Sureno, the Mediterranean fine dining eatery at The Opposite House, has served as one of the cornerstones of the design-oriented boutique hotel’s food and beverage outlets since opening in 2008. But after close to eight years of continuous operation, the swanky Sanlitun mainstay was in need of some attention.
With a new front-of-house team led by Mostafa Zeineldin and a kitchen helmed by rising star Talib Hudda, formerly of Scandinavian fine dining spot The Georg, Sureno has received an injection of youth, enthusiasm and talent. The interior has been largely untouched, but the hand-tossed pizzas and tiramisu on which it built its name have been axed.
The décor will be familiar to regulars but the lighting, soundtrack and atmosphere could hardly be more different. A youthful buzz emanates from the former pizza bar, where Hudda has moved the bulk of the kitchen’s operations. Hudda’s team hustle from behind the bar, making the open kitchen feel like just that, and lends the dining room a palpable dynamism and sense of eagerness.
The menu at the new Sureno is leaner. Stripped back to the essential flavours, simple ingredients are prepared skillfully and presented with understated garnishes. Take the crunchy squid ink cracker resting on top of ribbons of salmon carpaccio (98RMB), for example, or the tamarind fruit leather’s gummy chew, which breaks up the creamy richness of a thin slice of torchon of foie gras (148RMB) punctuated with crunches of toasted buckwheat. Hudda has steered the kitchen towards the southern and eastern corners of the Med that Sureno had previously ignored, having in the past favoured the cuisines of Italy and Spain.
A smoked chestnut agnolotti (108RMB) with squid ink ash is the only pasta on the menu, a dramatic departure from the former incarnation. The intensely nutty aroma and perfectly al dente pocket of creamy chestnut, enriched with salty Parma ham and herbaceous sage and cream sauce, deliver enough heft on their own, while demonstrating a mastery of subtle, complex, flavours in an unorthodox riff on a classic. The menu is hardly austere, however, with a 48-hour slow-cooked Black Angus short rib (450RMB) that boasts a heady rush of intense beef flavour elevated by a lingering cloud of burnt thyme smoke.
The long wine list has gone too, replaced with a concise selection of eclectic wines spanning the gamut from old masters to New World up and comers, priced for real customers rather than precorruption- crack-down cadres. The new Sureno is just that, a fresh take for the here and now that has recaptured our attention.