Temple Restaurant Beijing

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Shatan Houjie
Temple Restaurant Beijing
Food
Award
Winner
2014
2013
2012

Time Out says... 4 5Users say 5/5 Rate it

First published on 10 Sep 2012. Updated on 8 Oct 2014.
It took well over a year for Ignace Lecleir, the man who helped launch Maison Boulud à Pekin, to open the doors to his Temple. And we waited patiently through different trials of pop-up and private events, while the exacting Belgian master of the dining room practised perfect. The restaurant is set within the walls of a 600-year-old temple complex (the actual temple is housed at the back of the compound and saved for functions and events). The conversion is an impressive and delicate balance of the old and new: the bar at the entrance sits beneath ancient ceiling beams and leads to a newly constructed, sparse dining area with towering ceilings. There, smart Scandinavian furniture stands in subdued colours against a deep-grey canvas, like a painting waiting to happen. At night, however, it buzzes as Peng, the jovial, trilby-hatted concierge, brings you from your car into the restaurant and delivers you to the waiting staff – an army of service that kills you with kindness.
 
Once seated, the spoiling begins with tokens from the kitchen that last throughout the evening. The golden gougères are little crunches of cheese-infused air that give an explosion of flavour with each bite, while it’s hard not to fill up on the addictive bacon-and-cheese epi rolls.
 
The kitchen still has some kinks to work out in terms of seasoning: to salt or not to salt? The cauliflower velouté with seafood tartare (108RMB) is an example of sweetness that is one dimensional unless you wise up and stir in some salt to bring out the dish’s full potential. A silky slab of pan-fried foie gras is delightful with a purée of mushroomy cep, and is complemented wonderfully by escargot hidden in a ball of lightly fried crunch (148RMB). Not everything’s a hit, though. A ham and artichoke terrine (98RMB) is a lost cause, more like a paté from the ghetto. The oxtail tortellini (108RMB) are three golden ingots in a pool of sweet port jus. If the pasta could yield some toothsome firmness, it might be something to fight over.
 
There is a star on the menu called ‘pot-roasted lobster with smoked aubergine caviar’ (290RMB); this painterly dish is scattered with sections of lobster that have been brilliantly cooked in their flavourful shell, and quenelles of eggplant that revel in a veil of light smokiness. They’d be magical if served warm. It comes with an artichoke barigoule that is both out of season and impossible to notice. A sliver of crisp eggplant leaps out, feathery and light, bringing a harmony of texture and visual ‘ooh-la-la’ beside brushes of golden sauce. The grilled veal chop (230RMB) lacks the smoky char of a grill, but it’s meaty and robust with a jus that’s slick and enriched by tinges of surprising sweetness. Like other menu items, it suffers from spring fever in winter with asparagus and morels.
 
Fish lovers will delight in splendid options like the excellent slabs of pale salmon in artfully drizzled squid ink. Beautiful and sexy, it’s tenderly steamed with naked simplicity and the purest of flavours shining through. Likewise, the black cod (240RMB) is unctuously poached in olive oil and is allowed to stand out in its simplicity for all that its flavour merits, lying beside a stroke of creamy spinach that cozies up effortlessly.
 
Desserts (68RMB) are mostly classical, with a chocolate tart that will please but a tarte Tatin that borders on boring. The hot pistachio soufflé is decadently filled with sauce and sided by bitter French chocolate ice cream that’s wicked.
 
Lecleir’s background as a sommelier is recalled when you order wine and his precise movements are an unforgettable performance. His orchestrated movements to open a bottle of wine are executed like a dance, with each movement smack-down perfect. Unlike the fluffy marshmallows served tableside in the end, wine is the one thing at Temple that is not a gift.
 
While the prices in Temple aren’t complete giveaways, they are exceptionally reasonable. The restaurant offers brilliant two-to five-course menus for 248RMB, 348RMB or 428RMB. Even more impressive is the three-course lunch menu that changes bi-weekly – plus all the kitchen gifts – for 135RMB. Weekends offer an inclusive brunch for 350RMB. 
 
With high expectations surrounding the man who worked miracles by bringing upscale levels of service to Beijing, Ignace Lecleir is the man of the moment at his finest hour, at your service. So enter the Temple and prepare to be spoiled. 
 
This review differs from that printed Time Out Beijing's March 2012 issue.
Lillian Chou

Details

Open
11.30am-2.30pm, Mon-Fri; 6pm-10pm, Mon-Sat; Brunch 10.30am-3pm, Sat-Sun.

Telephone 8400 2232

English address 23 Shatan Houjie, (off Wusi Dajie at the end of the lane), Dongcheng district

Chinese address 东城区五四大街以北,沙滩北街23

Events at Temple Restaurant Beijing

Fri 17 Oct - Sat 27 Dec (Every Friday,Saturday)

Be an early bird to dinner and receive a free three-course lunch at Temple Restaurant Beijing

06 Nov , 07 Nov

Part nine of TRB's An International Impression series of guest chefs

20 Nov , 21 Nov

The final installment this year of TRB's An International Impression series of guest chefs

Comment

Posted by : antoine on 27/03/2014 15:06:30
5/5
Always a hit never a miss. Wine pairings at its best and very generous
Posted by : Yves Drzemala on 20/03/2014 15:26:34
5/5
I've been there few times and never have been disappointed. Ultimate food experience.
Posted by : May on 18/03/2014 15:55:13
5/5
Nice environment in the temple, sweet service and great foods.
Posted by : monica on 16/03/2013 22:09:42
5/5
good!!
Posted by : Jack on 23/08/2012 15:40:05
3/5
Bring back the old brunch menu! I"ve been to TRB for dinner once and brunch three times, and never got tired of their well-prepared and quirky dishes, excellent service and relaxed yet chic atmosphere. Love the handsome sommelier, the charming barman, the delightful waitresses and the subtle decor. I did, once, also believe this to be the only place in Beijing which made authentically Western food that locals could enjoy with equal gusto. However, the new brunch menu has removed a lot of what made TRB such a great option for this most critical of social meals. The huge array of set dishes are gone, including the wonderful terrines and pate platter with vinegar aspic. The free coffee and fruit juice is a distant memory, meaning a glass of mediocre OJ will set you back. Thankfully, the endless pastries remain, but you"ll have to fork over extra money, and TRB isn"t cheap, for anything more than hot water to wash them down with. The marvellous waitstaff were nonetheless visibly discomfited by my partner"s mother, an old-school Chinese grande dame who wanted more light, veg-heavy options than were available - indeed, vegetarians will find their choices cruelly restrictive, and also have to deal with a lot of rare, bloody red meat. In the end, she had to resort to drinking vinegar in hot water just to cut through the grease. There"s either butter, cream, cheese or some derivative in almost every dish, so those hoping to impress usually unadventurous Chinese friends, or, God forbid, vegans, will likely depart hungry. Even I, a committed omnivore, found the lack of variety in terms of heft and flavor somewhat disappointing, and left with a slightly upset stomach. I won"t give up on TRB, not yet, as I still feel it has more to recommend it than to criticize, but I"ll struggle to recapture my they-can-do-no-wrong optimism on my next visit.

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