Time Out Beijing Awards 2011: Critically Boringly Yours

Hot on the heels of The Beijinger Readers awards, the Time Out Beijing Awards took place last thursday with a panel of “experts” making the picks. This is a complete departure from readers’ awards as it rewards quality versus popularity.. or so they say. Let’s take a look at this year’s categories and winners:

– Reader’s Choice: Maison Boulud à Pékin
– Best Lunch Deal: Ai Jiang Shan
– Best International: Aria
– Best Wine Experience: Modo
– Best Interior Design: Capital M
– Best Service: Maison Boulud à Pékin
– Best New Restaurant: Ssam
– Best Regional Chinese: Karaiya Spice House
– Best Chinese Fine Dining: Tiandi
– Best Asian: Bei
– Chef of the Year: Matthew McCool (Aria)
– Restaurant of the Year: Bei

for a more complete list along with the Merit Awards, check the time out website

There’s a whole bunch of thoughts crossing my mind about these awards so I’m gonna try and put them in order somehow…. bear with me folks!

The Panel:

This is what makes the Time Out awards stand out supposedly as they use a panel of experts to pick out the nominations and winners in each category. This guarantees the quality of the winners making them “the cream of the crop”… Well, this year, Time Out dining editor Lillian Chou is the only recognized food expert on that panel. The other four members are outstanding representatives of the media industry and probably know their dishes but that doesn’t make them food critics. I actually had problems finding a single food related article by any of them via google, albeit it was a quick search. With all due respect to them, if they’re not used to writing about food or if they haven’t had a background in F&B, what makes them experts?
Another strange fact is that they’re all foreign correspondants… is there no local experts on food? what happened to folks like Eileen wen Mooney who actually have street credit when it comes to talking about cuisine? Again, I don’t mean any disrespect but the question has to be asked.

The winners:
Much like the previous years, most of the winning establishments are on the high end of the spectrum. Places like Bei, My Humble House, Tian Di, Aria etc…. I don’t care to debate them or categorize the pattern of selections. These places do some things right and I haven’t eaten at a few of them so I can’t make a call on it.
That said, I can make a call on Aria! I had a meal there a few months ago that was the biggest waste of money and time ever. There is something wrong when I spend 400/500 rmb for a meal and need to head over to Mc Donalds because I’m still hungry. Again, with all due respect to their new Chef, when did Aria ever qualify as a dining heavyweight in Beijing? Great happy hours, yes! decent wine selection, yes! Top 3 best restaurant in Beijing..hell no!!!
Another carryover from last year is the Time Out-Opposite House connection with Bei walking out with best price. I’ve eaten there, it’s good but not that good… not even close! Still, I can live with that pick… I can’t phantom how Aria can be put on the same level.


I don’t get their categories. With a panel of experts, how can you put so many different types of restaurants/cuisines in the same batch? I took exception to that last year and I do again this year! In this regard, the so-called experts fared no better than the TBJ readers at introducing new cuisines/establishments to the public.
Hunanese, Sichuanese, Xinjiangese and Cantonese cuisines are not equal, not by far and thus have no business being huddled together. Same goes for Asian or International….

I’ve come to expect surprises out of Time Out, but generally good ones… this year, I just don’t get it… and maybe that’s my own problem because I have no taste! Maybe I’m not their target market so I can’t relate to their picks… but still, when I’m judging restaurants, I’m not gonna compare a chicken tika massala with a maki roll……
Sadly, I’ll refer to their awards from last year instead…. they’re overall better, more diverse and, for some of them, equally obscure. I’ll also consider The Beijinger awards because all credentials alike, they have more diversity and fell a bit more open minded….

Talking about the Readers, it does sound like they’re unanimous: Maison Boulud is THE popular choice according to both magazines for the second year in a row…. impressive and well deserved!

Some people might like opposite house for lunch as a great value, I’ll have some yopo chemian from the Shaanxi place around the corner.

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5 Responses

  1. Mark James says:

    I challenge you to return to Aria.

    • Beijing Daze says:

      Thank for the link. It does sound like at least 1 person had a good meal there adn good for them. As far as me going back there however, it’s gonna take a while!
      twice bitten, 3 times as shy, or so they say! As curious as I am about this new found fame for Aria at the hands of M&M, I will sit back and see if it lasts first. Color me sceptic, I’ll spend RMB1000 on a dinner for two at a place where I’m sure I can walk out of happy.

  1. April 7, 2011

    […] to restaurant awards.  Beijing Daze does a great job of going through both magazines awards and I completely agree with him about the sham that is the Time Out awards, no doubt heavily influenced by the magazine’s […]