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  Beijing Scene

Beijing Scene, Volume 6, Issue 8, December 3 - 9

Book's Cafe

Peace and Quiet and a Fine Cup of Coffee

Squeezed among the shops that line Workers Stadium North Road, Book's Cafe opened not long after Starbucks began colonizing Beijing. At first sight it looks like it might be a cheesy imitation of the predatory Seattle-based franchise. But this small and unassuming cafe is no Starbooks; instead Book's Cafe offers the weary urbanite a rare commodity in Beijing - serenity.

As the name suggests, the cozy hideaway is ruled by books, and the librarian's order of peace and quiet prevails. The sun shines through its lace-curtained windows and little seems to move or make a sound, except the occasional cranking of the espresso machine, clicking of Chinese chess pieces, and the leisurely whisper of turning pages.

Book's Cafe serves an enticing selection of Chinese and Western food and is attached to a small bookstore. Nobody is going to force you to read a book while inside the cafe, but colorful sketches of paperbacks and slogans such as "for the love of books" decking the walls might plant a subliminal message. Don't be surprised if you feel magnetically pulled to one of the wooden tables tucked away in a sunlit corner, and find yourself resting a hardback novel on it.

The ambience is more in the tradition of the English tearoom which, lacking the hustle and bustle of its American relation, endeavors to create an understated, homey environment. Perhaps most importantly, Books' serves good coffee in large cups at reasonable prices.

The menu invites you to choose from a pleasant selection of light nouvelle cuisine and creative Chinese dishes. Salads include Caesar and Hawaii Chicken, and the chef's specials include a range of pastas, baked eggplant and fajitas. For starters, I try the Cream of Mushroom Soup (RMB15) and then the Caesar Salad (RMB50), both of which pass my authenticity test. The salad is particularly impressive for its fresh lettuce, a nice contrast to the usual wilting Beijing leaf. The pasta in the Spaghetti Alla Pomodoro (RMB25) is palate-pleasingly al dente. The sauce is made with a generous selection of herbs including fresh oregano and rosemary and topped with a generous sprinkling of real parmesan cheese. From the selection of xiaochi (snacks) I sample a Sichuan-style dessert of fried bananas (RMB15) which although deep fried, is not saturated in grease and arrives in nine easy-to-dip pieces with an orange compote sauce.

The bookstore doesn't offer much in terms of English-language reading, but it is stocked with a range of Chinese books, from teenage romances to Bill Gates' autobiography. Those looking to study Chinese can read bilingual editions of Western classics including A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and Jack London's Call of the Wild. The pages contain both English and Chinese and with the help of the bookstore's English/Chinese dictionary, you won't even need a language partner to get started. For those with higher ambitions in Chinese studies, the store has everything from Wang Shuo's latest novel to cookBook'sand primers for modern housewives.

If you don't want to read, there are plenty of picture Book'slike Pulitzer Prize and World Press Photo Collection, and the more scandalous pin-up photos of Naxi minority dancer Namu in her tell-all autobiography. If you are completely illiterate or simply have no desire to read, the store also stocks cute Japanese kitsch in the form of Hello Kitty pencil cases, erasers and coloring books.

To find the cafe, head west along Worker's Stadium North Road (heading away from Sanlitun), past the Workers Stadium. Book's Cafe lies two blocks east of Poly Plaza on the north side of the street.

Book's Cafe
No. 1, Door #2, Xinzhong Avenue, Dongcheng district (50 meters east of the Asian Hotel)
Tel: 6417-4618
Hours: 10:30 am-2 am
Food:*** Ambience:**** Service:** Cost: 80 RMB


Restaurant Guide

French Cuisine en Chine

Green Tianshi Vegetarian Restaurant

Smoothly Sweet
T-Bone at St. Mark's Steakhouse

Imperial City Old Mom Chafing Dish

Celestial Court

Red Capital Club

The Blue Lotus

Club Vogue

Le Beccassine

Triumphal Arch

Hotline 1950


Coffee and Books at Sculpting in Time

Rotary Sushi

Jintaiyuan Restaurant

The Mother of All Theme Restaurants

Waterside Cafe


Tian Gen Yuan Authentic
Beijing Restaurant

La Place

Havana Cafe

Alamuhan Authentic Xinjiang Cuisine

Scandanavian Food

Real Spring Rolls
Real Beijing Food