The iceman cometh: Beijing's best cold dishes

The mercury may be dropping, but these raw dishes are intense year-round

Marinated Scampi Tartare, Opera Bombana

For raw pleasure, sensory delight and carnal indulgence, few places deliver better than Opera Bombana. In the hands of chef de cuisine Marino D’Antonio, lightly marinated giant live scampi are creamy, sweet and bursting with sea spray flavour. Ingots of orange Chantilly cream and ripe tomato emulsion alternate bright and sweet, savoury and rich, while the occasional burst of delicate beluga caviar cements this dish among the great raw seafood preparations. Oh, and top that fat spoonful of beluga with gold leaf, because it’s good to be the king. 238RMB plus 10 percent service. Available by special request.


Beef Tomato Lobster Garum, Sureno

With Talib Hudda, formerly of The Georg, taking over the kitchen at The Opposite House’s Mediterranean restaurant Sureno, you can expect a decidedly Nordic take on the Med from now on. For Hudda’s rendition of the classic beef tartare, tenderloin is chopped and pounded into rippling sheets of red, topped with a sundried tomato and lobster-head garum emulsion, garnished with grapes infused with sherry vinegar and dried fennel. The traditionally rich dish takes on a new, more herbaceous, dimension thanks to the creamy seafood and tomato sauce. 188RMB plus 10 percent service, 6 percent VAT. Available by special request until the official menu launch in early 2017.


Bistrot Steak Tartare, Bistrot B

The years working under some of the greatest French chefs of our time have clearly left their mark on Jarrod Verbiak. As chef de cuisine at Bistrot B he aims his well-trained eye squarely at pure French gastronomic perfection. A humble steak tartare, in Verbiak’s hands, is a modern classic. Hand-chopped tenderloin and sirloin, because tenderloin alone would be too lean, is mixed – again by hand – with shallots, cornichons and plenty of good Dijon mustard before being topped with an organic egg yolk and salty anchovy fillets. The texture of the beef is preserved and the savoury accoutrements elevate the flavour. With a glass of pinot noir from Burgundy, what could be finer? 138RMB plus 10 percent plus 6 percent VAT.


Horsemeat Carpaccio with Olive Tapenade, Vin Vie

Japanese-French inspired bistro-cum-izakaya-cum-wine bar Vin Vie’s horsemeat carpaccio with olive tapenade is good enough to win over the most avid of Black Beauty fans. Exceedingly fresh, lean horse tenderloin is thinly sliced and topped with minced olives, olive oil, plenty of sliced green onions and a squeeze of fresh lemon for an added citrusy zip that helps bring out the naturally grassy undertones of the meat. Smooth ribbons of meat wrapped around a filling of juicy olive tapenade make for a stunning combination of texture and flavour. 55RMB.


Dropped Fish Scarpetta, Mio

Ever the iconoclast, Chef Nello Turco’s scarpetta is more modernist work of art than starter. Based on a classic codfish ceviche, this Mio masterpiece is best consumed by hand. Supple chunks of black cod wrapped in seaweed are the perfect brush for the palette of ten different, vibrantly coloured sauces on the plate. Add a splash of green from the pistachio, a yellow hue from the saffron and Mio cheese sauce, or a deep purple flourish of purple carrot on a matte of white almond. Throw caution to the wind, you would-be-Pollock you. 238RMB plus 15 percent service.


North Korean Live Uni, Okra 1949

Modern Japanese eatery Okra takes the winter season very seriously, and Chef Xuan doesn’t miss a beat – snatching up the finest North Korean live sea urchin for this dish. When the cool northern waters around the Korean peninsula turn colder, the live urchins arrive in Beijing, live, hours before being layered atop a generous pool of dashi jelly and topped with a 'sea water foam', a mild take on their flavourful dashi. The creamy yellow uni is a symphony of ocean flavours, sweet at first and fading into a slight bitter ocean rock finish. A dusting of Okra’s lemon salt and sea urchin powder help the flavour linger long after the last bite. 120RMB plus 10 percent service. Subject to availability.
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