Located in a 600-year old temple, the Temple Restaurant in Beijing is an impressive restaurant. Not only is the decor beautiful, it is without doubt one of the very few places in town that delivers genuinely good French food.
The Temple Restaurant is a bit of an unusual establishment in Beijing. Located in a traditional hutong, you feel like you step into a different world once you walk into the complex. Beautifully designed, this is a place that looks like no penny has been spared to turn it into one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Beijing.
Other unusual features for Beijing are the service and wine list. Run by owner Ignace Lecleir, the black brigade here is courteous, efficient and warm. On top of that, if there is a better wine list in China than that of the Temple Restaurant, we haven’t found it yet. It offers an impressive selection of small growers that you would not expect to find here and the pricing is more than fair, given the competition.
Speaking of prices, the food here is not particularly expensive if one considers what kind of restaurant this is. Dinner menus start at RMB 398 for four courses, which really doesn’t push the boat out. At lunch you can expect to pay even less.
What characterises the cuisine here is a focus on classic luxury produce and relatively straightforward dishes. This is not a place where the chef tries to wow diners with his technical ability, but rather tries to serve food that you want to eat. The perfect example of this would be a piece of cod. It comes with a little shellfish ragout and a saffron sauce. As simple as it sounds, the dish is delicious. The cod is beautifully cooked and of good quality, whilst the sauce and shellfish add richness and that iodine character to the dish that works so well with most types of fish.
Equally good is a piece of suckling pig. This comes perfectly crispy with a skin that isn’t quite as baffling as that of the best Cantonese pigs, but nonetheless deliciously crunchy. To go with it, you have a bit of aubergine with pine nuts and raisins, which balance the richness of the meat and add a fresh note to it all. This is quite simply very tasty food. One dish that is not quite as convincing as others on the menu of the Temple Restaurant is a lobster with aubergines. The meat has this mealy texture and the aubergine caviar is too cold, thus devoid of flavour. Given that sourcing high quality produce is still the biggest problem for restaurants in China, such issues have become far less frequent, but still appear from time to time.
The Temple restaurant has only been opened for a year, and yet it already serves what could well be the best French food in Beijing. Not that the competition in this case is very stiff, but Ignace Lecleir and his team certainly do a very fine job in trying to push things forward in China’s capital. The fact that they go out of their way to source wines that you hardly see elsewhere and have some of the best service in Beijing bears testimony to this desire of being the best.