Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Empty Dining Experience

After visiting Maison Boulud a few times, my friend and I decided to check out the other restaurants in the Ch'ienmen 23 compound, formerly known as the Legation Quarter.
We decided to check out Sadler, the Italian restaurant that boasts the culinary creations of two-star Michelin chef Claudio Sadler.
His Sadler Restaurant in Milan has two Michelin stars, and next to it is Chic'n Quick for casual, less expensive dining.
Sadler also has two other restaurants in Italy and after five years, closed his restaurant in Tokyo last year before opening Sadler in Beijing.
The restaurant is housed in one of the old colonial buildings, but inside the dining area has a modern nightclub/lounge atmosphere which possibly makes it a better place for dinner.
That's because when we arrived at lunch, there was no one else there -- the entire time we were there.
Aside from the a la carte menu, there were two set lunch menus of three courses each for about 160RMB which were hardly interesting -- one featuring a seafood soup and the other a meat dish.
So we looked into the a la carte menu which again didn't grab us right away with any mouth-watering descriptions.
It was probably a signal that we should have left the restaurant, but instead we decided to still give the place a shot.
For the amuse bouche, we were served small round glasses filled with whipped Parmesan cheese -- transforming the usually hard cheese into a soft mousse.
It wasn't too heavy, but would have been better to have more than just a small bread stick in it to accompany the starter.
Then my friend and I shared an appetizer of a Blue Fin tuna tartare. It was artistically served in the middle of a square platter with rounded edges, complete with a diagonal line of sesame seeds with eggplant rolled up and there were bubbles of balsamic sabayon on the plate.
This dish was very straight forward and did little to impress. The same could be said about the codfish, presented on top of a green vegetable sauce with two deep-fried mashed potatoes on either side.
However, the breaded veal chop was the highlight of the lunch, lightly breaded and fried to perfection, with the veal still pink and tender inside. The dish was accompanied with sweetbreads which weren't flavourful and Swiss chard.
For dessert, I had the limoncello parfait, which was a large and tall teardrop shaped meringue filled with lemon custard topped with lemon-infused tapioca pearls. While it had a refreshingly tart taste, the meringue was quite pedestrian.
The spicy chocolate pudding wasn't spicy, but had a nice caramel center that wasn't too sweet. We were also served small cutes of jellies on toothpicks, as well as a selection of petit fours which were more like mini cookies.
However, we were shocked when we received a bill of 1,056RMB -- including 75RMB for a large glass bottle of Evian water. We had requested still water, but were given designer water instead.
Service on the whole was nice, but hardly genial. When the wait staff came to take away our plates for the main course, I complimented them on the veal, but they didn't seem to understand and gave an awkward smile.
With an empty restaurant for lunch, one has to wonder how much longer Sadler will survive? Beijing is not known as a culinary capital; while it does have a small but extremely wealthy crowd, western food is not their first choice for dining. The restaurant has to offer more value for money to entice more people to come in. And even then, service needs to be upgraded to be more hospitable towards guests.
My friend and I, although full from lunch, were left unsatisfied. With all the hype of Michelin stars we were sorely disappointed and won't be going back anytime soon.
Ristorante Sadler
Ch'ienmen 23
23 Qianmen East Street
Dongcheng District
6559 1399


ChopSuey said...

After I read your post, I thought about how "specials" are almost never read with the prices. So I never order them, because I hate getting surprised when they are often much more expensive than the printed menu. Same with bottled water, and off-the-list fancy cocktails and wines.

ks said...

wow over 1000 bucks rmb for lunch that is half month's salary for laobaixing. too extravagantly decadent.