Gem: Beijing Restaurant

Ambiance is not its selling point but this Chinese eatery is as authentic as Chinese food gets in the capital.

In the heart of the closest thing Abu Dhabi has to a Chinatown, the block behind Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre where Chinese restaurants jostle with butchers, Asian grocery stores, and tacky gift shops, lies the gem that is Beijing Restaurant.

Over-lit and stark, this is not a place to cosy up to a loved one, but it offers some of the most authentic Chinese you can find in the capital; and its clientèle, largely Chinese expatriates, is evidence of that.

The service leaves something to be desired, but steaming bowls of noodle soups and mounds of dumplings soon silence any complaint. Here are none of the gloopy, MSG-ridden offerings that so often pass themselves off as Chinese food elsewhere. What's notable about Beijing is its fresh, clean flavours.

The wok-fried prawns with dried chilli, Szechuan-style, come highly recommended, as does the crispy shredded beef. The sautéed hammour fillet, which that morning was swimming in the restaurant fish tank, is light and fragrant and there's a good selection of joyous little dumplings for any dim-sum lover. Appetisers and dim-sum come in at about Dh15, with main courses ranging from Dh20 to Dh128 (a whole lobster). Portions lend themselves to sharing, so come with a group.