We were lucky enough to sneak in to Black Sesame when another guest cancelled. What luck! Black Sesame is the complete dining experience. Some people may be intimidated in trying to find it. It's in a houtong, down a warren of little alleys. We google mapped it, printed the map, got directions from the restaurant itself, and still needed to ask for directions from a kind woman on the street. This is part of the experience. Just go with the flow. You end up walking through a secluded houtong shopping, and eating area. It's totally cool and worth coming to even without the restaurant. But don't miss the restaurant.
Black Sesame seats about 20 people at two communal tables. One table is right in front of the open kitchen. We'd originally planned to sit there so we could watch the chefs but discovered that this table had stools, while the other had chairs with backs, so we opted for the latter. We were delighted with our choice. Our dinner companions were ex-pats from assorted countries all living in Beijing. The conversation was lively, diverse and lots f fun. The $50 set meal (there's no ordering) includes limitless wine or beer. The ten course meal starts with dumplings and moves from one delicious course to the next until you finally arrive at the black sesame ice cream, which you should save room for. The staff speaks excellent English. Dinner runs from 7PM - 10PM. You're kindly asked to wrap it up at 10 since its a residential houtong. All in all a really wonderful and memorable evening. Make a reservation a couple months in advance, and don't miss Black Sesame!