TimeOut Beijing 2010 restaurant awards: for the sake of simplicity or obscurity?

It’s awards season in Beijing with the The Beijinger (TBJ) having released their readers choices last week, ongoing voting at the City Weekend ones and TimeOut Beijing (TO) holding their ceremony yesterday!

I’m not sure a comparison is appropriate at this point because TBJ went with reader’s choice whereas TO went with a small panel of experts. Also, TBJ had extensive categories (Sichuan, Yunnan, Dim Sum…) whereas TO opted for a simpler approach ( Regional Chinese, Fine Chinese). So, right of the bet, we can’t really compare results here! I would have to wait for TBJ to release their own panel choices before i could make any proper comparisons.

That said, the nature of the results is quite intriguing to me and it was interesting to see Maison Boulud cleaning up the house yet again!!! These guys are the new heavyweight champion of Beijing F&B scene.

Modern Leifeng wrote an interesting piece about how the TBJ results happen to all fall within a mile radius of sanlitun, which says lot about the voting audience IMHO. The TO awards winners on the other hand are spread out all over the spectrum geographically with locations as diverse as Haidian, Dongsi and Tiananmen.

location aside, the list of winners is of substantial interest to me. These are all restaurants that have been around for a while and keep staying under the mainstream radar:

Best Regional Cuisine: ( view details here)
Qin Tang Fu 秦唐府 (winner)
Lei Garden 利苑酒家, Golden Peacock 金孔雀德宏傣味餐馆 (outstanding)

Best Chinese Fine dining (view details here)
Tian Di 天地一家 (winner)
Private Room 主席台 , Da Dong 大董烤鸭店 (outstanding)

one must note that Tian Di garnered a few other outstanding awards ( best chef & restaurant of the year).

So, what does it all mean? I’m not sure but it’s looking to me like the panel did it’s homework.. You can go to any of the usual suspects ( dianping, local noodles, TBJ…) and read reviews, these are all well rated restaurants and beyond any criticism… to some extent, they are almost safe picks and you can’t go wrong eating at any of them.
However, an informal survey of Chinese coworkers and guests at yesterday’s ceremony reveals that even the locals do not know about most of these restaurants, especially the 3 that were picked for regional cuisine.

Don’t get me wrong, i love love love these different and interesting places but it almost seems as if the panel went out of their way to pick the most obscure of restaurants they could find… It’s also interesting to me that Sichuan cuisine, arguably one the most popular in China, was not represented at all.

The big thing for me in these awards is how the panel shrunk categories and narrowed it down to the bare minimum essentials, which was also a highly discussed topic during the awards last night. Lillian Chou, food Editor and great overall person, tried explaining the process and the criteria as the night progressed but unfortunately, it got lost in the noise!

I mean, how does one define “Best Asian Restaurant” considering the amazing diversity of cuisines that this continent enjoys?

Overall, I’m excited to find a few new places to check out… I have been to Tian Di before but had forgotten what it was called and I’ve also been hearing about the Golden Peacock for a long time. The others are all new and I’ll take it upon myself to go investigate asap.

Now, I look forward to TBJ Chinese panel choices due next week to see what they come up with

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