Monthly Archives: July 2012


I don’t think any review of Chinese food in Beijing would be complete without a nod towards the Peking Duck. There is tough competition in the city of its creation amongst the lao zi hao restaurants, but relative newcomer Da Dong Roast Duck is disputably the best purveyor of the crispy skinned avian right now. The duck takes centre stage, but take a flip through the 100-plus page menu for an extensive selection of companion dishes.

Da Dong prides itself in serving ultra-skinny, ultra-crispy duck. Supposedly it’s healthier as well, but I’m not under any illusions…

What it was before.

If on a budget, skip the first 50 pages or so. Stand-out dishes that won’t break the bank are the tomatoes fried with egg, the stir-fried chicken with nuts, and the stir-fried eggplant. The free longans and iced persimmon dessert at the end of the meal was a nice touch, but if you’d like something with a distinctly local flavour, get the candied apple dessert to end it off.

西红柿炒鸡蛋,a popular Chinese dish. Tomatoes were surprisingly plump.

The Eggplant, a delightfully versatile vegetable that absorbs pretty much any flavour you give it.

Stir-fried Chicken with nuts. Simple, classic, decadent.

Happy, well-fed friends.

Da Dong has a reputation for being expensive, but with a little bit of prudence and a passing knowledge of classic Chinese cooking you could get away with minimal damage. We ordered two ducks and seven other dishes, excluding the bowl of nourishing duck-bone soup that comes with the duck. All that came up to 150 RMB per person. Pretty decent, for a dinner at one of the finest Chinese restaurants in the world.

B1/F, Tower C, Heqiao Mansion, A8 Guanghua Donglu

We’d like to tell you about a special place called Kagen. It’s the place where Gloria made her only exception to her general dislike for Hot Pot/Steamboat. At Kagen, they have taken this longstanding method of communal eating and updated it a little.

For starters, Kagen’s soup stocks are things of beauty. Each of the 6 soups is balanced to complement your dipping ingredients in their own special way. If you’re having a meat-dominated hotpot, go for the chicken and mushroom or the miso stock. Those are our favourites.
Diners also get a customizable dipping sauce. A sauce-mobile will be wheeled up for you to choose from a range of 4 sauces and 8 condiments. Once again, depending on what you’re having with your hotpot, the waitress will recommend different combinations for your meats or seafood. The regular sesame paste is your sauce for all occasions, and the aptly named seafood paste (a kind of XO-dipping sauce familiar to Singaporeans and Malaysians) goes well with (whatd’yaknow!) seafood. The sweet-and-sourish yuzu fruit vinegar was a surprise package, and also Gloria’s favourite. Best served with a healthy tablespoonful of coriander and fried garlic.

Lastly, Kagen’s really good for lazy eaters. Hotpot is a very hands-on, involved activity, and sometimes it’s nice to be able to enjoy the food without the toil. There was always a helper handy to put stuff into the pot for us, giving Gloria and I more time to talk and catch up on life.

The lighting was a little dim for us to take good pictures of the food we ordered. We also recommend the garlic egg fried rice, the saba shioyaki and the unagi to go with the meal. Especially tasty if you’re hungry and can’t wait for the soup to boil! The meal came up to about 200RMB per person.

I took a walk around Beijing’s Nanluoguxiang area the other day. The hutongs around the New and Old Drum towers are some of the last remaining artifacts of the capital’s residential history. Many of them have been gentrified and turned into tourist attractions, but there is still a substantial number of people residing side by side the street food stalls and souvenir peddlers.

Wen Yu Cheese Shop. They sell this dessert called 双皮奶 that was quite nice.

Love it or hate it, Smelly Tofu is ubiquitous to the Beijing street food scene.

I had lunch at the Suzuki Kitchen at 77 Xiaoju’er Hutong, an offshoot from the main tourist street. Get the Pork Shougayaki set. Portions are very generous. 

A blind but very spirited 二胡 (Erhu) player I came across at Nanluoguxiang.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world when you’re on the Beijing bus network.

Sign reads:  Setting up shop in front of this house’s door and windows is strictly prohibited. Any offenders will be reported to the police. Didn’t say anything about eating on the steps. 

Nanluoguxiang’s status as a tourist attraction is a skin-deep reflection of its rich history and the architectural significance of the hutongs there.

I took a walk to the Hou Hai lakeside after finishing up at NLGX. Several Muslim restaurants line the banks, a good place for some 羊肉串. 

TRB,Temple Restaurant Beijing
No. 23 Song Zhu Si, Shatan Beijie,
Dongcheng District. Beijing;
(86-10) 8400-2232;

Welcome to the Temple of Ohmmm-Nom (nomnomnom)

Temple Restaurant Beijing is a showcase of two cities. The first is the old city, of a 600-year old temple that retains vestiges of its former architectural elegance, and of the bustling hutongs that surround its walled compound, a loud (and fragrant) reminder that lao Beijing is very much alive in a modernizing capital; The second is the new Beijing, of modern European cuisine served in a minimalist, grey-walled annex by a snappily suited Swiss intern from the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. 

