The neon-drenched, hard-angled decor that is the defining feature of the lobby of new W Hotel may make the Jianguomen hostelery look less like a hotel and more like a futuristic discotheque, but thankfully once you get upstairs to its Chinese restaurant Yen on the second floor, you'll be pleasantly surprised by its modern take on the traditional.
The softly lit, low-key space opened for business in November and combines northern Chinese and Cantonese elements in both its interior design and on its menu. For this it has earned almost immediate accolates, taking home Outstanding New Hotel Restaurant nod in our 2015 Reader Restaurant Awards.
The cushy, straight-backed navy chairs and circular tables may be reminiscent of your favorite dim sum spot, but Yen is devoid of the cacophony (the untranslatable renao) that can dominate many local Chinese restaurants. Whether or not you see this as a good or bad thing, Yen is still pristine, cozy, quiet, and softly lit, giving it a luxurious vibe.
The ceiling of the main dining room is tastefully decorated by a modern take on traditional Chinese ceramics, featuring neatly squared-off blue and white shards.
Despite the refined subtlety of the decor, Yen’s dishes tend to feature more of the visual flare of the hotel’s entryway. The signature (and much photographed) Golden Peking Duck (RMB 888 – of course) features a crispy, gleaming layer of skin covered with real gold leaf. The glitzy skin encases skillfully roasted, delicate morsels of dark meat.
The more Cantonese-leaning Crispy Grass Carp Fillet with Smoked Soy Dressing is also aesthetically impressive, in part because it is served in bite-sized chunks akin to the way many Chinese pork dishes are prepared. The tender texture and fresh flavor of the carp is more than apparent upon the first bite, however, making for a fittingly light side to the heartier serving of duck.
Best of all may be the Crispy Fried Prawns (RMB 238) which are laced with tangy pomegranate and mango salsa, and a healthy dose of wasabi, giving them a flavor profile that goes beyond the similar versions of this dish served elsewhere around town.
The dishes were created by executive chef Kong Kai Meng. He started his career at a number of high-end Asian kitchens, including the W Hotel Taipei, the Bangkok Mandarin Oriental, and the Singapore Mandarin Oriental.
The wait staff display an equal level of professionalism: refilling glasses and retrieving emptied plates, unbidden, displaying a strong proficiency in English, and showing an impressive knowledge of the menu and a willingness to recommend complementary dishes.
Temper the wasabi flavor of the prawns with a soothing cup from Yen's vast tea menu, which includes dozens of varieties, some of the most popular being the bitter aged Pu'er and the fragrant Chrysanthemum.
The fusion of northern Chinese and Cantonese fare, along with the luxurious yet minimalist aesthetic, make for a must-visit destination for fans of upscale Chinese dining (and those with deep pockets).
Photos courtesy of Yen, Kyle Mullin
Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog