Beijing has no shortage of Italian dining options. So what’s a restaurant like Assaggi to do? For one, the Saniltun Beixiaojie eatery, nominated for Best Italian in this year's Reader Restaurant Awards (voting is open through March 8 – vote here) focuses on fresh seafood.

I ordered one of Assaggi’s gillardeau oysters (RMB 78 each), which are imported from France. It came in a massive shell, and tasted as if just scooped from the ocean. The waiter also recommended the tarbouriech oyster (the most succulent, and expensive, of the oysters at RMB 108 each), the Argentinian red prawn (RMB 58/piece), the New Zealand cold water langoustine No. 4 (RMB 88/piece) and the Icelandic cold water langoustine No. 2 (RMB 128/piece). The restaurant offers a 15 percent discount for customers that order six or more of any of these items.

For a main course, I chose the risotto ai frutti di mare (RMB 118), which boasted two plump shrimp, a smattering of chewy calamari and a half dozen clams all bound together by a heaping of fluffy rice. The dish is laced with a hot chili sauce that gives it a delightful kick.

More indulgent customers may instead opt for the risotto cello chef (RMB 138), complete with salmon in a parmesan cup, or the linguine di aragosta (RMB 208), comprised of linguine, tomato and Boston lobster. My server also recommended the spaghetti alle vongule veraci (priced at a more affordable RMB 88), which comes with spindly noodles, cherry tomatoes, white wine sauce and a smattering of clams.

Not all of Assaggi’s pastas are seafood-centric. The restaurant also offers options like the home-made beef laden lasagna alla balognese (RMB 98). There’s also the vegetarian linguine ai fonghi e olio di tartufo bianco (RMB 78), which features linguine with mixed mushroom and white truffle.

Assaggi also has a wood-fired oven (which seems to be an Italian prerequisite in Beijing these days). Customers can watch the chef ready pizzas for that brick stove behind a glass pane. The pies on offer include the standard margherita (RMB 68), the diavola (RMB 78) featuring spicy Italian salami, while the prosciutto e ananas (also RMB 78) boasts ham and pineapple. But given Assaggi’s seafood focus, probably the best choice would be the focaccia al salmon (RMB 108), topped with smoked salmon and decadent black caviar.

Assaggi also distinguishes itself with its interior design, which makes for a refined meal out. Close attention is paid to soft lighting and nook-ish seating arragements of its linen-covered tables. This adds up to make Assaggi a classy choice for a romantic evening out for seafood lovers.

Images: Kyle Mullin

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