A new arrival is the fabulous and ultra contemporary spot called Salt. The chef is the EXTREMELY young and talented Venezuelan-American, Ana Esteves. We enjoyed a so-so sparkling wine from Washington state (wine is expensive there!) and a very nice lunch of perfectly al dente scallop risotto, some nice starters of a very substantial beef tartare with parmesan, garlic, and parsely, and a white fig salad. Dessert was also pretty fabulous: goat cheese panna cotta. YUM! The spare, clean, and stylish aesthetic of Salt is obvious in the plating as well as the decor. This place is great.
We had a moderately priced, very casual and fatty Belgian meal at Morel's. Starters included a shrimp stuffed tomato (basically seafood salad next to a seeded tomato); scallops with that orange vein thing attached, and a Chateaubriand for two with pomme frites, ratatouille, and peas and carrots for the main! And for dessert: a Belgian waffle with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Yum. Also, we brought--all the way from the U.S. (again, wine is very, very pricey in China)--our own bottle of Bourdeaux. They are smart business people at Morel's--they understand the concept of corkage (100 yuan, which is approximately $15). The food was decent and the atmosphere almost Belgian/French with its cozy and relaxed faux painted walls, exposed wooden beams, and tiled floor. Here's what Frommer's had to say:
"Morel's reputation as the best Western restaurant in the city is a holdover from a less competitive era, but this is nevertheless a fine restaurant, with a rare, fanatic devotion to quality. Owned by Belgian Renaat Morel, one of China's most respected European chefs, and run with help from his wife, the restaurant has a casual and cozy feel, its yellow walls and green-and-white checked tablecloths reminiscent of someone's home. The food is simply presented, and side dishes are somewhat limp. However, main courses are supremely done, particularly the wonderful Flemish beef stew with tender chunks of meat, cooked over many hours in a mix of Rodenbach beer, bay leaf, onion, and thyme. Soups change daily and always sell out. The restaurant also has an astounding array of Belgian beers; they now have their own range of purpose-brewed ales. Best of all, however, is the signature Morel's dessert: a near-perfect waffle -- save room for it -- made in a real waffle iron hand-carried on a plane from Belgium."
I heart Beijing's food culture!