Beijing's HouHai Lake has been a favorite of picnickers and poets for decades. Recently, a fresh crop of inventive restaurants has sprouted beside the old Lotus Lane teahouses. Locals rave about the mango smoothies and soya-based coffees at Kosmo (No. 1; 8610/6611-8234; lunch for two $14), a mod java den. • Artist and restaurateur Fang Lijun's South Silk Road (No. 8; 8610/6615-5512; dinner for two $25) specializes in spicy dishes from Yunnan province, such as rice rolls, pickled pork, and chile sausage with vegetables folded into an omelette. • Next door, Fang's Yue Lu (No. 10; 8610/6617-2699; dinner for two $20) serves down-home cooking from Mao's own province, Hunan (try the stir-fried black goat with coriander and chile). Dark woods, red walls, and a library of revolutionary books keep with the Maoist theme. • At bi-level late-night lounge Sex and the City (No. 5; 8610/6612-5046), a Cosmopolitan is, of course, de rigueur. • For an unusual nautical escape, book an all-night dinner cruise aboard a traditional wooden junk with River Romance (8610/6618-5806; prices vary). Minstrels set the scene for a five-course Chinese feast.
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