What Restaurants Are Like in China

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A pleasant meal can make a trip better. If you haven’t experienced restaurants in China, this article will help you get prepared for what to expect.

High-End Restaurants — Quiet, Good View
In China, high-end restaurants look very luxurious and ornate. The decoration is often antique (-style) with traditional Chinese features. Foreign-style establishments aim to be sophisticated. The food is over-priced — you pay for the environment.

The Establishment
quanjude roast duckA private room in Quanjude Restaurant, Beijing
Customers who go to such high-end restaurants are usually wealthy and more refined Chinese. Usually they dress up, and go for an important reason — proposal, birthday, anniversary, or some important business deal. They don’t go there often, usually once in a few months.

Location: High-end restaurants usually take prime locations in the city center: at the top of a high building, or with an open balcony over some scenic vista, or in a quiet corner of the city for peaceful dining. They generally offer the best views of the city.

Environment: The decoration is typically elegant and well-designed, sometimes ostentatious, either Foreign-style or traditional Chinese-style. Smoking is still allowed at some high-end restaurants (all but prohibited in Beijing now), but you can escape it with a private room.

quanjudeA wooden lazy suzy in the middle of a table
Facilities: Purpose-designed buildings include parking lots and centrally-controlled air-conditioning. In Chinese-style restaurants the table is usually round with a large lazy Suzy in the middle, which is convenient for you to taste each dish. The bathrooms are clean, often with Western seated toilets (soap and toilet paper provided!), and some private eating rooms have their own private bathroom.

The Eating Experience
Menu: The name of every dish sometimes doesn’t explain what it actually is, so the menu usually has pictures. Most high-end restaurants have an English menu, though you may still need a guide/interpreter to ask about the food, as in some places staff will not be able to answer adequately in English.

tablewareInteresting tableware
Food: The ingredients are fresh and some are very expensive. You can’t see common dishes at high-end restaurants, such as fried egg with tomatoes. The presentation of dishes is typically very beautiful and elegant.

Tableware: The tableware is often traditionally-styled, high-quality, wooden, china, bamboo, or earthen. You will probably still be stuck with chopsticks though, unless it’s a Western-style restaurant. You may ask for a knife and fork, and some establishments will have them; they will usually have Western spoons.

Service: Staff are always plentiful and very polite. You shouldn’t have problems with service, though making yourself understood with only English may be a difficulty. After your meal, the waiter/waitress will kindly ask whether you are satisfied with your meal, and you won’t need to get up for anything, even to pay the bill.

Average price per person: over 300 yuan (tipping is not expected) — though the price is quite expensive, the dishes may be small or not to your taste.

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