Timeout Beijing Food Review March 2011

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Tucked in the basement of Sanlitun Soho, Tonton & Tata is tricky to find for first timers. The décor is stark, if a little impersonal, and done on a budget. White fluorescent lighting does nothing to remind one of Alsace, the northeastern part of France that might be Germany today if the war ended differently. Alsatian reminders, like traditional baeckeoffen pots in modern varieties along with the traditional crocks made in Soufflenheim or Betschdorf, line the display shelf and are used for large parties. The modest menu is a straightforward selection of Alsatian dishes and they are excellent. Do not miss the outstanding choucroute (128RMB)—a selection of imported sausages (so good you hear the ‘snap’ in each bite), smoked pork, flanks of bacon, potatoes and wonderful choucroute, a pickled cabbage similar to sauerkraut.

The wine list is small, but comprehensive with a crisp Riesling by the glass (50RMB) and other reasonably priced bottles. Lunch sets are a bargain for Sanlitun from 28RMB-35RMB, with three set options of two courses from Mauricette, a soft pretzel bread used for sandwiches to the Alsatian tart flambée. Service is endearing, but slow and dishes take their time to arrive. This being small and new, everything is prepared a la minute by two chefs who double up as service staff with the aid of Chinese proprietress, Maurine whose better half is chef Yannick Ehrsam at Le Pré Lenôtre at the Sofitel Hotel. He’s also from Alsace.

The beer soup (28RMB) is a concoction of bread, beer, cream, and chicken stock with tough croutons. The soup is lighter than expected and finishes well with a hint of beer. The tarte flambée gratin (68RMB) is a large thin crust pizza-like pie without the tomato. It’s topped generously with gruyère cheese, white cheese, onions and bacon and delicious and similar to its French cousins.

Our only gripe about the baeckeoffe (80RMB)—a dish that means “baked” because it was often put into bakers ovens to slowly braise overnight using residual heat. Different meats, sausages, vegetables and generous amounts of white wine are what make this dish magic. While everything was excellent, some of the meat remained tough.

The Alsatian apple tart (22RMB) is the perfect finish with a freshly baked crust and separate sides of pear and chocolate sauce.

The new addition to the Beijing dining scene is good news to all who want to enjoy simple authentic Alsatian food and wine without breaking the bank.

Tonton & Tata 2B1-239 Sanlitun SOHO, No.8 Gongti North Street. Chaoyang District (13681206738)Open Daily 11am-11pm Meal for two around 180RMB 北京朝阳区工体北路8号三里屯 SOHO 二座B1-239

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