the American South’s version of Peking duck—fried chicken—to Beijing on Sundays. Nearby, chef Jordi Valles runs Agua (81 Sanlitun N. Rd., 4th fl.; 86-10/5208-6188), a chic nuevo Spanish spot that finds a common ground between Beijing and Spanish cuisines with entrées like a crisp suckling pig. Fez, its sister rooftop bar, is awash in mojitos and pinchos. The complex is rounded out by Migas (81 Sanlitun N. Rd., 6th fl.; 86-10/5208-6061; migasbj.com), a light wood–and–concrete jewel box of a restaurant that serves molecularly infused cuisine like yellowtail carpaccio and tomato purée to a city just awakening to the possibility of foam.
Tai Chi Master Class
Walk by any park at dawn and you’ll see hundreds of (mostly) senior citizens moving slowly in unison. This is tai chi, the ancient martial art practiced in China. Paul Wang, a 21st-generation martial arts master, gives classes in both private tai chi and kung fu, its more aggressive relative, but he also lectures on Buddhism—though China has no official religion, there are an estimated 20 million practicing Buddhists—and its impact on the country’s history. From $200 for two people; contact Imperial Tours.
The Great Wall, Made Better
Instead of going to Badaling or Mutianyu with 10,000 other tourists, consider a four-hour hike along the most spectacular and relatively sparsely visited stretch of the Great Wall, which connects Jinshanling and Simatai, about 75 miles northeast of Beijing.
Feng Shui Consultation
Religion and superstition were synony-mous and strictly outlawed during the Cultural Revolution, but the Chinese have and will continue to place great importance on feng shui. Schedule a private consultation with a feng shui master (since he advises members of China’s political elite, he remains anonymous) who occasionally meets members of the proletariat to advise them on how to rearrange their rooms and lives. To book an appointment, contact Imperial Tours.
National Museum of China
In March, after a three-year facelift, the imposing National Museum of China reopened on the eastern edge of Tiananmen Square. The museum inaugurated its significantly enlarged and improved space with an exhibition on Louis Vuitton. Even more symbolic of the city’s aspirations is the First Beijing International Design Triennial (September 28–October 17), which features more than 400 designers, 2,000-plus exhibitions and themes such as “Rethinking Bamboo” and “Good Guys.” At 16 E. Chang’an Ave.; 86-10/ 6511-6400; chnmuseum.cn.
Private Dining at the Park Hyatt
As in a lot of places but especially in Beijing, most business is done behind closed doors, and much of it is done over dinner in one of the private rooms at the Park Hyatt. These 16 dining suites are where Beijing’s elite come to broker important deals and eat some of the best Cantonese in the city, including steamed jumbo scallops and glass noodles in garlic sauce, from chef Jerome Cao. Meanwhile, the hotel, which opened in 2008, offers a collection of suites, including the Presidential and the Chairman on the 49th floor. The former boasts spacious limestone soaking tubs, the latter, a 24-hour personal butler. Rooms start at $360; 2 Jiangumenwai Ave.; 86-10/8567-1234; parkhyatt.com.
Instead of visiting the usual Echo Wall, wander to the more local parts of the Temple of Heaven, a 15th-century Taoist complex, to see a truly unusual Chinese sight: mothers standing with handwritten signs reading “My son graduated from Peking University, is 30 years old, handsome,” or “My daughter plays the piano, studied English at Tsinghua, is 27 years old.” But beware: If you’re young, good-looking and of Asian descent, these mothers can be very persuasive.
798 Art Zone
Once a gritty neighborhood of state-owned factories northeast of central Beijing, 798 Art Zone, originally called Factory 798, has long been the headquarters of China’s contemporary art scene. (The Central Academy of Fine Arts moved nearby in 1995. The first renovated space, Tokyo Gallery, opened there in 2002.) Now it’s the flame to which all art-minded Beijingers flock. To capitalize on the thriving art market, boutiques and blue-chip international galleries are joining the older art spaces housed in the Bauhaus-style buildings.
