You know when you really love a band (or restaurant or store or book or whatever) and they seem to be floating sort of under the radar? You keep going through an internal debate with yourself as to whether you want to tell the world about them because they deserve the wider audience or just keep them your own personal secret so that you can enjoy them....
Well, that's sort of how I felt back in December 2006 when I stumbled across Dianping after having returned to Beijing and wanting to find out if a favorite restaurant of mine had been felled by a wrecking ball or was still going strong. It was Beijing, after all, and places were (and are) constantly closing or being chai'ed. Unfortunately, that restaurant had already met its maker, but I had a new go-to tool whenever looking for a restaurant and also something to waste an hour (or three) when I was bored.
Dianping is THE resource on the web for Chinese (and those who can read Chinese) who like to eat out on a regular basis. The website, launched in 2003, offers visitors the chance to write their own Zagat-like reviews about restaurants they visit, and allows other visitors to send reviewers flowers or leave comments about a review. Some reviews are simple, some are extremely in-depth breakdowns with photos, others resort to poetry, and some (read mine) even are in English. Almost every major (and even some minor) cities are represented and it seems that almost every non-hole in the wall tiny restaurant (and even some tiny ones) are listed. There also are a huge variety of groups where one can go to discuss everything under the sun, but usually focused on food (sort of like the US sites chowhound or egullet). Often, these groups will hold gatherings referred to as "FB"s (for 腐败, corruption in English, as these events typically are about eating and drinking a lot and having fun). Dianping has even spawned local imitators like chilema.com in Shenzhen, but as of yet none of them can compare to Dianping for depth of information.
So why am I giving up this "secret"? Well, City Weekend already exposed the joys of the site with their interesting interview with the site creator, Zhang Tao. I figured at this point, it really isn't much of a secret, but its still relatively unfamiliar to many expats, so its time to let everyone know. If you love eating out, if you're looking for a new place to eat, or if you need a restaurants phone number or address quick, Dianping is the place to go!