Tiandi Yijia (Heaven and Earth)
Set right on the eastern edge of the Forbidden City, this restaurant is appropriately imperial in theme. Once you’ve stepped through the grand doors and into the serene, glass-ceilinged, stone-floored dining room, the chaotic sounds of street crowds are replaced by the pling-pling of classical Chinese music and the gentle swish of goldfish in the courtyard pond. The menu, in keeping with the surroundings, leans toward the traditional; among the classic, well-executed dishes here are fish fillets and bamboo shoots in wine sauce, sautéed assorted mushrooms with black pepper, pan-fried vegetable dumplings, and deep-fried spareribs with chile and garlic. Surprisingly (for a Chinese restaurant), there’s an impressive wine list, which even includes a small selection of grand cru offerings—but be warned: the prices might take your breath away.
Tip: Tiandi Yijia is a perfect spot for lunch after a morning tour of the Forbidden City; it’s right next door.