Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Slice of Lost Heaven

It’s restaurant week!

Restaurant week is a pretty much worldwide event, most major cities across the planet have adopted the idea and last week, it was Beijing’s turn. We managed to score a table at Lost Heaven, a Yunnan restaurant with flavors of the Dai, Bai, Yi, Mao and Naxi hill tribes located in Qianmen, just south of Tiananmen Square.

One of us had eaten at the restaurant before and raved about it. The last time the other had Yunnan food she was served fried ants and grasshoppers, snake – boiled, fried and made into soup; all chased down with a shot of snake gall bladder and blood. Yum!

The restaurant is located in a lovely courtyard, adjacent to Maison Boulud, one of the famed Daniel Boulud’s restaurants around the globe, and an art gallery. It’s classy; there are smiling (!) people welcoming us as we step out of our car and into the front room bar; which definitely has potential with its plethora of bottles, bartenders and cozy sitting areas. Today is not the time to examine the bar more closely though so we head to the restaurant itself which is beautifully decorated in what we can only assume are traditional Yunnan artifacts.

Gorgeous table settings and fresh watermelon juice

There are two special Restaurant Week menus at Lost Heaven; one for two people and one for three. We were four people dining but there were no menu accommodating that number. We settled for the menu for three and ordered two extra dishes from the a la carte menu as well, just to be on the safe side. And boy, were we safe; the dishes kept coming in and they were all delicious!

The first dish to arrive was a tea leaf salad, a concoction with spice, acidity and an unexpected crunch.  Chicken salad followed – tender roasted chicken slices, a mixture of herbs, all presented on top of crisp greens. Then came the wild vegetable cakes with a fabulous lemon and tomato chutney, smoky eggplant and cold tofu salad, perfectly roasted pork in thin slices with a delicately spiced soy dipping sauce, a beef dish we could have done without, a roasted eggplant dish with a spicy tomato sauce and finally, slivers of white fish covered in a black herbal mixture with a surprisingly chewy texture. We were stuffed by the time the fresh fruit arrived and admired the watermelon slice cut beautifully into the shape of a dragon but were unable to finish the whole plate.

What was left after we started to dig into the yummy Tea Leaf Salad
Smoky Eggplant with Cold Silken Tofu
Wild Vegetable Cakes (we could eat two plates of these!)
An Amazing Chicken Salad (we forgot the name:))
Roast Pork
Lovely White Fish

Will we go back? Most definitely!! Did it give us inspiration enough to try to put our spin on it? Njaaa, maybe not. We were definitely inspired by the combination of spices, textures and the presentation of the dishes and we could certainly put a westernized twist to it.  But it is probably best to simply return to Lost Heaven the next time we feel the pull of Yunnan cuisine. We would like to know how to carve a dragon out of a watermelon though!

Can you spot the dragon?

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