The juxtaposition was not lost on us as we came ambling in from the stewing chaos of the hutongs outside. We are fans of eating at places with a story behind it, and as stories go, the Temple Restaurant one is pretty good, with a brilliantly renovated restaurant complex as embellishment. Ignace Lecleir, a former GM under Daniel Boulud and now owner of TRB, has created an oasis of calm befitting of the venue’s original purpose many years ago.

The fancifuls: Cheese balls and bread/butter

There were flashes of brilliance in the lunch set meal (149 RMB) we had that day. The lobster mousse amuse-bouche was stunning in its depth of flavour. However, we encountered mixed fortunes with the starters.

Starters: Beef carpaccio and asparagus with quail’s egg

The carpaccio was accompanied with a nifty a soya jelly cube to complement the meat’s rawness. The white asparagus with quail eggs was pleasant, but the flavours were somewhat open-ended.

The mains: Grilled red snapper on remoulade; Basil risotto

As for the mains, the red snapper was competently grilled. As a matter of personal preference I didn’t agree with the remoulade that it was bedded on. The risotto came hot and moist, but too al-dente for our liking.

For Desserts: Caramel tart and the ‘snow egg’ meringue that made Glen a little upset.

The caramel tart ended the set in triumphant fashion. My only grouse was the misrepresentation of the “snow-egg” dessert. No matter how you bandy it about, half-cooked meringue just doesn’t taste that good. Our personal preferences aside, TRB provides possibly the best value lunch set in Beijing right now.

A nifty touch:  home made scented marshmallows

We enjoyed TRB immensely, but as we ruminate over this entry, we get the feeling its story is not complete. Ignace Lecleir has done a fantastic job in importing the brand of French dining he knows so well to Beijing, and his team didn’t put a foot wrong when we were there. The service of this restaurant would easily be on par with one-star Michelin restaurants anywhere in the world. This gastronomic fable could have been better climaxed with a menu that showcased a heavier Chinese influence. Places like Lung King Heen (Hong Kong) and Hakkasan (London) have shown that Chinese cooking is viable at the highest level of fine-dining standards, and we can’t think of a better place to have it served than in the eclectic interior of the Temple Restaurant.

And, here’s a little collage of us enjoying the meal! Glen’s face reads “Gloria is holding my camera the wrong way again…” :O

S8-30, 3/F, Sanlitun Village South, 19 Sanlitun Road,
三里屯19号院, 南区三层S8-30
Beijing, China

Other outlet: 2\F, Heqiao Building, Bldg C, A8 Guanghua Donglu

We strive to be as objective as we can about our food, so we really do mean it when we say that Hatsune in Beijing is possibly our favourite restaurant in the world right now. We first dined at Hatsune in 2010, when we visited Beijing enroute to the Shanghai Expo, and going back this time round was a bit like making a pilgrimage to Japanese-fusion Mecca.

Chopsticks to brighten up your meal

To describe it simply, Hatsune is a Japanese-fusion restaurant that serves new and gastronomically exciting rolls. They have the usual selection of Japanese-y food like sashimi, tempura, and donburi sets to give off the impression that you really are eating in a Japanese restaurant. When we talk about the rolls however, it behooves us to reject the traditional frame of reference of assessing Japanese food and move towards a new rubric. Japanese cuisine is conservative, perfectionist and traditional; Hatsune rolls are creative, decadent and use far too much mayonnaise for your dietician’s liking. They still taste pretty darn good, and have become our world-standard of how similar rolls should taste.

Rainbow Roll

We went to Hatsune twice last week, just so we could try as many rolls as we could before leaving. Try the AMA, Crunch-a-Bunch and Alex-foie rolls. The Alex foie rolls (Glen’s runaway favourite) combines sweet unagi sauce, tempura prawn and a generous slathering of foie-gras in an explosion of creamy, buttery, gout-inducing flavour. The Crunch-a-Bunch (Gloria’s favourite) was subtler with its generous sprinkling of scallions, a crunchier texture and a less over-the-top mayonnaise dressing.

The appropriately named Pimp-my-Roll – with everything in it!

Crunch a Bunch – with a generous sprinkling of crunch scallions

AMA Rollnot sure why it is thusly named… spicy and creamy

Alex Foie Roll – Tempura Prawns and Foie Gras pate make good bedfellows

To wash it down, try the seafood and mushroom tea-soup.

Welcome to Beijing!

Hi there! Sorry for the lack of updates over the last few days. I’m currently in Beijing for summer school and the Great Firewall has made it difficult to access facebook and wordpress.

Suffocating censorship laws aside, the good news is that we’ve been working (read: eating) hard to bring you good food reports from the Northern Capital. Contrary to the popular belief that Shanghai is the best place in China for food, Beijing is a fantastic and affordable place to eat in as well, if you know where to look. Traditional north Chinese cuisine has a reputation for being oily, but thanks to a growing expatriate and student community, food enclaves catering to less oil-resistant palates have sprung up around the city.  Gloria came up for a week to visit and we’ve done some of the legwork for you.

