Chinese Cuisine in French Hospitality


One of the joys of being in Beijing is the proliferating opportunities to try and experience a mushrooming number of

restaurants.When Jan-Willem Hoes, Assistant Director of Food & Beverage at Sofitel Wanda Beijing, told me they were opening a new Chinese restaurant, I asked what style of food would be served, and he said "Lu Cai" or Shandong's iconic Lu cuisine. This is the most prominent cuisine among the eight major Chinese cuisines. And Quyan, the new Chinese restaurant at the hotel, as I was told will be serving Lu cuisine with a Beijing twist. This was so intriguing that I immediately requested for the kindness of Jan-Willem to arrange a tasting session for me.We met at the lobby for a Martini before dinner. I was happy that Jan-Willem joined me so that he could explain to me the dishes that were pre-arranged by Chef Hugo Zhang for the occasion. Chef Zhang hails from Shandong Province, the cradle of Lu cuisine. We entered and were greeted by the restaurant host, Lina Xie, who seated us at a nice round table with curved sofa seating. Carl Liu, the wine server, opened a bottle of 1421 Classic Chardonnay from Xinjiang Province to start my degustation journey. The restaurant is quite large and beautifully decorated. Its many private dining rooms, meant to be quiet and exclusive, are not visible from the main dining room and public area. Our first cold appetizer was Beijing Style Marinated Eggplant. Strips of eggplant about 1 inch wide were rolled to about the size of a small spool of thread. There were ten of them, topped with Pork Floss and sprinkled with plum powder for that subtle touch of sweetness. The dish was simple but had a nice combination of flavors for a nice start. Our next course was Fried Shandong Pancakes with Duck Liver. This was a "twist" on the traditional pancake recipe handed down a 1000 years ago which name was given by Empress Dowager Cixi. The presentation was beautiful and initially covered with smoke from dry ice. As the smoke cleared, the dish unfolded its colors and textures. There were 12 rolls of thin pancake strips topped with foie gras and a mixture of diced mango, dragon fruit, and green melon, garnished with three edible flowers. The rich combination of crispy pancakes and tender foie gras was balanced by the freshness and sweet, tangy tastes of fruits. The pairing of the dish with Chardonnay was exact. The following course was Stewed Sea Cucumber with Matsutake Mushroom & Baby Bok Choy. Served in a clear soup resembling consommé, the tender sea cumber was enhanced by the richness of Matsutake mushrooms and freshness of tiny Bok Choy. We enjoyed another glass of wine while waiting for our next course, which was Braised Bohai Sea Prawn served with Shrimp Skin Reduction Sauce. The big prawn, the size of a baby lobster, was leaning against a ball of white rice. The white plate was garnished with a tiny edible yellow flower surrounded by a golden rich sauce and green peas. The aroma was enticingly good. Taking a sip of the delightful white wine, I removed the head and shell from the prawn, cut it into three and dipped each piece in the sauce. The prawn, sauce, peas, and flowers, plus the wine came together as a delightful assemblage of tastes. After the prawn dish came the signature Jin Xing Farm Roast Duck roasted on wood of the date tree. Jin Xing Farm is located in Hebei Province which is known for its roast duck. The roast was carved tableside by the chef. Needless to say, the ritual of serving and eating roast duck were nothing new to me after so many years in Beijing. But more significantly, the crispy skin and tender flesh of the duck were not only an amazing contrast of textures and tastes, but also a bouquet of mouthwatering aroma that can only come from the fruit wood during the roasting.

After the roast came the Smoked BBQ Duck Hearts. Alisa Jia, our waitress finished the cooking over flaming Moutaibaijiu for a very unique set of flavors. Served on a bed of cilantro and onion were several precooked duck hearts, cut in layers not all the way through, allowing easy picking with the chopsticks over the flaming baijiu to gentle sear before serving on the plate. The flavors were strong, both in the meat and the added touch of liquor. This was a new and interesting experience for me. Waiter Jack Guo brought our next course, Stir-fried Asparagus with Lily Gingko. This was a light vegetable dish to follow up the rich tasting duck hearts. As sweet ending, our dessert consisted of glutinous rice cakes and glutinous rice rolls stuffed with red bean paste served in a wooden basket.This much I cansay:Quyan Chinese Restaurant, with its Chinese finesse and charm, matches the sophistication of Wanda Sofitel hospitality, and both come together in defining the feel that is "Magnifique"!