Restaurant review: Starfish in Beijing, China

March 28, 2014

A restaurant I like to patronize in Beijing is Starfish, just across the street from the Australian and Canadian embassies.

A few weeks back, on a beautiful Sunday morning, I had lunch there again, a lunch which did not disappoint me.

Starfish

Starfish menu and Coriole info

I was quite surprised to find an add on my table ecouraging the diner to order a wine from Australia. In this case it was from Coriole, a winey in South Australia which I had visited some years ago. I love Coriole wines. The place belomgs to the “must see” category if you travel in this part of Australia. However, the price was a bit on the high side (more than 300 Yuan RMB).

Starfish F

My fish dish

I ordered a white fish dish. The portion looked small, but was perfectly able to fill my stomach, and satify my taste buds.

I ordered a bottle of the house wine, a wine from Chile. Because of a free trade agreement between China and Chile, the bottle costs about half what the Coriole wine was priced.

Starfish W

Long Country, Sauvignon Blanc from Chile

The Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Carolina, one of the largest wine producers in Chile, is of course an “industrial wine”.

Nonetheless, it shows an aromatic nose with hints of lemon and tangerine. On the palate, there’s the characteristic grass hints and some citrus. It’s dry and light and matched my choice of a fish dish perfectly.

The restaurant was rather empty at themtime of the day I visited. As always the service was very attentive and professional. At Starfish you get quality for your money.

Check it our yourself when in Beijing.

Advertisements

Fine dining in China: Capital M in Beijing

June 20, 2013

Capital M Beijing

Captital M

Many of you know that Capital M is one of my favourite restaurants in Beijing, China. I try to dine there at least once every visit. On my last visit, I went with my friend Brian Wallace, the owner-director of Red Gate Gallery. We had ordered a table for dinner on a mild spring evening. We both needed a treat, and a treat it turned out to be.

???????????????????????????????

The wine list

I love the wine selection of Capital M, and decided on a wine from Sancerre. The ‘2008 Domaine Fouassier’ by Domaine Fouassier was a lovely Sauvignan Blanc. This was my first time that I tasted wine from this producer, and I should not regret it.

The Fouassier family is one of the oldest wine producing families in Sancerre. Today the estate covers about 56 ha, 80% planted to Sauvignon Blanc, 20% to Pint Noir.

This wine is aged in oak barrels where it remained on lees for about ten months. It displays the fine acidity, the aromas and complexity one expects from a wine from Sancerre. I loved the sound structure and the long finish.

The grapes come from old vines. The winery prides itself with its organic agricultural and bio-dynamic methods. It was a good choice and I have to look out for more wines from this producer.

???????????????????????????????

2008 Domaine Fouassier, Sancerre

I urgently needed some green stuff and started with a salad with some beetroots pieces. The wine was perfect for this food pairing.

???????????????????????????????

Beetroot salad

I am not someone who likes the fancy recipes. I like solid-rural, more agrarian and artisan food not the highly refined output from modern kitchens.  So my choice was red meat which did not exactly match my choice in wine. Since Brian did not feel like another bottle, I stayed with the Sancerre. But I am sure some of the reds from the wine list of Capital M would have been a lovely match.

???????????????????????????????

My beef fillet on potato mash

The beef was just awesome, what a great dish, what a great evening. If you want to spoil yourself, get going, book a table and enjoy a meal at Capital M. It’s worth it, trust me.

When we left and had said our good-byes, I went on a stroll on Tiananmen square which was completely deserted and void of people. I was rewarded with this view of the entrance of the forbidden city. A visit to Beijing can be quite delightful.

???????????????????????????????


An “artists lunch” in 798 Art Zone 艺术区 in Beijing, China

June 14, 2013

???????????????????????????????

Utrans Wines Culture Center in Beijing

I wanted to visit the 798 artists village since a very very long time but in the past had never found the time to do so. Last spring when I visited Beijing again I especially took time out for a visit tot he many art galleries in 798 Art Zone.

I was particularly interested in the On/Off exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art 尤伦斯当代艺术中心(UCCA. The Center had commissioned 50 artists and artists groups born after 1975 to express their ideas about freedom. All of them were born after the so called Cultural Revolution. All of them have grown up in a China of radical change characterized by market reforms and increased individual freedom. On/Off comes from the graphical interface of a common VPN which allows access to the internet and the outside world or not, depending on the speed of the censors and the energy of the user to find the loop.

I just loved the exhibition and the Ullens Center and was glad that I had come. Visiting galleries makes tired and hungry but luckily I found refuge in the above Utrans Wines Culture Center just across the street from the Ullens Gallery.

???????????????????????????????

