We are so very lucky. In the months leading up to summer, we were fortunate to eat at some of Beijing’s best restaurants. We experienced culinary wonders and cultural differences; there were meals when the total bill equaled the price of a plane ticket to Europe and others where the total wouldn’t even be enough to pay for public transportation in, for example, Stockholm.
There was the surprise birthday party at Capital M where the art deco décor blew us away; the cocktails sublime but the menu confusing and the service deteriorating as the evening went on. We mused about how it seems to be enough to have a name, a location and in this case amazing décor and a reputation from another city (M on the bund in Shanghai) for people to come.
Then we took a visitor to a new favorite local hangout (more on this in a future post). Always busy, always crowded. We stumbled upon the eatery after wanting to return to the restaurant next door but discovered it had been renovated and turned into a hot pot place, not what we were looking for this sweltering day in May. We ordered old favorites: duck fajitas (minced spiced duck served with little holed out buns), cold spinach and peanuts in a light sesame dressing, eggplant, always eggplant – the Chinese cook is so well. The rest we can’t remember, we were slightly distracted watching the grandparents at the next table letting their toddler pee in a plastic bottle – at the table! We’ve seen a lot but this was a first for both of us.
After an arduous move, that threatened to send both one of us and her mother who kindly flew over to help, into an early grave, we treated ourselves to the best restaurant in Beijing: Maison Boulud, one of Chef Daniel Boulud’s eateries around the world. The room was sublime, the menu extensive and the service superb. We opted for the tasting menu with wine pairing and were in for a real treat. Everything from the amuse bouche to the complimentary macaroons and marshmallows were flawless. We enjoyed one delicacy cooked to perfection after another. Then, as we were winding down, one server passed us with their homemade terrine and asked if we didn’t want to try a little bit, on the house? A restaurant to rave about and to return. Now if only we had had a fat expense account to charge it to …
A few days later, after a little bit of shopping at a newly discovered “store” two blocks south of Hong Qiao market, turn right and into the apartment building, two floors down in to the basement, through the bomb shelter and then the 5th door on the left (this is China!), we searched for an alternative to the very touristy eating place across the street and stumbled upon a quaint restaurant with tables outside, nicely shaded by trees. What a find! The best cold tofu with century eggs we have had so far, eggplant (again) to die for, a couple of more dishes and all washed down with cold Yanying beer – all under 100rmb (about USD15).
Beijing is wonderful like that; the contrasts - the experiences, the meetings, the challenges and the pleasures. We are both taking a break from it all but will report from around the world throughout summer. Happy eating! Over and out.