TRB Forbidden City (formerly TRB Bites)

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95 Donghuamen Dajie
TRB Bites has been reinvented (as of late-March 2017) as TRB Forbidden City. Details are scarce at the moment but we've been told that it's going to broadly repeat the strokes of the original – that is to say, dining there is going to be an Experience with a capital E – but overlooking Beijing's most iconic site.

There's no word yet as to whether they're planning to recreate the TRB menu or try something a little different, but we can't wait to sink our fangs into carefully realised takes on French classics either way. We'll update this page with more soon.

Original review

Living in the shadow of an older sibling is always a tough experience, especially when said sibling is an award-winning stalwart of Beijing’s fine dining scene. The TRB group is known for its opulence and impeccable
service, and there is no doubt that TRB Bites – its new ‘casual and modern eatery’ – will be held to extremely high standards. Curious to see if the masters of white-gloved fine dining can really pull off a casual dining experience, we loosened our ties, let our hair down and headed over to check out the new digs.

Spread over the three floors of The Courtyard – the former home of chef Brian McKenna’s namesake eatery – the dining rooms and bar sit on the edge of the Forbidden City’s eastern moat. At the door, we’re greeted by a waistecoat-clad host in perfectly pressed jeans – from the first, it's clear Bites is trying hard to convince us it’s ‘casual’, but as we are whisked to a crisp, white linen-laid table, we aren’t exactly buying it. The smart dining room is dimly lit with bare, cream coloured walls; illuminated recycled bottles filled with lilies are the only adornment. As we sit listening to the eclectic mix of electronic music, we can’t quite figure out what sort of vibe Bites is going for. A glance at the menu reveals a friendly price point, but as the staff begin their meticulous ballet, we notice the similarities between Bites and TRB.

Our server explains that Bites has a ‘make-your-own menu’, where guests can create a bespoke meal by choosing three to five courses – choose from a selection of around 20 dishes and you're on your way.

Before we’ve even ordered, our table is quickly filled with a variety of amuse-bouche – ‘Bites’ indeed. We enjoy the glass ramekins stuffed with tangy salmon and dill, and TRB’s signature Parmesan puffs: crispy, oozy and umami-laden.

We begin our five-course journey with bone marrow that was under-seasoned, greasy and lacking balance. Not a good start. Next up is the sea bass; while slightly overcooked, the pungent saltiness of the blue cheese foam and sweetness of the romesco puree are wonderfully complementary. The highlight of the meal is undoubtedly the snapper. The buttery white bean puree and almond foam melts in your mouth, with crispy flakes of chorizo adding crunch to every bite. Like the sea bass, the lamb loin is a tad overdone but full of flavour. The medallions are pan-fried and served with wholegrain mustard, sweet onion jam and a silky cheese and potato puree.

For dessert, interesting chocolate and milk textures are laid over a chocolate crumble, and a selection of petits fours, including TRB’s famous madeleines, are the perfect sweet treat to end the evening.

For a pleasant meal with world-class service at an unbeatable price point, TRB Bites delivers. For us, however, there’s still some work to be done defining the personality of the space. Operating in the shadow of a restaurant as successful as TRB is no easy task. TRB Bites is growing into its own, just a bit slower than we might have hoped.

Venue name: TRB Forbidden City (formerly TRB Bites)
Contact:
Opening hours: Open 11.30am-11.30pm Mon-Fri; 10.30am-11.30pm Sat-Sun
Email: forbidden@trb-cn.com
English address: 95 Donghuamen Dajie, Dongcheng district
Chinese address: 东城区东华门大街95号

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