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Before embarking on the Beijing dining circuit, it's a good idea to write down the address of your hotel and restaurant in Chinese characters for the taxi. It will save time, money and frustration.

Once at the restaurant, remember that gratuity is included on most restaurant bills. Be sure to carry cash for those that don't accept credit cards or are experiencing connection issues.

Lastly, don't judge a restaurant by its picture-enabled menu; even the finest establishments love a good photo of their food.

The Embassy of Starck


It may be old hat to purveyors of the New York dining circuit, but a Philippe Starck-designed eatery is still a noble destination within Beijing social circles. The designer pulls out all the stops in one of his largest restaurant spaces to date, located within a voluminous 60,000-square-foot dining complex owned and named after one of Beijing's most fashionable and successful businesswomen.

Far more bourgeois than one would expect, the space has canopy lounge chairs, chaises, winged statues and ceiling-mounted frescoes. If the décor hasn't satiated your appetite, a Szechuan feast awaits, like a modern interpretation of Asia de Cuba.

The Beijing Hotspot

Whampoa Club

Hot on the heels of ever-popular Whampoa Shanghai, chef Jereme Leung brings his hip spin on traditional Chinese cuisine to a historic courtyard within Beijing's financial district. The restaurant is arranged around an elaborate central dining room with glass ceiling suspended with some-10,000 illuminated, metal-encrusted disks.

More Shanghai than traditional Beijing cuisine, Leung creates a contemporary Chinese menu available as a full tasting or a la carte. Menu items mix classic European ingredients with traditional Chinese cuisine like black mushroom salad with chrysanthemum petals, prawns with ginger and garlic, braised pork knuckles and Beijing pancakes stuffed with foie gras.

The Must-Have Reservation

Maison Boulud

One of New York's most famous chefs debuts his first restaurant in Mainland China in the newly refurbished Legation Quarter just east of Tiananmen Square, within a turn-of-the-century compound once home to the U.S. Emissary. Visitors enter via a main reception flanked by a dramatic white double staircase -- perfect for grand entrances and hasty departures.

Unfortunately for dramatists, there's no reason to use the staircase. The restaurant is actually on the first floor, with the entryway separating it from the bar and lounge.

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You never know what kind of kitchen you're going to get when a star chef decides to branch-out with affiliate eateries. Boulud oversees the entire culinary implementation of the cuisine, creating a gourmet embassy befitting his food empire in New York.

A Little Bite of France


It's Paris' most famous epicurean, the gourmand emporium famous for foie gras and truffles offers a boutique outpost in Beijing for the gourmet picking. The boutique is divided over three floors including a basement delicatessen with espresso bar, fruit stand and boxed gourmet items. The main floor features a central grocer with high-end bakery and ready-made food counter popular for to-go lunches and dinners.

Located on the second floor, an in-house restaurant serves a fashionable clientele of ladies who lunch and French expats looking for goose terrines, sculpted salads and continental dishes in a groovy dining room decorated in decadent pinks and silvers. Be sure to arrive early during the week, when the best people-watching can be found.

The Cute Casual Eatery


In his first restaurant offering in China, Alan Wong debuts an inter-Asian eatery in Beijing's Block 8. It's one of the city's most fashionable entertainment complexes, a mix of haute locals and in-the-know tourists arrive to a decadent design space of natural limestone, polished concrete floors and sleek wood paneling.

A contemporary Japanese restaurant, Haiku features a central circular sushi bar with cube-shaped barstools and separate dining room. Part of the Hatsune group, Haiku features an extensive Japanese menu including traditional yakitori and more predictable sushi selections.

The Michelin Guys

Le Pre Lenotre

You wouldn't expect that Beijing's hottest gourmand would be at the center of a Sofitel Hotel. But it's no ordinary Sofitel -- Wanda Beijing is a pull-no-stops 5-star oasis that includes an acclaimed Lancome Spa and outpost of French gastronomy house Lenotre.

Lenotre, by the owners of Paris 3-star Michelin Le Pre Catelan, is located within a aristocratic dining room of extravagant black chandeliers, upholstered ghost chairs and white-glove service that even outshines the Paris original. The kitchen is presided over by Frederic Meynard, a culinary disciple of the legendary Frederic Anton.

This was one of the hottest restaurant debuts in recent Chinese history.

Michael Martin is the managing editor of -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.