Beijing Da Dong Kaoya Dian (1-2/F Nanxincang International Plaza; tel. 010/5169-0329): Chef Dong of Beijing Da Dong Kaoya Dian has made a name for himself with his light, crisp, and flavorful duck, which comes with an array of condiments, including sugar and garlic, and new fusion dishes that don't lose sight of the fundamentals of Chinese cooking.
Chuan Jing Ban Canting (Gongyuan Tou Tiao 5; tel. 010/6512-2277): Sichuan food has conquered the capital, and this ubiquitous cuisine, loved by Beijingers and Sichuanese alike, is best enjoyed in this chaotic, crowded restaurant owned by the Sichuan Provincial Government. It will also be one of the cheapest meals you can have in Beijing, with the price of an entire meal averaging no more than ¥40 per person.
Maison Boulud (Qianmen Dong Da Jie 23; tel. 010/6559-9200): Housed in the former pre-1949 American embassy, the restaurant's refined "soul" food -- brought by New York celebrity chef Daniel Boulud -- brilliantly gleams amid a landscape of mediocre French restaurants in Beijing. Everything from the food to the wine list to the service to the atmosphere is top-notch.
Black Sesame Kitchen (Heizhima Hutong 3; tel. 0/1369-147-4408): A cooking school that also takes dinner reservations, Black Sesame Kitchen will give you a front-seat view of the inner workings of a Chinese kitchen in a century-old courtyard -- and a delicious home-style meal with favorites like pork-and-pumpkin pan-fried dumplings.
Best Peking Duck: Chef Dong of Beijing Da Dong Kaoya Dian has made a name for himself with his light, crisp, and flavorful duck, which comes with an array of condiments, including sugar and garlic, and new fusion dishes that don't lose sight of the fundamentals of Chinese cooking.
Best Sichuan: Chaotic and crowded, Chuan Jing Ban Canting, a restaurant owned by the Sichuan Provincial Government, is the most authentic place for spicy, numbing Sichuanese cuisine in the capital. There's usually a 30-minute wait for dinner, so come either early or late and be sure to order plenty of beer with your meal to cool your tongue. If you prefer a more sedate and intimate atmosphere, try Black Sesame Kitchen, which serves the city's best kung pao chicken.
Best Inventive Cuisine: Beijing's dining scene is on the whole conservative by international standards, and the experimental restaurants veer into truly weird and undesirable territory (for instance, Whale Inside, which serves food in a pitch-black dining room). For inventive cuisine that's actually appetizing, your best bets are Agua, serving Spanish tapas with an array of textures and temperatures, and Beijing Da Dong Kaoya Dian, which features stellar Peking duck and artfully presented Chinese dishes.
Best Hot Pot: Classy hot pot can be found at Ding Ding Xiang, where the Chinese fondue comes in individual-serving pots for diners who'd rather not take the family-style route. Fresh vegetables, an addictive dipping sauce, and yummy steamed buns make this the best hot pot place in town.
Best Noodles: Available in dozens of shapes and sauces, Shanxi-style noodles at the fashionable and aptly named Noodle Loft are among the most satisfying in Beijing, and without the crimes of hygiene perpetrated by the more typical noodle joints.
Best Karma (Vegetarian): Pure Lotus offers delicious veggie fare in a stylish environment -- visit the Holiday Inn Lido location for a particularly meditative, dimmed atmosphere that's perfect for dinner.
Best European: Maison Boulud, a restaurant of New York Chef Daniel Boulud, has brought world-class French cuisine -- housed in the former neoclassical American Embassy -- to Beijing.
Best Asian (non-Chinese): Stylish decor and stunning sushi make Bei the best Japanese option in Beijing.
Best Quintessential Beijing Setting: Dali Courtyard has a beautiful courtyard setting and decent Yunnan (southwest Chinese) cuisine to match.
Best Decor: If you're a fan of designer Philippe Starck, head over to Lan for a meal in the city's most splashy, nouveau riche Chinese atmosphere.
Best Brunch: For a buffet extravaganza, visit the Westin Beijing Chaoyang for their Sunday champagne brunch, which is a great deal for its numerous stations offering everything from foie gras and sashimi to chocolate fondue and creative pastries.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.