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I remember the first time I tried snails. Presented with a steaming dish of shell-on gastropods at an up-to-that point charming French café, I became convinced my parents and the café owners were in on some kind of cruel joke. Needless to say, I stuck to my frites and Orangina. Fast forward 20 years and sitting at a table in Café FLO’s tasteful art-deco interior, snails seem like the height of Gallic savoir-faire. It helps of course that they have been plucked from the shells and grilled with lashings of garlic-herb butter (RMB 36).
Butter makes a strong showing at Café FLO, where the food has the satisfying heft of casual French cuisine: duck confit, foie gras, and mounds of melted Emmenthal. An appetizer of onion soup (RMB 49) has enough croutons to make it hearty enough for a main course. The presentation is unorthodox – the soup and cheese croutons served separately – but the flavors are classic. Not that you should skip the mains, which, in true French fashion, are a celebration of carnivorousness. Choucroute traditionelle (RMB 78) is all about the pork, while the boeuf Bourguignon (RMB 118) would make Julia Child proud. Sitting back after these with a pitcher of wine (from RMB 98), it’s almost possible to forget you’re in the basement of Parkview Green.
There may be better renditions of the dishes above available around town, but to my mind Beijing needs more places like Café FLO, places that show that French food doesn’t have to be about stuffy presentation and budget-busting bottles of wine.
Daily 10am-10pm. LG2-22, Parkview Green, 9 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District. (5626 9779)
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