Add: 3/F, Xinhua Bookstore, 1829 Beijing Xi Lu, near Wanhangdu Lu / 北京西路1829号, 近万航渡路
Tel: 3372 7600
Price: [lunch] 50~100 RMB [dinner] 150~200 RMB
Visited on: 2012-08
Please note that this is an arranged tasting.
Hidden on the 3rd floor of the newly opened Xinhua Bookstore is Bouquet, a small wine bar with the ambience of a cozy, secluded attic. As the name suggests, the focus here is wine – there are some 100 choices by the bottle and a dozen or so by the glass – but the dinner menu is actually also quite attractive in itself. Executive chef Rafael Qing, formerly of Maya, has created a range of dishes that blend the east and west, with sizes that are meant to be shared. Could this be your new after-work hangout?
I particularly liked this corner of the room.
Wine, wine, wine, with Riedel glasses.
For those looking for a quiet space to read in the afternoon, this row facing the window might be a good choice.
Heritage de Baroncourt Blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Aude, France 2010.
We started with a plate of Harbin sausage (45 RMB), its intense smoky flavor smoothly complemented by a mild horseradish aioli.
Truffle foie gras mousse (98 RMB), topped with sour cherry port wine jelly, mixed nuts, and served alongside toasted brioche. This is one of the more popular dishes at Bouquet and was very well-received by our table, though I personally prefer a thicker, parfait-like texture (think Mr. and Mrs. Bund’s foie gras light crumble…)
What I found interesting was that the foie gras mousse was served with spoonfuls of…truffle honey! I’ve came across this on Gilt Taste before and have always wondered what it tastes like, and the chef was kind enough to show us the jar itself (he uses a different brand though). I took a sniff and, oh my, the smell was so strong that it was overpowering. Apparently the key is to leave the honey out for a minute before serving, so that the aroma mellows out a little.
Charcuterie platter (85 RMB/half) of Jinhua ham, spianata salami, bresoala, herb-marinated mushrooms, and grilled house-pickled chilies.
Bouquet’s beef tartare (75 RMB) is made with Australian grain-fed beef, capers, radish, and quail egg yolk. There’s also a bit of pomegranate juice mixed in for added tartness, though to be honest my palate wasn’t discerning enough to tease that out.
After so much meat, it was rather refreshing to see a plate of honey roasted pumpkin salad (45 RMB) with baby spinach, green beans, Mozzarella, pumpkin seeds, dressed in sherry vinaigrette.
Followed by shrimp dumplings (58 RMB) with mushroom salad, white truffle essence, miso butter sauce.
Our first main course, Peking duck pizza (95 RMB), is the most popular dish at Bouquet. This was not my first time trying a Peking duck pizza – I had my first bite of this at a California Pizza Kitchen branch in Boston a long time ago – but Bouquet’s rendition is quite different. For one, the pizza dough actually a pan-fried flour tortilla (the same type used to wrap Peking duck), and the chef substituted regular Peking duck sauce with a ginger hoisin sauce. The size is not huge, but it’s laden with succulent slabs of roast duck, making it a rather rich dish that’s best shared.
Perhaps most memorable of the evening was roasted Inner Mongolian lamb loin (139 RMB), served with a smear of sweet green pea purée, ratatouille, and sour cream mint crème. The lamb loin, left overnight in a sour cream marinate, was surprisingly tender and intensely flavorful. I also quite enjoyed the ratatouille, with a hint of cumin.
When it came down to desserts, the chef explained that he’s still working on this part of the menu, but the chocolate fondant cake he offered us was already quite delicious.
Cheesecake, on the other hand, was not so impressive – it tasted like it’s been sitting in the fridge for a while, perhaps because it’s not made in-house.
Despite the hiccup in desserts, dinner at Bouquet was charming. They are also open for lunch and afternoon tea, so why not drop by for a light meal and read a few books while you are here? I spotted a few interesting titles on the bookshelf (e.g. Noma and Ladurée), and wouldn’t mind coming back one afternoon to flip through these…