For years, the Kempinski’s Trattoriala Gondola watched Beijing’s food scene develop. Now playing catch-up, the restaurant has been renovated and rebranded as Via Roma, a spacious, open-all-day affair. But not all culinary roads lead to Rome.
Via Roma’s most obvious addition is the cart that the waiters wheel right up to your seat. Order one of their 100-plus wines by the glass, or opt for a nibble of cheese, and they’ll slog right through the restaurant to reach you. It’s cute, but if you’re ordering a la carte you’ll barely see any action – expect to hoot and holler to get any attention.
The décor is like a mock-up of an Italian bistro without any of the rustic charm – the lighting’s so bright it’ll seriously dent your dinner companion’s attractiveness. Unfortunately, this clinical lack of authenticity extends to the cuisine as well. Beef carpaccio (158RMB) uses decent-quality slivers of meat, but lacks any flavour – even a hint of salt would be a boon. Supposedly there are some truffles in there, which would justify the cost. You’d have to be Sherlock Holmes to find them, though.
The gnocchi (168RMB) is clumsily formed and arrives at the table claggy and loose. Neither of the accompanying sauces save the dish, either – the tomato is bland; the white Alfredo a dull glop.
At least our veal osso buco (288RMB) was cooked properly. The fork-tender meat – its glorious marrowbone intact – is bathed in a rich, spiced gravy just waiting to be mopped up with a piece of bread. We chose to ignore the tasteless saffron risotto it came with, a paltry pile of soggy Chinese white rice. Sadly, the desserts couldn’t bring smiles back to our faces. Olive oil panna cotta (88RMB) might sound interesting,but the stiff, savoury reality had our forks down after one bite.
Once upon a time, such limp offerings might have been acceptable. But Beijing now has a surfeit of decent Italian eateries. Via Roma tries to market itself as down-to-earth, but they’re not fooling anyone. This is overpriced, underworked bistro food with fine-dining prices