There’s not much I find worthy of traveling outside a five-mile radius of my home for. When my husband and I arrange date nights, we usually factor in how long it will take us to get to our destination and more importantly, after a couple of glasses of vino or bubbles, how quickly can we return to the comfy cove that is our sofa and swoon over our sleeping baby.
Rive Gauche is worth that trip outside my date-night-circle-of-trust, and if you have a similar way of deciding on where you will dine out without the kids, then this place is worth ditching the ‘local rule’ for and venturing out into the central heart of the city that is Wangfujing.
A modern oasis awaits, featuring a brand new rooftop terrace, chic bar, and cozy dining area. The staff was attentive and friendly and after approaching the reservation desk with my name, we were whisked off to our seats without delay, offered the wine menu, and asked if we wanted our water with bubbles or without.
Executive Chef Ivan Miguez is the creator behind the fusion French concept that is Eive Gauche. His career has taken him from France, to London, to Shanghai and Mexico and his take on casual fine dining with a Bistro feel is a welcome addition to the foodie scene in Beijing.
To start we ordered a medley of appetizers, followed by some recommendations made by the chef. The Beef Marrow (RMB 98) with tendon crackling, parsley and charred slices of baguette was as indulgent as it sounds. Presented beautifully with robust and heady flavors, matched perfectly with a bottle of Francis Thienpont Bordeaux (RMB 580), this one was a winner.
If an egg appears anywhere on a menu, I’m all over it. The Organic Egg (RMB 98) with crab mushroom, toasted shards of baguette, and parsley, had a brunch-esque feel. Silky egg yolk spills over woody mushrooms, which can gorgeously dress the homemade bread brought to the table once your order is in. It will be easy to demolish the bread served with red onion and salty anchovy butters, but delay the carb fest for this treat and mop up all the yolky deliciousness with something warm and crispy. Add a little sea salt to mix to lift everything upwards. Heavenly.
The Scallops appetizer (RMB 156) was clean and crisp, and by far was one of my favorites of the evening. Little morsels of tender scallops are dressed in Ponzu (a soy-based sauce, traditionally made with citrus fruit, and sweet rice wine), seaweed and hazelnut. The flavors are sweet but slightly sharp with citrus and would be a great accompaniment to a dry and crisp white wine. The same goes for the cold Smoked and Cured Mackerel (RMB 98), served with passion fruit, sour cream, and mint oil, made during a 78-hour process, fresh on the premises. This is a distinguished dish, but needed another texture to take it to higher plains. I would have loved to eat this dish with shards of crispy mackerel skin and a glass of their finest white.
Cote de Boeuf (RMB 148 + 298 for 2), served with beef fries and Béarnaise Sauce, was nicely cooked. My preference was pink, no blood, and it was almost there. The portion was generous but could have packed more of a punch with the seasoning. We decided to partner our slab of meat with Roasted New Potatoes (RMB 68) and Broccolini with Coffee Butter (RMB 68). The sides delivered what it says on the tin, and although the coffee butter was a nice touch, we were expecting this dish to provide something more adventurous and potent.
I’m all about desserts. I like sweetness and stickiness and usually anything that oozes out of the center of something chocolaty and warm. By recommendation, we were presented with popcorn (RMB 68), consisting of a chocolate mousse, salted caramel, and you guessed it – popcorn. I love sweetness with saltiness and this dish could definitely dare to be more risky with this timeless partnership. The popping candy seems to be all the rage at the moment in desserts but I could do without the novelty. The ice cream (RMB 68) was a miss for me and tasted more like a palette cleanser rather than a sumptuous and sweet end to a meal. Next time, I’ll try the Tarte Tatin (RMB 68) served with salted caramel ice cream. Sounds right up my street.
Apart from the tableside decanted wine, this spot, as designed, is casual fine dining and a wonderful environment in which to have a date night. Bring out-of-town friends after a spot of shopping, or for a girls night out, and take up residence at the bar where they serve perfectly balanced coffee Martinis. Wash it down while taking in the city view from the rooftop terrace. Summer is here, and this place is designed for warm nights with friends or a loved one.
The Puxuan Hotel, 1 Wangfujing Street, Dongcheng District (10 5393 6688)email@example.com(6.00pm – 10.00pm).
Photos: Nicole Bonnah, Rive Gauche Management