Temple Restaurant

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

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

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