Temple Restaurant Beijing
- When: October 2016
- Male DINK Rating: 11/15
- Female DINK Rating: 11/15
- Total Cost/Food Cost: $260
Temple Restaurant Beijing, or TRB as it’s referred to, is currently one of the top-rated restaurants in Beijing. The restaurant has a unique setting, being located within a renovated 600-year-old temple. And, the restaurant has some international street cred, as one of the owners previously worked at New York City’s Daniel and has worked with Daniel Boulud. As one of Beijing’s foremost fine dining restaurants, you can rest assured that if the Michelin Guide expands to Beijing (it recently expanded to include Shanghai), the inspectors will be headed to TRB.
We were able to secure a somewhat last-minute reservation on a Sunday night, and the email confirmation from the restaurant included two separate PDF maps – one of the general area and one a more detailed map of the hutong in which TRB is located. No subway stop is close, but we chose to ride the subway to the closest stop, which is Nanluoguxiang on Line 6. We then proceeded to walk south along Beiheyan Street. Using Google Maps, we ended up turning onto what appeared to be a side street that would lead us toward TRB, but were quickly greeted by a security guard who said “TRB?”
Speaking only Chinese, he gestured that we should turn around and take the previous side street instead. Apparently, we weren’t the first people to wander down this particular street (which appeared to be some sort of business parking lot or entrance). So, we wandered through poorly-lit hutongs, dodging bicycles and electric scooters. This is not the most attractive area, but while we may have felt a little uncomfortable, we never felt scared. After winding around a few alleyways, we arrived where Google Maps told us the restaurant was located, but this was just a small courtyard full of parked cars. No restaurant in sight. Luckily, there was a (full-time?) gentleman there to welcome us and lead us down an alleyway and to the restaurant. After going through the outer wall, there is a lovely open courtyard, with the restaurant entrance being straight ahead. We were greeted warmly and seated in no time.
The interior of TRB is modern and elegant, definitely exuding a fine dining atmosphere. The restaurant was full and remained so during our dinner. While there were a few diners dressed in coat and tie, most were more casually-dressed, with some in jeans and tennis shoes (locals). We were quickly offered water, and shortly thereafter, amuse bouche arrived.
After enjoying the first few small bites, a gentleman who appeared to be the manager (he looked to be overseeing operations and helping out all night) poured us complimentary glasses of champagne. A nice welcoming touch. We were then provided menus, which consisted of three real choices – two separate tasting menus of five courses each (one seasonal and one standard) and an a la carte menu to choose three to four courses. We chose the seasonal menu: “The Fabulous Fall Menu.”
The first course – Apple Foie Gras – arrived very quickly. The presentation was fun and the foie gras itself had a good taste and texture. While the small strings of green apples, apple chutney, and bits of white chocolate went well with the foie gras, it was difficult to get a good bite of all the ingredients at once.
And, as vibrant a color as the outside layer of the “apple” was, it lacked any sort of flavor. I think a sweet and potent apple flavor would have worked well. This dish was good; however, it had the potential to be better by including more of the supporting flavors.
The second course – Lobster and Beetroot – was served with better timing. I first tasted the lobster by itself and it wowed. The cool lobster (a very generous portion size) had a great texture and flavor, with a perfect amount of lemon. The beets and lobster sauce were good additions, and the cilantro was an interesting – and good – choice. I didn’t care for the small pieces of orange, but Female DINK liked them. We both thought the presentation was well done.
The third course – Codfish – I was dreading a bit due to my previous mishap with some bad codfish earlier in the year (that you can read about here), but it turned out to be fine. While I did not eat all of the codfish in this dish, I thought it was well-prepared and had a nice flavor. My favorite element of this course was the broccoli puree and small broccoli florets, while Female DINK’s favorite was the potato fondant that was shaped like a mushroom. We were surprised that we enjoyed this particular dish; everything seemed to mesh.
The fourth course – Beef Filet – again served at a good pace after the previous main dish, was cooked perfectly. While not the most tender piece of beef, such shortcoming was quickly overlooked by the preparation and the flavor. I tend to like beef with a bit of salt, and this was perfectly salted, as odd as that sounds. Shortly after this course was served, our waitress poured us each a complimentary glass of red wine – Domaine Galaman. Not sure if they do this for everyone or if it was a special treat, but, again, it was a nice and unexpected touch.
The grilled onions and small pieces of bone marrow were great additions, and I felt like I was eating a steak dish from Mexico or South America (a compliment). There were jelly-like dollops of what tasted like a tomato or red wine vinaigrette, which, by itself was overpowering, but when combined with the beef, worked well. Accompanying this dish, there were two bites of crispy beef carpaccio served atop a bone and a small cup of mashed potatoes with shredded stewed beef on the bottom. The carpaccio was good, but the sauce detracted from, rather than added to, the flavor of the carpaccio. The mashed potatoes were similarly good and reminded me of shepherd’s pie.
The last course – Milk and Blueberry – was light and refreshing. The cream and blueberries had a good flavor, even if the dish was a little difficult to eat after being broken open. Shortly after being served this course, we were presented with an additional dessert (one plate) with a “Welcome to TRB” written on it, and we were asked to hold it up in order for the waitress to take a picture of us with the plate. They later printed the picture and gave it to us. I don’t know if they are going to put this on their website or scrapbook or something, but we were a little irritated that the restaurant seemingly mandated – never really “asked” – to take our picture. And, it was an interruption to the last course. Just a nit.
We paid with a credit card and were asked if we needed a taxi. Not wanting to repeat our long walk back to the subway, we accepted the taxi. A few minutes later, our waitress said that it would be several minutes before a taxi would be able to pick us up, but that we could use their driver for 30 yuan. Being ready to go, being happy to not have to deal with a taxi, and being more than comfortable spending under $5, we accepted the ride from their driver. We were escorted all the way back to the main entrance and into the car, arriving safely back at our hotel a few minutes later.
Overall, we were impressed by the creativity and the presentation. The food and ingredients were all good – there was nothing we disliked. Also, the service was great, and the staff spoke English. If the Michelin Guide expands to Beijing, we’d envision TRB being awarded one star, based upon our experiences at other one and two star restaurants. At around $125 per person, we felt like TRB was a good value for money. If you can find it, TRB is worth a stop for a nice dinner in Beijing.
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