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It's understandable to have high expectations for a new restaurant from the same people who took home both Outstanding Restaurant of the Year (non-Chinese, casual dining) and Outstanding Italian (casual dining) in this year's the Beijinger Reader Restaurant Awards. Luckily Fiume, the new restaurant from the owners of Mercante, goes a long way to fulfilling those expectations.

Fiume is Italian for 'river', with the restaurant's floor to ceiling windows making a feature out of the Liangma River flowing by outside. The rest of the design is, as you might expect for a non-hutong location, sleeker and more modern than Mercante we particularly liked the touches of teal spread throughout the space. With just 30 or so covers, it's an intimiate experience.

Food-wise, the current soft opening menu builds and expands on the dishes Mercante has become known for, especially the outstanding homemade pasta. Our party was universally wowed by the potato gnocchi with boar and porcini ragu (RMB 88) and the triangoli filled with stewed donkey (RMB 98), although we couldn't help but feel prices didn't quite match portion size. They've got a new selection of antipasti too: be sure to try the battered baccalà (salt cod) fritters (RMB 78) and the pheasant and parma ham pâté (RMB 68).

Finally, I'm going to put my neck on the line and say Fiume and Mercante serve what I think is Beijing's best panna cotta, a perfect, wibbling mound topped with an almost-astringent raspberry coulis.

Get 10 percent off your entire bill during Fiume's soft opening period. Look out for our full review in an upcoming issue of the Beijinger.

Daily noon-2.30pm, 6pm-midnight. 1/F, FX Hotel (on the side facing the river), 39 Maizidian Xijie, Chaoyang District (6501 9878)

More stories by this author here.

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Photos: Mark Van de Chijs (Flickr), Robynne Tindall

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