...is next to impossible, I have discovered. It seems that when eating out during the next two weeks, you need to carry not only a ton of cash, but also a stiff jaw that doesn't drop upon receiving the final bill.
I understand prices always rise during such high-profile events, and I'm sure in Athens, Torino, and Sydney more than a few locals simply stayed home more than usual. But I was ((and still am) determined not to become a hermit during the biggest party in China's 5,000+ years of history.
So I have sucked it up and tried to forget the almost doubling of prices at my local (albeit quite famous) Peking duck place. And the $12 Carlsberg and $11 Evian on "Sanlitun Super Bar Street" I just attributed to the area being a tourist magnet. But two nights ago we headed to Duck de Chine, an elegant new Peking duck restaurant whose bird a trusted foodie friend said was on par with my current favorite Da Dong's, and about the same price of around 200 RMB ($29) per duck including pancakes and condiments.
After we got seated, however, we learned that they were only offering 3- to 4-course set menus for the duration of the Olympics, at the equivalent of $124 a person (!!!) In China. For New York prices.
If you wanted a whole duck, you would need to order it on top of the required set menu, which had almost nothing appealing enough to warrant the high prices. I said a flat-out no and simply walked out. I can stomach doubled prices for China's coming-out party, but not 5 times what I expected the evening to cost. I could find a cheaper set meal at Beijing's Daniel Boulud.
We did finally eat, at the nearby Noodle Bar. The decor was muted, reminiscent of a small sushi bar, with 1 or 2 chefs in the center hand-pulling noodles to order. The set meal was 42 RMB for a large bowl of brisket and tripe noodles, edamame and seaweed sides, and oolong tea. Even the vegetable prices were at pre-Olympic levels. It wasn't insanely cheap, but certainly doable, considering the Noodle Bar was also at the glamorous new 1949:The Hidden City development. The noodles hit the spot, and as I imagined it, better than the set dinner that would have cost as much as a round-trip train ticket to Hong Kong.
I may return for the duck after the Games. For the time being, noodles and chua'r will be my main sustenance outside of home.
The Noodle Bar Inside 1949:The Hidden City, Gongti BeiLu (across from the south entrance of Pacific Century Place) Sanlitun, Chaoyang District Beijing