Date Night: Dali Courtyard 大理
The light, fragrant flavors of China’s southwest are a wonderful complement to Dali Courtyard’s picture-perfect hutong garden. More so than at other Yunnan restaurants in the capital, the food here plays on the geographical and cultural proximity the province shares with Southeast Asia. Liberal use of fresh mint, lime leaves and sour flavors are characteristics more often associated with the cuisines of Thailand and Laos, and make a pleasant change from the stronger, oilier cooking favored by Beijingers. No menu means you’ll pay for a changing line-up of around six to eight dishes per visit (from RMB 100 per person), but regional specialties like stir-fried pine mushrooms and delicious pan-fried goat’s cheese make regular appearances. The wine list carries local and European bottles starting from RMB 149, and friendly, unhurried service sets a relaxed pace to the meal. Alfresco diners can be warmed up by outdoor heaters if the autumn evenings demand it, but several of the inside rooms also open out onto the central courtyard.
Daily 10am-9.30pm. 67 Xiaojingchang Hutong, Gulou Dongdajie, Dongcheng District (8404 1430) 东城区鼓楼东大街小经厂胡同67号
Bring the Family: Peppes 派乐仕匹萨
Change can be a wonderful thing. A bright young company recently bought out the floundering Beijing branches of this Nordic pizza chain, closed two outlets, rebranded, and smartened up the remaining Sanlitun Village branch with contemporary décor, a new menu, and one of the best children’s play areas in town. The entire upstairs level has been turned into a fun-filled haven for little ones, with a toy-strewn play area, games consoles and DVDs, and kid-sized communal tables. The wonderful Fiona supervises the children (and hosts periodic cooking classes), leaving you free to relax downstairs in the main dining room and indulge in calorific American- and Italian-style pizzas, huge salads, appetizers like hot wings and onion rings (with generous dips), fruit smoothies and ice cream shakes. The terrace is a pleasant spot for lunch if the weather is fine, and it’s far enough away from the shops to offer a bit of peace.
Daily 11am-midnight. S4-34, 3/F, Bldg 4, The Village at Sanlitun, 19 Sanlitun Beilu, Chaoyang District (6415 0888) 朝阳区三里屯北路19号三里屯Village南区4号楼3-4层