Utrans: Bar and tables

Some of the Christmas decoration was still hanging but the cherry tree outside was in full bloom. Spring was in the air and every body was in a boisterous mood.

???????????????????????????????

At the back of the place were shelves full with various bottles of wine from various wine regions including Germany. The colours of the decoration suggested that a recent event might have showcased Italian wines. Utrans is a Xiamen based wine importer.

The dilemma of entering such a Mecca of fermented grape juice alone is that a bottle is quasi out of the question, and one has the choice among the house wines only. I settled on a French red.

???????????????????????????????

The bottles revealed the following:

???????????????????????????????

2010 AMBAR from Bordeaux

2010 AMBAR Grand Vin de Bordeaux, 13% which was bottled by an winery in Gironde. It was a decent house wine, more pedestrian in character but drinkable with red fruit aromas  and a decent finish.When I later googled the wine I could not find any useful information.

After a while I decided that wine without food would be like sex without orgasm and I had a look at the food menu. I settled for a salad and a salmon pasta. And here as an old China hand I should have been less trusting and/or more knowledgeable. The salad was a positive surprise: the mushrooms were warm which gave the whole affair a special character. The portion was huge.

???????????????????????????????

Warm mushrooms on a bed of green salad.

The pasta turned out to be Chinese noodles. The stuff was edible though, but not what the title suggested. What is al dente (?) in the case of Chinese noodles anyway; that’s a no go. The dish doesn’t look to bad in the picture I should have definitely ordered some Chinese food but not pasta. I have only myself to blame. After more than 30 years coming to China I should have known better.

???????????????????????????????

My Chinese noodle dish with salmon

Would I go there again, you might ask? The answer is: absolutely.

The waitress was very friendly, the service good and the atmosphere just right.

I will come again and explore some more of the 798 Art Zone and its culinary delights.

Beijing is awesome. Have fun and explore the 798 Art Zone. It’s worth it.

Address: 798 Art Zone
Ceramic 3 St. 798 Road, 798 Art District,
4. Jiuxianqiao Road/Chaoyang District
Beijing P.O. Box 8503

朝阳区酒仙桥路4号
P.R. China


Shopping for wine in Beijing – Cheers near People’s University

April 17, 2013

???????????????????????????????

Cheers at Renmin University

The other day, when I took a stroll from the Friendship Hotel in Beijing where I stayed during my recent visit, I came also across the Cheers wine shop at Renmin University (People’s University). I knew this shop from earlier visits, and was curious to know what it had on offer.

???????????????????????????????

I was surprised to find even a few wines from Germany: Two off-dry Riesling wines from my native Mosel and a Pinot Noir from the Pfalz.

???????????????????????????????

2011 Peter & Peter Pinot Noir by Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller

I had never before heard about the “Peter & Peter” brand but could not resist to buy and later try this wine. I did not regret it. After my return from a business dinner with lovely Chinese food but without table wine, I opened the Pinot Noir and enjoyed it as a night cap.

???????????????????????????????

Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller is a wine company in Zell, Mosel with about 300 employees and vineyards and wineries in the Mosel and Pfalz wine regions.

Jancis Robinson awarded this wine a 15 out of 20 points. The sales price varies. I found websites where you could order it for 8 to 10 EURO/bottle; in Canada it is available for about 19-20 C$.

Before taxes one can have it in Thailand for 356 Bath. But remember that the luxury tax in Thailand is considerable (400%).

For me it was great to enjoy this fine specimen of German wine so far away from my native land.


Chinese wine at Starfish restaurant in Beijing

April 15, 2013

???????????????????????????????

Starfish entrance

While in Beijing the other day, I was invited for a meal at Starfish Restaurant opposite the Canadian Embassy. I had been there before but my last visit was some time ago.

???????????????????????????????

The restaurant

It is a very pleasant place with good service and good food. I ordered one variation of the menu of the day. This usually comes with a glass of wine.

???????????????????????????????

Chinese 1421 Chardonnay

When I later asked the waitress what wine it was, I was surprised to learn that she had served me a Chinese ‘2010 Silver Chardonnay’ from 1421 Wines.

???????????????????????????????

Silver Chardonnay from 1421 Wines

This Chardonnay is a very decent wine and I was pleasantly surprised (see tasting notes). I also love it when food is served with locally grown wine and not some foreign stuff.

In Thailand for instance is it very difficult to have a local wine accompanying the meal. In most places only international wines are on offer. There are some exception from this rule, some of which you can find on my blog.


My pre Christmas lunch in Beijing at Capital M

January 29, 2012

The Christmas tree at the entrance to Capital M in Beijing

As some of you know already, one of my favourite restaurants in Beijing is Capital M at Qianmen with its terrace overlooking Tiananmen square.

