According to the different people it served, imperial cuisine is divided into imperial court cuisine and imperial official cuisine.
Imperial Court Cuisine is a style of food with origins in the Imperial Palace. Based on foods served to the Emperor and his court, Imperial Court Cuisine is well-known by the original features of the raw material and carefully selected ingredients. Additionally, the dishes are decorated by different colorful vegetables and fruits carved into various shapes.
Each dish has a propitious name, such as Yu Feng Huan Chao (jade phoenix returning to the royal). And some of them even have short stories. Today Imperial Court Cuisine has become a major school of Chinese cooking with several places offering this unique flavor. Fang Shan in Beihai Park and Ting Li Guan in the Summer Palace are the best ones. This cuisine was not available 150 years ago. While expensive, it is worth trying.
Imperial official cuisine is particular to Beijing. In the past, Beijing officials were all very picky about what type of food they ate. The most famous type of Official food is Tan Family Food, available in the Beijing Hotel. This is the preferred food of the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911) official Tan Zongling, and was later introduced into restaurants. Another type of food is described in the classic novel, Dream of Red Mansions. The author, Cao Xueqin, described a number of dishes in the book and now there are several restaurants that serve this style of dish. The most famous place is the Beijing Grand View Garden Hotel next to the Beijing Grand View Garden modeled after the garden described in the Dream of Red Mansions. Other restaurants featuring this novel type of food are the Jinglun Hotel and Laijinyuxuan Restaurant in Zhongshan Park.
Restaurants of Imperial Cuisine
Chinese name: 仿膳饭庄（fǎng shàn fàn zhuāng）
Located in Beihai Park, Fangshan Restaurant is the most famous one offering the luxurious Imperial Court Cuisine. The restaurant was opened in 1925 by imperial chefs of the former Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and caused a great sensation at that time. Fangshan means ‘imitate the imperial court cuisine' in Chinese. The restaurant is made up of three parts and it can hold 500 people eating at the same time. It is decorated in imperial style with the design of dragon and phoenix. Here is the best place to experience the life of the Chinese emperors in former days. Now, it serves nearly 800 kinds of Imperial Court Dishes. Among them, Man-Han Banquet is the most famous.
Average cost per person: CNY200 - CNY300
Hours: 11:00-13:30 17:00-19:30
Location: No.1, Wenjin Jie, inside Beihai Park
Bus Route: 5, 13, 101, 103, 109, 810 (get off at Beihai Stop)
Li Jia Cai Restaurant
Chinese name: 厉家菜（lì jiā cài）
Located in a courtyard of Yangfang hutong in Beijing, there is a special restaurant named Li Jia Cai Restaurant (Li Family Restaurant) which is devoted to Imperial Court food. The initiator of Li Jia Cai is Li Shanlin, a retired professor of mathematics, who also has great interest in cooking genuine Beijing Imperial Court Food. The restaurant has no employees. The Li family are owner and employees of the restaurant; and dinner is by set menu. That is to say, a guest can not order the dishes but must wait for whatever they serve; furthermore, one banquet daily, if you want to have a dinner here, you should make a reservation (at least two weeks ahead of time); finally there are no chemical materials in the dishes, all flavorings are natural. This restaurant has welcomed many celebrities including the former U.S. president Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, the former premier of Britain, John Major, and Chinese superstar Jackie Chan. Professor Li speaks English and can discuss Chinese culture while you enjoy your dinner and good wine. If you are a real gourmand, try to find this restaurant hidden in a Beijing hutong.
Address: No.11, Yangfang hutong, Denei Dajie
Ting Li Guan Restaurant
Chinese name: 听骊馆（tīng lí guān）
The table delicacies in Ting Li Guan Restaurant absorb the essence of the Eight Cuisines in China and combine the Han Cuisine with the other cuisines of minority groups such as Man, Mongol and Hui.
