An elaborate tasting menu makes for a decadent fusion dining experience
We were delighted to be in Beijing…an unexpected detour on an extended business trip brought us to the former 2008 Olympic city. Immediately Paul, I and a colleague (Andy) set out to find the most distinctive of culinary experiences, and so it was that Blu Lobster emerged on our radars. The Spanish chef, Jordi Villegas Serra, had come from a distinctive background including a 2-starred Michelin restaurant in Barcelona and a 3-starred Michelin restaurant in Paris. Rumour has it Chef Serra is now after his own Michelin star. We heard that tasting menu was not to be missed, and so notebook and camera in hand, we set off to the Shangri La Hotel to try for ourselves.
The tasting menu has several levels – from 3 courses at 388RMB / $57 USD / S$80.50 to 8 courses for 888RMB / $130 USD / S$184 . I choose the 4 course menu for 488RMB / $71.50 USD / S$101 , while the fellas chose the more ambitious 5 course menu for 588RMB / $86 USD / S$122. We agreed to each choose different options so that collectively we would all have the opportunity to try 14 dishes from the restaurant – so in this way, basically we were able to sample at least half of the menu.
For the first course we enjoyed…
- Tomato salad: tomato, mango and wild leaves salad with hazelnut dressing
- Pea Soup: fresh garden pea coup with beluga caviar
- Seared foie gras: served with roasted peaches, pomelo chutney and Thai basil
The tomato salad was really standout. Despite its humble description, it was presented cleverly in a chopped “tartare” style and the simplicity of the flavours combined with the freshest ingredients, made for a thoroughly enjoyable starter. We all agreed the pea soup was a nice idea, although not particularly special in its execution or flavour profile…somehow it was a “bit milky” as noted by Andy, which we all agreed did not work in its favour. And the foie gras was the classic presentation of heavy fat of the foie gras with a citrus / fruit element to cut through…it did its job and it was generally agreed this was a very solid dish.
For the second course the guys enjoyed…
- Baby cuttlefish: served with crispy bacon
- Scallops: pan seared hand diver scallops with crispy pork belly and cauliflower
It was a draw between these two…each was equally succulent in its pairing of seafood and flavourful pork fat. I mean who has ever met a dish with bacon or pork fat and been unhappy 😉
For the third course, we tried…
- Foie gras terrine: with pistachio crust and quince paste
- King Crab salad: with avocado, mushrooms and lemon dressing
- Suckling pig: crispy suckling pig, prepared confit for 24 hours
While the foie gras was again solid and the crab salad well executed, the real star of this course was the suckling pig. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, the pork was expertly prepared. So far the suckling pig was the highlight of the meal.
For our fourth course, we sampled…
- Sea bass: pan seared with black olive, basil, parmesan and potato gnocchi
- Tortellini: mozzarella and artichoke tortellini with aged balsamic vinegar and Spanish iberico ham
- Wagyu beef: grade 8, prepared with strawberries and red chutney
The sea bass was excellent…cooked to perfection with all the Mediterranean flavours combining in a simple, yet sophisticated way. And the waygu was also of note…a very unique combination of sweet fruit and buttery meat made the dish sing.
For our fifth and final dessert course, we tried…
- Raspberries: raspberries rhubarb millefeuille with lemon sorbet
- Strawberries “dulce lorena”: lavender, strawberries and coconut milk
- Chocolate: chocolate and walnut brownie with caramel and cocoa
The desserts might be where we were a little less wowed. Perhaps to be fair they were simply good, while the majority of the meal was great. So in comparison they did indeed suffer. However, the final bite was redeemed by a complimentary presentation of cookies and chocolates from the chef. The macaroons and chocolates with Sichuan pepper saved the day and ended the meal on a very sweet note.
We liked Blu Lobster…a lot. I wish it wasn’t it a sprawling big hotel in a not so convenient part of Beijing. In general, something about formal hotel dining experiences leaves me a little cold….I prefer a more boutique-y, individual setting with a distinctive charm (as opposed to international hotel gloss). However, Blu Lobster and Chef Serra delighted our palates which means, we will be back again.
Shangri La Hotel
29 Zizhuyuan Road
Telephone: +86 10 6841 2111