During a trip in mid-December, I had the opportunity to dine their again. It was another one of these occasions when I was ready for a treat.

A Christmas tree in the hall welcomed me this time. The whole of Beijing was full of Christmas decoration and Christmas songs were blasted from every loudspeaker in town, so it seemed.

The interior of Capital M

December view of Tian an men

The enlightenment – Bread and butter

I had come from the Enlightenment exhibition at the National Museum of China, and craved for a meal in a nice location, so my natural choice was Capital M at the south end of Tiananmen square with its warm atmosphere and splendid surroundings.

The art of the enlightenment exhibition, by the way, is a wonderful display of one of the most significant times in European history, and I was glad that I had finally found the opportunity to attend the event which is basically celebrating human freedom.

I had even bought the catalogue and had ample time to browse through it while dining at Capital M.

The lunch menu

It was not difficult to choose my meal. Unfortunately, I was by myself and hesitated to order a bottle of wine. Instead I went for the house wine by the glass which allowed me to taste two wines. Naturally, I went for the house wine which I knew from my earlier visits.

The Capital M house wine comes from Angoves, a family-owned and run winery in South Australia has supplied Capital M for two decades already.

I love the wines made by Angoves Family Winemakers which celebrated its 125 year anniversary in 2011.

Capital M’s wine list is very impressive. There is a short list with about 300 wines to choose from and a long list which makes you faint in delight.

Beetroot tart with glazed shallots, mild goats’ cheese and candied walnuts

This is just an awesome dish, smooth and full of flavours. It dissolves in the mouth and the white wine was just the right counterpoint.

A white wine from Angoves Family Winemakers

Pumpkin and almond ravioli in a sage and butter sauce

I did not feel “meaty” and therefore went for the non conventional pasta (how can you put pumpkin in a pasta?).

This is a wonderful composition of different ingredients with distinct flavours. The sage and butter sauce blows you away. My taste-buds had a wild party. The spiciness of the Shiraz accentuated the experience.

A glass of red wine by Angoves

Capital M has been founded by Michelle Garnaut, the well-known Melbourne-born restaurateur, and is the recipient of an impressive list of awards. I also like the GM, Espen Harbitz, who is always present, greeting the guests and asking for feedback.

If you should visit Beijing in the water dragon year, a meal at Capital M should be part of your itinerary.

Address:
Capital M
3/F, No.2 Qianmen Pedestrian Street
(just south of Tian’anmen Square)
Beijing 100051 China
中国北京市前门步行街2号3层
邮编 100051
Tel.: +86-10-6702-2727
Fax: +86-10-6702-3737
www.m-restaurantgroup.com


Restaurant review: Capital M, Beijing

October 22, 2011

City gate and Tian an men square seen from Capital M, Beijing

When in Beijing I try to visit at least two places, both my favourite destinations: Red Gate Gallery run by my old friend Brian Wallace and Capital M is a wonderful eatery located right next to the South gate of Tian an men square with a splendid terrace with a great view,. The former I visit to immerse my senses in modern Chinese art, the latter to indulge in good food and enjoy fine wines.

Both places you should visit if in Beijing.

Part of the terrace at Capital M

The menu

A picture of parts of the wine list

I was with a dear friend of mine, and we were ready for lunch after a walk around Tian an men square. We made our way to Capital M. One has a great view from the terrace. It was a sunny autumn day, just the right temperature to sit on the terrace and have lunch.

I did not feel “meaty” and ordered some greens as a starter and a seafood pasta as a main. Needless to say, the food was most delicious. Awesome, especially after days of “only” Chinese food (I do not complain, Beijing has wonderful eateries with great Chinese food), I am craving for something else.

Salad and veggies

Seafood pasta

I was delighted to find a ‘2010 Sauvignan Blanc’ by Shaw and Smith from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc by Shaw and Smith

Shaw and Smith are one of the best producers of Sauvignon Blanc in Australia. The wine is bone dry. Aromas of grapefruit and lime came to my nose with some floral notes as well. It is crisp and clean. This medium bodied wine has a great balance, good acidity and a long finish.

And after lunch, a coffee

We had a very enjoyable lunch at Capital M. The service was, as always, perfect. This is value for money and if you happen to be in Beijing just check it out yourself.

Address:
Capital M
3/F, No.2 Qianmen Pedestrian Street
(just south of Tian’anmen Square)
Beijing 100051 China
中国北京市前门步行街2号3层
邮编 100051
Tel (86 -10) 6702-2727
Fax (86-10) 6702-3737