Miss Gioia

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Beijing Restaurant Review: Cepe

Whenever people ask me how Beijing and Shanghai are different, I usually like to begin by talking about restaurants. Shanghai is a business city, where people like to make deals over a glass of baijou, wine or sake. If you ask me for a restaurant recommendation in Shanghai, I will counter with - what kind of food? Chinese (Shanghaiese, Dim sum, Szechuan, or Hot pot), Japanese (Tepankyaki, Udon or Sushi), French, Vietnamese, American, or Western fusion? In Beijing, where politics is king and expense accounts slimmer, choices are more narrow. I have only three or four restaurants that I will enthusiastically endorse in Beijing; that's it.

My repertoire just expanded, though. Chris and I spent an evening with friends at Cepe, which is the Italian restaurant at the Ritz. Cepe is a french word for mushroom (weird, yes). True to its name, this place specializes in mushrooms of all kinds, including truffles.

Wow. It was outstanding. Perhaps one of the best restaurants I have been to - ever. Really. One of our friends knows the chef, so we were well taken care of, but I am sure that the food would be excellently prepared for everyone. If you are in Beijing and need a restaurant for a client dinner, for a celebration or even just for a break from cheap Chinese food (yeah, you know what I am talking about), this is the place.

On the way out of the restaurant, the chef showed us the humongous house mushroom storage closet. It is a big cabinet with many drawers where the restaurant stores dried porcini, portabello, oyster, morel and also grows its own on big dirt logs. This closet looked like a sleek, floor to ceiling, stainless steel humidor, with piles of mushrooms instead of tobacco. It was the coolest thing.

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