Pace Galleries opened its 25,000-square-foot space in 2008, and Belgian baron Guy Ullens and his wife, Myriam, opened the cutting-edge gallery UCCA in 2007. They join retail-friendly operations like the stellar O Gallery, which features pieces by some of the top emerging talents from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Much of 798—like Warhol’s Factory before it—comes alive after the sun sets, at hot spots like the Yan Club Arts Center (4 Jiuxianqiao Rd., Chaoyang; 86-10/5978-9172), a gallery by day and boîte by night.
Dong Liang Studio
As Chinese consumers discover Chinese fashion, the number of boutiques specializing in homegrown avant-garde fashion is multiplying. Charles Wang, 28, came to Beijing from his native Xuzhou six years ago to study art, but now he and his partner, Nam Lang, devote themselves full-time to Dong Liang Studio, a shop in a hidden hutong that sells Chinese designer and Vogue China darling Uma Wang, former ballet dancer–cum–jewelry designer Wang Lei and (na)Too’s slouchy jersey dresses in muted tones. At 26 Wudaoying Hutong; 86-10/8404-7648.
Behold the Mighty Duck
Hands-down, the best Peking duck in the capital is served at Made in China. The secret here is the use of a traditional wood-burning oven, rarely found in restaurants today, stoked with logs from a fruit tree, an even more unusual sight. The result is a juicy, tender bird with a subtly complex flavor. It’s recommended that you eat the crispy duck skin with sugar, and the rest of the duck is accompanied by traditional sides: pancakes, scallions and hoisin sauce. As one Beijing gourmand said, “If the skin doesn’t melt in your mouth, you know the duck was not from Made in China.” At the Grand Hyatt Beijing, 1 E. Chang An Ave.; 86-10/8518-1234.
The Aman Summer Palace
About nine miles northwest of Beijing’s city center, the Aman Summer Palace opened in 2008 and occupies an 18th-century compound on the shores of Kunming Lake that was built by Emperor Qianlong for the Empress Dowager Cixi to escape the heat of the Forbidden City. You’d be wise to do the same. Book yourself into the Imperial Suite, three pavilions surrounding a central courtyard, with its own spa treatment room and a formal pavilion with seating for up to 18 people. Rooms start at $650; 1 Gongmenquian St.; 800-990-9990; amanresorts.com.
Qipao, the intricately patterned, form-fitting silk gowns from the Qing Dynasty, are most often identified with the femmes fatales of 1930s Shanghai. But at their Beijing boutique Tang’ Roulou, French owners and Beijing residents Amelie Peraud and Pierre-Yves Babin transform qipao into adorably chic clothes (from $20) for children. They also craft their own quilted jackets (from $40), limited-edition blankets (from $100), embroidered pencil cases (from $35) and backpacks (from $70). At 30 Sanlitun Beilu; 86-10/6416-9761.
The Yolk of Culture
While most people envision Shanghai as China’s most architecturally modern city, Beijing isn’t far behind. From Rem Koolhaas’s CCTV headquarters to Herzog & de Meuron’s Bird’s Nest, Beijing pairs outstanding design with culture equal to the ambition of the architect. A prime example: National Centre for Performing Arts, known colloquially as The Egg. Completed in 2007 by French architect Paul Andreu, the building near Tiananmen Square is the center of (official) culture, with a repertoire of classics (La Boheme, October 28–30), and historic productions like Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (September 30–October 3), an opera commemorating the late revolutionary leader. chncpa.org.
The fifth-generation Cognac master on his members-only club, Maison Camus
Why open a Cognac lounge in Beijing? Cognac has always been a global drink, and China is the latest country to start appreciating it. Last year, China became the second-largest market for the spirit. Plus, I met my wife when I was living here in the mid-1990s. Now I split my time between France and the traditions of Old Europe and the dynamism of doing business in Beijing.
What’s a perfect night at Maison Camus? When I opened in November 2010, I wanted it to be a place where like-minded people can meet, much as I’d do back at the family château in France. So I’d start on our terrace overlooking Beijing, then move to our Master Blender Room for hand-blended Cognacs straight from the barrels, and then to our private dining room for a classic French dinner.
And after dinner? Cognac and coffee, of course, over Cohibas and Partagas cigars.
Membership starts at $7,840; 8 YongAnDongLi, Jianguomen Ave.; maisoncamus.cn.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.