Bring the Family: Kong Yiji
Kong Yiji may initially seem to be one of Houhai’s least family-friendly restaurants; the tables are close together and elegant vases – not to mention that bust of Lu Xun – are within easy reach of little fingers. The trick here is not to leave the kids behind but, paradoxically, bring more – and reach the critical mass to secure a private room upstairs. Four families and a visiting New Yorker recently reserved one such baojian with two tables – one for the kids, one for adults – and enjoyed a luncheon that felt like Spring Festival at your uncle’s house in Zhejiang … but with better food. The warm weather called for cold appetizers, including aniseed-flavored broad beans, minced vegetable and tofu. The presence of a visitor called for Shaoxing classics like delicious mizhi luyu, a whole fish with onions in a sweet sauce, beef with youtiao slices, braised fatty pork, and several tumblers of sweet rice wine (huangjiu), which is infinitely more palatable than baijiu. The drunken shrimp were avoided, lest their death throes upset the impressionable, but the presence of kids did call for potstickers – the best our guest had ever tried – noodles and plates of fruit. The bill came in at less than RMB 200 per family of four – a fair price for a repast that fueled a hutong stroll culminating atop Coal Hill, ending a perfect Beijing outing.
Daily 10am-2pm, 4.30-10.30pm. South shore of Shichahai, Deshengmennei Dajie, Xicheng District. (6618 4915/17) For other locations, see Directories. 西城区德内大街什刹海后海南岸
Hire a Baby Sitter: Mosto
The dinner date builds on anticipation and ritual: donning fancy clothes, greeting ayi, kissing the kids goodnight, and making eyes across a candle-lit table. But the weekday lunch date offers serendipitous escape from the quotidian that can be just as pleasurable and far more spontaneous.Buzzing with multilingual conversations, its hip interior filled with light, Mosto is a convivial setting for a tete-a-tete that may recall other meals in other countries – in a bistro in San Francisco perhaps – before the kids were born. The well-priced set meals (RMB 70/85 for 2/3 courses), based on the day’s market bounty, invariably contain pleasant surprises – for instance, South American corn soufflé with a parmesan sauce and baby rucola – as well as more established menu items such as perfectly cooked tenderloin in a mustard dill sauce with shiitake risotto and tomato salad. If you wish to heighten the enjoyment of the assignation, order a glass or half glass of wine from the excellent list and linger over espresso and dessert. Indulge yourselves – no one at the office need ever know how you spent your lunch hour.
Daily 11.30am-3.30pm, 6-midnight. 3/F, Nali Patio, 81 Sanlitun Beilu, Chaoyang District (5208 6030) 朝阳区三里屯北路81号那里花园3层