Dining at a Chinese-only restaurant, or any restaurant with Chinese fuwuyuan and their limited English, you must have noticed that some basic Mandarin can be necessary. This is especially true if you’re dining with children, since it’s unlikely you’ll go to just any restaurant your friends invite you to (those were the good old days).
Now, when you’re invited to dinner, you’ll probably want the Dianping link (Chinese Yelp) so you can check not only the location (is it close by?), the reviews (what’s the quality of the food like?), but also call the listed phone number and ask key questions before you even commit to dining at the restaurant (hence: Before the Restaurant).
Our family, for example, wants to know if the restaurant allows indoor smoking (yes, we know it’s been banned in Beijing, but that doesn’t really mean anything in Chinese restaurants), if they have high chairs, and whether they have loud music or live performances (we avoid noise). If you have older children, you might want to know about children’s menus, kid cutlery, and whether they have something to keep kids entertained (e.g. a playground, coloring materials). The following list of Mandarin phrases are what we consider the bare minimum necessities for dining out in Beijing! Let us know in the comments if there are more phrases you use or need!
Before the Restaurant:
Do you have high chairs?
你们有宝宝椅吗？Nǐmen yǒu bǎobǎo yǐ ma?
Do you have a children’s menu?
你们有小孩的菜单吗？Nǐmen yǒu xiǎohái de càidān ma?
Do you allow smoking indoors?
你们室内可以抽烟吗？Nǐmen shìnèi kěyǐ chōuyān ma?
Do you have outdoor seating?
你们室外有座位吗？Nǐmen shìwài yǒu zuòwèi ma?
At the Restaurant:
Is there a quiet area to sit?
这里有安静的座位吗 Zhè li yǒu ānjìng de zuòwèi ma?
We need a larger table.
我们需要大点的桌子 Wǒmen xūyào dà diǎn de zhuōzi.
Please bring a high chair.
请拿个宝宝椅过来 Qǐng ná gè bǎobǎo yǐ guòlái.
Ordering from the menu:
Is this spicy?
这个辣吗？Zhège là ma?
What is in this dish?
这个菜里有什么？Zhège cài li yǒu shé me?
Please make it with less oil/salt.
请少放油/盐 Qǐng shǎo fàng yóu/yán
Please make it without MSG.
请不要放味精 Qǐng bùyào fàng wèijīng.
Do you have bottled water?
你们有矿泉水吗 Nǐmen yǒu kuàngquán shuǐ ma?
Asking for more:
Could we have an extra bowl/plate?
麻烦拿个空碗/盘子 Máfan ná gè kōng wǎn/pánzi.
Could we have a fork/knife/spoon?
麻烦拿个刀/叉/勺子 Máfan ná gè dāo/chā/sháozi.