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Monday, August 15, 2011

Arty food in Beijing

"Lijiang pancake"
Selection of alpine plants ("frog skin" leaves, pine needles, and tree bark)
Wild hand-picked mushrooms marinated in Yunnan Nanmi sauce
Cold beef slices, marinated tofu and dipping sauces
Yunnan Qiguoji steamed chicken soup 

Broiled perch
Preparation of mushroom hotpot
Assorted mushrooms from Yunnan...
...carefully placed to be cooked in hotpot
The GIANT coffee table book-sized menu
Painting by owner / artist, Fang Lijun
LOCATION: South Silk Road, East Chunxiu Lu, Workers’ Stadium (west gate), Sanlitun, Beijing
CATEGORY: Chinese / Yunnan food 
DRINK: Pu'er tea
WE THINK: Go to South Silk Road for really delicious food from the Yunnan province and a dose of Beijing hipsters (sort of). The restaurant which used to be located in laid-back surroundings on the shore of Houhai lake now has several flashy branches, one of which is this impressive and tastefully decorated space by the Worker's Stadium in Sanlitun, the nightmare which is Beijing's upmarket expat slash clubbing district (girls wearing 'sexy bikinis' get into clubs for free). The restaurant is owned by renowned Beijing-based artist, Fang Lijun, whose paintings are displayed prominently on the walls and it attracts a large amount of hip, creative (and above-average wealthy) Beijingers. Yunnanese food, which is one of our favorite regional Chinese foods, shares culinary links with Thailand and Vietnam (the South-western jungle areas of the Yunnan province border Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar) and usually contains a good amount of chili and weird unfamiliar spices, which we like. We also like that a lot of the dishes are based on foraged, often native, ingredients such as mushrooms, mountain plants and barks (this is the main reason it's hard to get authentic Yunnanese food outside of China). One of our favorite dishes is the Yunnan classic, "crossing bridge noodles" (guoqiao mixian), but we decided to order dishes that were easier to share--like our 2 very tasty mushroom dishes: the cold one was delicate, fiery and crunchy while the hotpot one was as tender and saturated with flavor as an amazing steak. Our starters--except for the tofu and beef cold platter--were equally delicious, as was our perfectly cooked and very spicy perch and the fantastic chicken soup.
OUR TIP: South Silk Road is famous for their homemade rice wine. We weren't in a rice wine drinking mood and instead drank expensive, fermented pu'er tea which is native to Yunnan. In our opinion, Chinese rice wine is never very delicious, but this is probably a good place to try it.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Frenchie wine bar

Drinking delicious wine in the street

Standing in rue du Nil, outside Frenchie Bar à Vins
Across the street, outside Frenchie restaurant
San Daniele 24-month cured ham with fresh almonds
Mortadella, mesclun and summer truffles
Foie Gras with cherry chutney
Terrine de campagne (country terrine) with piccalilli
Iberian ham (aged 4 year), AOC Dehesa de Extremadura, served with tomato bread
Tuna tartar from St Jean de Luz served with beets and hazel nuts 
Smoked trout with avocado and pickled cucumbers
Braised tête de cochon, Coco de Paimpol beans, green apple and mustard seeds 
Napoléon with honey and summer truffles
Panacotta with raspberries and verbena
Chocolate with fleur de sel and olive oil
WC (behind white door), kitchen (the tiny nook next to WC) and bar
Bar and kitchen
LOCATION: Frenchie Bar à Vins, 5-6 rue du Nil, 75002 Paris
CATEGORY: Wine bar, Tapas, Spanish,  French
DRINK: Jacky Blot “Triple Zéro” Chenin Blanc (sparkling), Domaine de la Taille aux Loups
Domino do Bibei "Lalama" (2007) Ribeira Sacra
Prieure-Roch "Rouge" (2009)
Maxime Graillot, Cornas (2008)
WE THINK: Frenchie Bar à Vins is the newly opened microscopic wine/tapas bar across the street from one of the hardest reservations in Paris: Frenchie restaurant, where owner/chef Greg Marchand (nickname "Frenchie") himself daily cooks the famous 38 Euro 3-course prix fixe. Unlike the restaurant, the wine bar takes no reservations. Instead you get to wait outside, standing in the middle of tiny rue de Nil at dusk, drinking delicious wine, chatting to the friendly waiters and feeling pretty ok about not managing to get a table at Frenchie restaurant. We waited a little over an hour which was worth it. While some of the signature Frenchie dishes, such as the insanely delicious smoked trout, are also served in the wine bar, the wine bar menu is generally less refined and mainly consists of cold tapas. Aside from the trout, the braised pig's head, tuna tartar and heavenly Iberian ham were also memorably yummy.