Archive

China

Most people hate having tourists walk into their shots of majestic monuments and wondrous natural sceneries. I’m not too particular myself – with the fog and drizzle as bad as it was at the Mutianyu Great Wall that July weekend, tourists were the only things there were to take. They hammed it up pretty well, replete with looks of genuine bemusement and fatigue-induced confusion.

“Which way to walk, da?”

Asian dad valiantly rallying his little troopers for a charge up the ramps.

Visibility was awful, on the day of Beijing’s worst rainstorm in 61 years

My friend Juan, an upstart Chilean conquistador.

Some other shots I took from an early visit to China in 2010

“Daddy are we there yet?”

Advertisements

18 Xiaoyun Road,  霄云路18号, Beijing
Tel: 6595-5135 www.flo.cn

There is nothing exciting about Brasserie Flo. The food is predictable and reminds you a bit of your mother’s cooking. But that isn’t always a problem, is it? Sometimes you go to restaurants not to be excited or titillated, but to treat yourself to a familiar experience. Flo is a chain of upscale eateries originally from Europe, setting up shop in Beijing in 1999. It prides itself on serving classic French food in an oriental capital and does so with confidence. Also signature to the restaurant is its seafood counter, replete with air-flown oysters from France, fresh and plump as a baby’s bottom but never mind the carbon footprint.

Oysters

All this familiarity is a major selling point, especially with its recent move to spanking new premises along Xiaoyun Road, the heart of the diplomatic district in Beijing. The vaulted interior, spacious booths and ceiling-to-floor glass panels give a real sensation of space and a European charm.

Foie Gras, Plum Jelly, Fig Toast (not pictured)

We went for the Classic set menu (RMB 298), a selection of the restaurant’s best-sellers. The escargots were decent, meaning they were drowned in a lip-smackingly tasty herb butter, but not a terribly value-for-money dish. A much better option was the foie-gras, which was perfectly matched with fig toast and plum jelly.

Beef Tournade, Plum Tomatoes, Potatoes and Greens

Suckling Pig, Truffle Mash, Plum Tomatoes

The conservative ethos of the kitchen was clearly evident in its main offerings. The beef tournade was a simple and elegant plate of food. The meat came perfectly done (medium), with the plum tomatoes adding a splash of colour and freshness to the dish. The suckling pig was brilliant. The Chinese really know their pork belly, and Flo’s was some of the best we’ve had. The truffle mash actually had discernible slices of the black treasure in it, and went well with the pool of pork jus that had been cleverly “ponded” in the middle.

Belgian Waffles, Chantilly Cream, Strawberries

To end it off, Gloria had a slice of the Belgian waffles with Chantilly cream and strawberries. The waffle had a slightly chewy bread-like texture, not really what we’re used to but pleasant as well. The crème brulee, like the escargots, was good but not terribly value-for-money.

Of course there are better restaurants around, but one will find comfort in Brasserie Flo’s attentive service and ambiance. For a more affordable alternative, go on a weekday for their set lunch and power lunch options. (128 and 148 RMB respectively)

北京市东城区
东四十条甲22号
南新仓国际大厦1-2楼(东四十条桥西南)
+861051690329

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
光华东路甲8号和乔大厦C座地下1

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;
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

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
光华东路甲8号和乔大厦C座2层

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.

%d bloggers like this: