THE OPPOSITE HOUSE
I first went to THE OPPOSITE HOUSE boutique hotel, a Swire Hotel property, in Beijing in 2009 to do a review of SUREÑO, then a Mediterranean restaurant with an Italian Chef, and I have always been satisfied with the restaurant and itshappy service team. Recently, I was invited by the hotel Sommelier, Ashley Gao, to return to SUREÑO to experience an adjustment to the restaurant’s concept and a totally new menu designed by their new Chef De Cuisine, Talib Hudda. I was excited to renew my experience with this fine restaurant and we arranged an evening for me to perform a review. I arrived early and went to MESH, a lively bar just opposite the main lobby check-in area, and I enjoyed a nicely made and well-chilled Martini while I waited to meet with Ashley before dinner. When she arrived, we had a nice conversation about the plans for my evening and we talked with Blanche Yan,Communication Executive, about official photos required for my article. Upon finishing my Martini, we proceeded to the elevator to go down 1 floor to SUREÑO. We walked past the familiar open kitchen to the back of the main dining room to a nice table overlooking most of the restaurant. I was happy with this location and I got settled and prepared for writing while Ashley opened a bottle of 1421 Gold Chardonnay from Xinjiang Province, China, and poured a glass for me. After a brief talk about the timing of the dinner servings Ashley left for another meeting. Kevin Mau, Operations Manager, introduced himself to me and brought my first serving, which was Grilled Flat Bread with Hummus, Roasted Garlic, Olive Oil & Sea Salt.
Served on a wooden board were 8 triangular slices of grilled flat bread and a sea green colored ceramic plate coated 2/3 of its surface with hummus with a sprinkling of ground herbs and 3 sprigs of fresh Italian parsley. The flat bread was firm but slightly moist, not dried out. The hummus was smooth and full flavored with the garlic and olive oil. I dipped the bread in the hummus and really enjoyed the rich garlic flavor in the hummus and I rather quickly consumed the bread and hummus alternating with sips of the cool and fruity Chardonnay.This was a very nice way to start my dinner! Chef Talib created a tasting menu called Winter Tasting 2017 with 6 servings of food, and the option of selecting 6 wine pairings at additional cost. Kevin brought a surprise snack for me, not listed on the menu, Parma Ham Croquette with Shaved Black Truffle & Lemon Aioli.The croquette was a ball sitting in the aioli sauce with ample truffle shavings shredded on top and on the plate around the croquette. I cut the ball in half with my fork and tried half of it. It was hot inside with chunks of ham and a little crispy on the outside. It tasted good with the shredded black truffle and the aioli sauce added more flavor. This was a nice surprise opener to the menu yet to come and I enjoyed the Chardonnay with it. My first course from the menu was Smoked Salmon Carpaccio – Salsa Juverte, Radicchio, Candied Black Olive & Squid Ink Rice Cracker. This actually looked like a salad, with thin slices of smoked salmon under a mixture of the other ingredients with endive and radicchio on top with a little foam and a garnish of watercress. The black squid ink rice crackers added color and texture and the different greens added their unique flavors. Kevin told me that the salmon was special Aqua Select Sustainable Salmon from Chengdu. I decided to approach this complex arrangement of tasty ingredients by taking each bite as a mixture because that is what I felt was the intention of the Chef. Each ingredient had its place in the flavor mix. The smoked salmon base was tender, smooth, and well flavored.I liked combining the rice cakes with the salmon for a marked contrast in textures, but with complimentary flavors. The Chardonnay was good with this dish, the complexity of the wine handling the complexity of flavors in the mix.
My next course was Tamarind Torchon – Campari & Malt Whisky marinated Foie Gras Torchon, Cashew & Crispy Couscous, Tamarind Purée, and Flaxseed Cumin Cracker.Reading it on the menu sounded interesting and when it arrived I was impressed with the beautiful presentation. The tamarind purée was used to make tamarind leather by brushing it on a smooth sheet of stainless steel and letting it air dry, leaving a layer of dehydrated tamarind purée. This was cut into a strip of what looked like reddish-brown leather and arranged with a few wrinkles at the top of the round disc of sliced foie gras on the dark grey ceramic plate. To the left of the disc of foie gras was a dollop on tamarind purée that was not air-dried and sprinkled on the lower part of the disc of foie gras were chopped cashews and crispy couscous. Served in a separate oval shaped wooden bowl were the freshly made fried flaxseed cumin crackers. This was a fascinating display of ingredients that left me intrigued with how it would taste. I started by tasting the dollop of tamarind purée, which was sweet and went well with the crispy couscous and chopped cashew nuts so I spread this combination all over the foie gras and tried it together. WOW, what an interesting combination of flavors! The sweetness of the tamarind purée was great with the foie gras and I loved the crunchy couscous and cashews with it. The foie gras was smooth and richly flavored and the marinade of Campari and malt whisky brought out the sweetness in the foie gras. I tried a crispy flaxseed cumin cracker after the foie gras for different sensations of texture and flavor and then I tasted the tamarind leather. It looked like leather, but it didn’t taste like leather. It was chewy and sweet and I finished it with the last flaxseed cumin cracker.This was so unique…it was fun!