Average cost per person: CNY70 - CNY200
Hours: 11:00 - 14:00 16:30 - 19:00 (Make your dinner reservations at least an hour before your dinner time.)
Location: at the south of Wanshou Hill, inside the Summer Palace
Bus Route: 332, 374, 716, 817 (get off at Xin Jianguomen Stop)
Chinese name: 御膳饭店（yù shàn fàn diàn）
The layout of the restaurant follows the imperial palace with luxurious decoration. When eating in the restaurant, diners are served by waitresses in traditional imperial costumes.
Average cost per person: CNY80 - CNY120
Hours: 16:30 - 19:30
Location: No.87, Tiantan Lu, Chongwen District
Bus Route: 34, 35, 36, 106, 6 (get off at Tiantan North Gate Stop)
Yan Yi Shan Zhai Restaurant
Chinese name: 砚逸善斋酒家（yàn yì shàn zhāi jǐu jiā）
The restaurant is located in a compound courtyard that was the residence of a princess in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). So the courtyard is commonly called Gege Fu (Princess Mansion House). It offers the best dishes of imperial cuisine and imperial stew is the special dish there. Comparing with other imperial restaurants, Yan Yi Shan Zhai Restaurant is a perfect combination of imperial cuisine and Sichuan hotpot. Diners put vegetables and meat into the soup, similar to creating the hotpot of Sichuan Cuisine.
Hours: 11:00 - 14:00 17:00 - 22:00
Location: No.9, Daqudeng Hutong, Backstreet of Art Gallery, Dongcheng District
Tan Jia Cai Restaurant
Chinese name: 谭家菜（tán jiā cài）
Average Cost per Person: CNY200 - CNY800
Hours: 11:30 - 14:00 17:30 - 21:30
Location: 7/F, Unit C, Beijing Hotel, 33, Dong Changan Jie, Dongcheng District
Bus Route: 1, 4, 10, 52, 103 (get off at Wangfujing Stop)
Da Zhai Men
The dishes and snacks cooked in this restaruant are worthy to have a try. And, the traditional performances at night is one of the restaurant's highlights.
Chinese name: 大宅门
Average Cost per Person: CNY 120-CNY200
Location of Chaoyang Branch: 3 Building, Huixinbei Li, Chaoyang District
Location of Shouti Branch: 20A, Shouti Nan Lu, Haidian District
Location of Changping Branch: 23, Fuxue Lu, Changping District
This restaurant is located in a large courtyard which was a Princess' residence in the Qing Dynasty. Besides of its traditional imperial dishes, you could enjoy the imperial culture of China while eating here.
Chinese name: 格格府
Average Cost per Person: CNY 200
Location: 9, Daqudeng Hutong, Dongcheng District
Located in the charming Changpuhe Park, both of the food and service of this restaurant are so good. You could also enjoy some marvelous performances in this large courtyard.
Chinese name: 皇城食府
Average Cost per Person: CNY 500-CNY 1000
Location: inside Changpuhe Park, Nanchizi Dajie, Dongcheng District
Chinese name: 国肴小居（guó yáo xiǎo jū）
Average Cost per Person: CNY50 - CNY200
Hours: 09:00 - 22:00
Location: 58, Jiaodaokou Bei Santiao, Dongcheng District
Chinese name: 海棠居（hǎi tang jū）
Average Cost per Person: CNY100 - CNY300
Hours: 10:00 - 22:00
Location: 32, West Street, Xuanwumen, Xuanwu District
Tai Shang Gong Restaurant
Chinese name: 太上宫酒楼（tài shàng gōng jǐu lóu）
Hours: 11:00 - 14:30 17:00 - 22:00
Location: No.15, Anding Road, Chaoyang District
Hui Zhen Lou Restaurant
Chinese name: 汇珍楼饭庄（huì zhēn lóu fàn zhuāng）
Hours: 11:00 - 14:30 17:00 - 22:00
Location: No.8, Beichen Road (East)