Barolo a Pekino

This is a way overdue entry when I had dinner with super foodie friend and it was intended as a joint entry… and I’m going to attempt to recall the delicious meal I had there… too much pressure to do joint food blog entries! :/ (sorry Duncan this is so overdue!)

Duncan wrote a fantastic insightful review of one of his favourite restaurants in the ‘Jing… I didn’t do any edits as it’s such an honest piece:

“When you go for a meal at the Ritz Carlton (or any other 5 star hotel) there is immediately a certain expectation about food, wines, service and surroundings. This inevitably makes us harsher in our judgements and less willing to accept anything that is even slightly below par. I don’t think that this is a particularly bad thing as these places put themselves in the line of fire, as it were, by charging a premium and cultivating a certain image.

So with that in mind, how does Barolo fair? I have to say pretty well in my opinion. While the food is not the greatest you will ever have in your life, it is certainly excellent and it is consistent. I have never seen the wine list but the wines that have been suggested have always worked well with the food. Service has always been spot on and anything that was not quite right was corrected immediately. I have always liked the restaurant design and layout. It has always put me at ease.

Interestingly (for me anyway) both restaurant managers (the current and the previous) have apologised to me on 2 separate occasions because I had to wait too long to get my glass refilled. I reached 6 both times with my counting system. 5 being the bench mark, anything below is great and anything above is getting lax.

I think that there are two other important factors that help make a restaurant rise up from the pack (especially in this sea of high end places that is Beijing), that is knowing what to order and personalities. Ordering the wrong dish can obviously ruin a meal and perhaps give a wrong impression (unfairly?) of a place. A dish can be wrong for all sorts of reasons. Maybe the main ingredient is not quite right on a particular day, or the chef that cooks this dish really well is away, or who knows what. This is where the personality comes in. He can guide you to another dish or suggest a modification that will improve things. The personality is also important in guiding you through the menu and turning the sometimes bland descriptions into something so mouth watering that you must have it. Once the dishes are ordered he should then be able to suggest wines and, a really good one, should even know your budget without the need to ask. A bit of banter with the staff throughout the meal is a good thing, especially if they know when you want to talk and when you want to be left alone.

I really enjoyed last night. The company, the food, the wine, the conversation made for a very memorable experience that in my mind gives Barolo an edge over similar places. Of course we will see how opinions will change when the personality goes off to Shanghai. Fabrizio is a very lively chap and he makes the Barolo experience memorable. I hope his replacement is as bubbly.

In the kitchen, I think it will also be interesting to see what happens when the new head chef arrives. I think the chefs in there at the moment are technically competent but don’t quite have the passion that Alessandro had. They can execute his dishes correctly but they are not quite how they were with him in the kitchen. Inevitable I suppose.”

I don’t have an update on who’s the new chef or restaurant manager, but Barolo should be worth another visit soon! Fabrizio has moved to Palladio at The Portman Shanghai.

I particularly enjoyed the calamari spaghetti, which is as literal as it is, spaghetti made out of calamari, so you’ll get a surprise with the tougher and more chewy texture. It’s a great surprise especially when you simply gloss over the menu. It’s been awhile so I can’t remember the sauce exactly, but it was a rich cream base that I cleaned up with my bread :)

This black truffle risotto tossed in the parmesan wheel was my all time favourite, but I have to say that this time round it was disappointingly bland, with big pencil shavings chunks of Chinese black truffles which unfortunately didn’t taste like anything—not that I’m complaining about the generosity of truffles.

Ritz Carlton Hotel, China Central Place, A83 Jianguo Lu,
Tel: 5908-8888

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