We’ll start with Haidian district in the north-western part of Beijing. Haidian is where a majority of Beijing’s universities are located, and consequently there is also a very large student community living and studying in the area. Food-wise, it is also known for really good (and cheap) Korean food centred on the Wudaokou subway station.

Sarangbang Korean Seafood Restaurant
35 Chengfu Road

Dong Yuan Building, Floor 3

Haidian District, Beijing

+86 (10) 82618201

Possibly the best Korean food outside of Korea

Look out for Sarangbang Korean Seafood Restaurant. It is on the third floor of the same building in which the Tous Les Jours bakery is. The regular Korean fare (kimchi pork, bulgogi, bimbimbap) are all good, but also try the cold noodles, a chewy buckwheat noodle dish soaked in a sweet-vinegary soup and topped with a slices of cold pork, fragrant pear and watermelon. Nothing like it on a sweltering summer day, to be honest.

Hot day, cold noodles.

Shin Yeh
No. 2401, 4F
Xinzhongguan Shopping Center
19, Zhongguancun Main Street
Haidian District, Beijing

Classic Kung Pow Chicken

If one is in the vicinity touring the Yuanmingyuan and Summer Palace gardens, take the Subway Line 4 down to Haidian Huangzhuang station. Shinyeh restaurant in the Gate Mall serves classic and instantly recognisable Chinese dishes for good value.

Before I conclude, I’d just like to add that both these meals came up to around 60RMB (£6). The equivalent anywhere else would have cost four times as much. We’ve got a whole bunch of other places to tell you about in Beijing, so please continue to visit!

1 Fifth Avenue
#01-01 Guthrie House 
Tel: +65 6468 3656

Chu, Xue and I have been going to Venezia at Guthrie since we were fifteen. Waffles & a single scoop of ice-cream used to cost $3.80, but no thanks to inflation, the price has doubled. I love my waffles with Tartufo or Gianduia  (almost like hazelnut, but not quite).  Glen tried it with salted caramel last week and they tasted like pancakes! Both our families have grown to love this cosy corner and we’ll head down whenever the dessert compartment in our bellies scream for some ice-cream loving. If you are driving along Bukit Timah Road, be sure to drop by! It’s addictive, and you’ll be back for more.

26B Dempsey Road, Singapore
Tel: +65 6476 5305

Yellowtail Sashimi Salad

A few of us headed to The Disgruntled Chef for dinner last week. This Dempsey newcomer is owned by Daniel Sia, formerly of the White Rabbit, who decamped to run his own cosy establishment at 26B. The Disgruntled Chef serves food tapas-style – in small and large dishes and all best shared. This concept favours large groups, but this does not detract from the fact that this is still a really good restaurant for dates and intimate evenings. The bar is also well stocked for cocktail occasions.

Crispy Lamb Shortribs with Cumin and ChilliThe shortribs were really well seasoned and had a rather distinctive Mediterranean taste to it. The meat was meltingly tender.

 Beef Ribeye

The meat was nothing to yell about – it was well sourced but might have been a tad overpriced. The seasoning was commendable. There was an effort to introduce a level of complexity to the beef without those new flavours being too overwrought. We appreciated the saucer of jus on the side as well. Leftover essence should never go to waste.

Miso Cod, Spinach leaves, red seeds.

I found myself enjoying the spinach leaves more than the cod. The leaves are fleshy and have a natural tendency to absorb sauces like sponges. Perfect place to bed a fish positively bathing in the lovely brown sauce. That said, the dish was perfectly executed. It was well balanced and presented in lovely colours.

Fullerton Hotel, Singapore
Tel: +65 6877 8188

Chinese restaurants in Singapore have always suffered a deficit in public image. It used to be that you couldn’t get a young person to step into one outside of a family wedding or their grandparents’ birthday dinner. Thankfully, the scene has received a boost with trendier debutants like Paradise Dynasty and Jing entering the market.

Add Jade to the list. Fullerton’s Chinese banner-bearer serves up attractive Oriental food in the spacious confines of the hotel’s high-ceilinged ground floor annexes. We wouldn’t go so far as to call the menu ‘fusion’, but might venture to say that it is classic Hong Kong and Shanghai cuisine updated to suit a younger palate.

If uninitiated in the complexities of the Chinese a la carte menu, or so as to avoid an inexplicable seafood bomb in your final bill, there is an extensive selection of prix-fixe sets available, from $58++ to $288++. Increments on the lower end are very considerate to diners on a budget ($58, $68, $78, $88++), so one can hardly complain of a lack of options to choose from.

As a Chinese restaurant, Jade really is the whole package. A spacious dining room, no lack of elbow space and confidently prepared food all made for a lovely night out.

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