I enjoyed a nice glass of the Chardonnay while reflecting on this exquisite dish and waited for my next course, Fassolatha & Caviar – Poached Egg, Fava Beans, Cumin Butter, Charred Avocado & No.1Baerii Caviar. Chef Talib explained the composition of this dish to me. White bean purée mixed with raw olive oil was on the bottom with a poached egg placed above, topped with W3 caviar from Yunnan that is based on sturgeon caviar from Russia. The feed for the fish is imported from Europe and the producer is French. The poached egg and caviar was surrounded by a ring of fava beans, charred avocado, and celery mixed with cumin butter.This combination looked and smelled great and had rich flavors. The charred avocado was firm around the edges with smoky flavors, while the cumin butter was very rich with strong cumin flavor. The fava beans were lightly cooked and tender, but with structure. Then I broke the egg and mixed it all together. I ate it like a chunky egg soup with powerful cumin flavor. This was another interesting dish with excellent flavors and textures.
My next course was Smoked Chestnut Agnolotti – Parma Ham, Sage & Cream Sauce, and Squid Ink Ash. For this, Kevin opened a bottle of 1421 Gold Cabernet Sauvignon from Xinjiang Province, China. It was a medium bodied red wine, clean and fruity with mild tannins. This is the only pasta dish Chef Talib makes, simple and tasty. It smelled wonderful with smoked sage, chestnut, and Parma ham. The squid ink ash, which I have never seen before, looked like ground black pepper sprinkled liberally on top, but it was flakey in texture like a finely ground herb for a very unique appearance and taste. There were wide strips of pasta covered in the rich ingredients, that when combined, made a creamy flavor packed pasta experience. It was even a little sweet and the flavor of the Parma ham came through clearly and it was perfect! I liked the easy drinking and mildly spicy red wine with it and I lingered with the glass while I waited for my next course.
Kevin brought Angus Beef Tenderloin & Celery Root – Grilled Tenderloin, Celery Root, Cilantro & Tarragon Polenta. The sliced tenderloin was sitting in a rich beef jus sauce with shaved celery root about an inch wide and up to a foot long perched on top. It was a little crunchy like carrots and the flavor was mild. The polenta was rich and creamy with nice flavors from the cilantro and tarragon. I added a little sea salt and ground tellicherry black pepper to the beef because that is the way I like it. The polenta was great with the beef, which was tender and cooked medium as I requested. This dish was a good, well-coordinated bunch of flavors and I enjoyed it all with the dry fruity red wine. My final course was Superfredo – Strawberry Semi-fredo, Chocolate Cake, Balsamic Hazelnut Sauce & Berries. Chef Talib explained that this was made with hazelnut praline and reduced Balsamic sauce under a flourless brownie made with 64% valrhona chocolate. A strawberry meringue with whipped cream was then frozen with liquid nitrogen for superfredo and put on top of the chocolate brownie. Kevin delivered it with dry ice smoking in the bottom of the bowl. It looked like a coral reef in the ocean, but it quickly melted in my mouth with good strawberry flavor. There were some fresh strawberries and raspberries underneath and the brownie was rich in chocolate sensations. It was a great way to finish a fantastic dessert that started out light and finished strong! I enjoyed the rest of the nice Cabernet Sauvignon while talking with Chef Talib about my positive impressions of this excellent dinner and I expressed my enthusiasm for his exquisite cuisine. I have no doubt that his influence on the future of SUREÑO will take this famous landmark restaurant to new heights in Beijing, and I look forward to watching his progress and enjoying the fruits of his labor. I extend my sincere thanks to the excellent culinary and service teams at SUREÑO for a wonderful dining experience. See you again soon!
My Best as Always,