An elegant but casual new hotel restaurant is getting plenty of buzz in Beijing, Mike Peters reports.
Springtime in China is a season of awaking willows, sweet plum blossoms and bright, welcome sunshine. On the Beijing dining scene this year, it's the season when executive chef Jarrod Verbiak has come into his own at a new capital hot spot, Bistrot B.
As the luxury Rosewood Hotel entered its fifth month of a gradual soft opening, Verbiak was preparing dinner for the prestigious Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international association of gastronomy now established in more than 80 countries. A week later, Verbiak was on stage with his team to collect accolades at the Beijinger magazine's restaurant awards, including best new hotel restaurant and outstanding French (casual dining).
Chaine's Beijing chapter dinners attract gourmands from around China and beyond, including a lot of five-star hotel GMs. Verbiak - and the host hotel - were more than ready, greeting cocktail-hour guests with drunken shrimps in Shaoxing wine. Dinner began with a Bistrot B staple, golden chicken from local supplier Shunyi Farms, but served in a wrap with foie gras "en pressee", early spring asparagus and black-truffle vinaigrette.
The chef also drew inspiration from the regular menu to craft a slow-baked black cod, this one with scented fava beans, leeks and preserved lemon condiment.
If you are thinking this sounds like the sort of meal that can make French food painfully precious - with dainty portions that leave you hankering for a McDonald's stop on the way home - fear not. Verbiak, a longtime protege of celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, is no fan of itty-bitty food, and says he'd be a failure if you left his restaurant hungry.
Respectable portions start with starters. The charcuterie board is a generous sampling that includes a Verbiak trademark, a pate maison with artisanal mustard. You can also order that hearty, coarse, country-style pate a la carte - or opt for smoother turns of liver: a silky chicken-liver mousse or a foie gras au torchon with a dollop of lively spiced fig confit on the side.
At a recent lunch, the "roast of the day" was lamb leg, which was beautifully seasoned, sliced and served in a bean cassoulet. Olives gave the dish a bright, briny edge. Served with a farm-style salad, the daily special is 140 yuan ($22.50) - a mere bagatelle for such a savory feast.
Stars of the dinner menu include steak frites, duck-leg confit with cassoulet beans, Moroccan-style Merguez grilled lamb chops and the slow-baked black cod with bacon-wrapped endive and truffle au jus. Lighter appetites may be tempted by the superb Angus burger with cheddar cheese, crispy onions and smoked bacon - or its flossier cousin, the Wagyu beef burger with foie gras, black truffles and comte cheese. The spicy Merguez lamb is also available on a sandwich.
The restaurant boasts an extensive wine list and a shorter selection on the daily menu, including a smooth but robust bruciato that makes any accompanying red meat sit up and sing.
Still to come: The restaurant will open its outdoor courtyard soon, and there are plans for a Sunday brunch. As the hotel's soft-opening evolves, look for a hotpot restaurant next month.
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Chef Jarrod Verbiak prepares dishes at Bistrot B at Rosewood Hotel in Beijing. The new eatery in the capital features a variety of treats including (clockwise from top left) the foie fras burger, a pate maison with artisanal mustard and the roast lamb shank. Photos Provided To China Daily