Dadong

Top choice peking duck in Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central
Image by Roksana Bashyrova / 500px Images

Dadong could be the best meal of your trip or an occasion to forget, and it all comes down to expectation. Less Peking duck restaurant and more temple to contemporary Chinese fine dining, Dadong (real name Dong Zhenxiang) is one of mainland China's most celebrated chefs, as adept at riffing on Beijing classics as he is at making thorny sea cucumber taste like rare beef.

Nevertheless, a meal at Dadong can be a daunting experience for the first-time visitor. The ice-blue nightclub vibe doesn't help, and then you're handed the 120-page menu, with dish photos that look like abstract art pieces. To break it down, you'll want to get a duck (which is divine), and then build your supporting dishes around it (the soups, vegetable dishes and anything towards the back end of the menu are more affordable).

If you do fancy a splurge, this is the place, with no shortage of creative dishes starring king crab, lobster, Wagyu beef and other pricey cuts.

There are a dozen Dadong restaurants around town (and some in New York!); this branch is convenient for Wangfujing. To sample chef Dadong's cooking smarts on a budget, check out his hugely popular casual chain Taste of Dadong.