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Sunshine Kitchen

The Chinese, especially the Cantonese, believe long-simmered soups with natural ingredients help boost our health.

Such soups are believed to be nutritious, easily digested and the perfect anecdote for Beijing's dry, cold winters.

Sunshine Kitchen is a reasonably priced Cantonese restaurant offering soups simmered with natural and original flavors for four hours. The soups are boiled with purified water, and there are no additives in the soups - not even salt. But tables are topped with saltshakers for those who want to add a dash to their broths. More than 10 soup varieties are available from 12 yuan a bowl.

Free-range chicken and snail soup with scallops and mushrooms is said to help the stomach and intestines, and prevent cancer and aging. Pork ribs with green and red carrot soup moisturizes a dry mouth and throat.

And pork lungs boiled with fruit and tender cabbage is said to strengthen the lungs and help beat back nagging coughs.

In addition to soups, the restaurant also functions as a Hong Kong-styled cafe, with milk tea, coffee, prawn wonton noodles and Cantonese small fries.

A braised pigeon costs just 19.8 yuan. There are the popular, traditional dishes, such as sauted beef fillet with spring onion, beef and carrot chops, and Cantonese steamed rice with sausage in terrines. Average cost is 60 yuan per person.

East of Jinbao Dasha, 21 Jinbao Jie, Dongcheng district. 50 m east of C exit, Dengshikou subway station. 6528-2121.

Lotus Thai

Lotus Thai's four Beijing branches are providing tasty Thai food in very different settings.

The eatery near the ice rink at China World Shopping Mall has become a canteen for many people working in the building.

Its authentic Thai flavors, along with a beautiful Thai-styled yard and attentive service, have attracted quite a few frequenters.

Classic dishes include Tom Yung Kung, a fresh prawn soup that combines sour, spicy, sweet, salty and fragrant flavors. Curry crab, curry chicken, seafood salad, steamed sea bass with lemon and chili are some other popular choices.

While the restaurant's China World branch fuses modern and traditional elements in its decor, its Twin Towers branch resembles a Thai village much more.

Its China Central Place eatery instead seems to decorative cues from aristocracy.

Lotus Thai's Oriental Plaza branch recently reopened, featuring brilliant inner decor, and the average cost of a meal still exceeds 100 yuan a head.

Lotus Thai's China Central Place eatery offers a lemongrass hotpot with a spicy and sour base soup, complete with curry and Thai-styled sour and spicy sauce.

11am-9:30pm. 8518-6391. B1 Oriental Plaza, 1 East Chang'an Avenue, Dongcheng district; 5/F, Twin Towers, B12 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Yong'anli, Chaoyang district. 5109-6089; B115 China Central Place, 87 Jianguo Lu, Chaoyang district; NB201, B2, China World Shopping Mall, 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang district. 6505-5386.

The Royal Restaurant

The Royal Restaurant proffers an imperial dinner for the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperors in a beautiful two-floor villa on Shichahai Lake's west bank.

In private rooms featuring traditional Chinese furniture and antiques, a server clad in a Qing Dynasty minister's robe deciphers for diners the mysteries of ancient Chinese imperial cuisine, narrating the stories behind the dishes.

This winter, the restaurant offers a special hotpot and grilled dinner, based on written records of a grand feast to which Emperor Qianlong treated 1,000 officials in 1785. The imperial chefs used these two cooking methods to keep catering for such a large crowd simple and scrumptious.

Waitresses costumed as Qing Dynasty princesses serve organic fruits and vegetables, and beautifully presented cold meats as appetizers.

The main course for winter is a special hotpot with Buddha jumps over the wall soup as the base broth.

The soup is said to derive its nutritious qualities from a fusion of secret imperial recipes and herbs. Main ingredients include lobster, venison tendon, prawn and abalone, in addition to the humbler meats of beef and mutton.

Grilled offerings include beef steak and a remarkably tender pine pheasant. Vegetables and mushrooms are also available.

The cost ranges from 128 yuan to 888 yuan per person. The restaurant and club also provides tea ceremonies.

The eatery has a lovely balcony on the second floor overlooking a courtyard with bamboo groves. The courtyard offers a great place to party in good weather. The third floor comprises two platforms and a glass room with tea tables and air-conditioning. It is the perfect perch overlooking the Shichahai Lake from which to dine on a fine Chinese lunch and spend a lazy afternoon sipping tea.

10am-10pm. Reservation required. Near Xinjiekou Beidajie, 48 Xihai Nanyan, Xicheng district. 8328-4099.

Takatura Sushi Bar

You can tiptoe through the latticework dining rooms, cross the koi stream to reach the teppanyaki and sushi bars, or gawk at the traditional garb of the wait staff, but this Japanese restaurant is authentic only in its ambiance.

The assorted tempura platter (RMB 80) was pleasingly crispy and the rice in green tea soup with salmon and sour plums (RMB 30), despite being the simplest dish on the table, delivered homey warmth. Sadly, the deep-fried bean curd (RMB 30) lacked crunch and didn't absorb the flavor of its soup base. But the spicy tuna roll (RMB 100) was disappointing. Thinly sliced and overpriced, it failed to capture the sushi's textured balance of raw fish, rice and seaweed, and was drizzled with a sauce not unlike Tabasco.

Tack on a 15 percent service charge, and even the constantly refilled tea and complimentary fruit plate can't compensate for the loosely wrapped sushi.

Location: B110 Kunlun Hui, A2 Xinyuan Nanlu, Chaoyang District

Tel: 010-65939435

Open: Daily 11am-2pm, 5-10pm.

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