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[Beijing] CourtYard


Kent Wang
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The same day that I went to Pure Lotus for lunch a friend and I had dinner at CourtYard (yes, that's how it's capitalized). The restaurant is situated right on the moat that surrounds the Forbidden City and we got a window seat that looked across the water. The Forbidden City walls are lit up at night so it was quite the sight.

The main courses looked intensely boring to me and there was only a portobello mushroom dish available for my (mostly) vegetarian dining partner, so we just ordered a number of appetizers.

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Arugula salad, artichoke hearts, anchovy parmesan dressing (RMB 65). The greens were of the utmost freshness, the dressing refreshingly original and equally delicious.

Moutai-Sauternes infused foie gras brulee, pineapple confit, glass of sweet white wine from Cotes de Bergerac (RMB 120). Foie gras brulee sounded like one of those cases of combining two great things that ends in disaster, but I was glad to be proven wrong; the result rivalled even the classic seared preparation!

Not depicted:

Coconut shrimps, green tomato, bell pepper and pineapple salsa (RMB 85) included four small mediocre shrimp. The salsa, made with the freshest ingredients, really stole the show but the portions were miniscule as I think it was intended as just a garnish. If I had my way, I gladly would've replaced the shrimp with a more generous quantity of the salsa.

The salmon and tuna sashimi tartare (RMB 95) was ruined by the miso cream sauce. The miso was too grainy -- i.e. not smoothly blended and strained -- and really, there was no need for such a heavy sauce for a sushi tartare unless they had something to hide, namely, the quality of the fish.

To accompany the appetizers we had a bottle of Shingle Peak sauvignon blanc which we both enjoyed greatly. Perhaps too greatly as I was too caught up in the wine and the conversation to accurately judge the desserts. I certainly enjoyed them but did not pay sufficient attention to notice the subtle flavors of the jasmine tea and ginger lemongrass infusions.

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Coconut taro custard, pandan cream. RMB 65.

Jasmine tea chocolate ganache tart. RMB 65.

Ginger lemongrass soy creme brulee. RMB 65.

As much as some of the dishes attempt to use Asian ingredients such as Moutai, miso, lemongrass, etc. make no mistake: this is a Western restaurant. Many of the fusion ingredients were of token quantities, which is really a shame since they looked to be good ideas on paper. Unlike many fusion restaurants who try too hard to fuse cuisines and end up turning out disasters, CourtYard fails by not trying hard enough. That said, the arugula salad and foie gras brulee were both well executed, totally original dishes that hint at the restaurant's potential.

The check came to RMB 1500 (USD ~185) which is about what I would have expected to pay in the United States. The bill included a mandatory 15% service charge.

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Hey - sounds like you're having a grand time of it in Beijing!! :biggrin:

I'm back there in June and can't wait!

I'm sorry you found the Courtyard disappointing - it's always been a great favourite of mine (maybe partially for sentimental reasons - I spent a very happy birthday there very soon after it opened in 1998ish and have returned many times since). I love to get there early and have a slow gin and tonic in the cigar lounge watching the sun set over the Forbidden City....

Also, the reason I do like it is because it *doesn't* take fusion too far :smile: I think that the gentle touches of fusion work far, far, far better than the more in-your-face style (which I find quite horrid, really).

Pity that you got too into the wine - both the jasmine tea chocolate tart and the lemongrass soy creme brulee were two of my top desserts in the last few years...only surpassed by a brilliant panna cotta eaten in Alba.

My biggest complaint is, that over the years, they've cut down the number of Chinese-grown wines that they offer. I think the last time I went there was only one on the menu (argh!). A pity because they used to carry a stonkingly good red from the Tulufan region a few years ago...

PS are you going to try Made in China? Also, any plans to visit the Mongolian restaurant that's opened (Modern Nomads)? It sounds cheesy, but I'd love to know what it's like!

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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Courtyard is a favorite of mine for a splurge meal...I miss the days when they had the Sunday lunch for RMB150 (or something like that, its been 2 years since they've had that, I believe)...I had a few pictures in my folder when I used to frequent this site, but I'm not sure if they're still there...The Courtyard does do an excellent job of having little touches of "fusion" without taking it too far and going over the top. The best is if you can get the table for 2 thats in that little cubby area, right by the windows, overlooking the moat.

I went to Made in China for my birthday a year ago and it was excellent, but you have to order wisely. I didn't dare bother with the Shaobing that were RMB65 (not that much different from the ones I get near my apartment many mornings for only RMB0.5). However, I do remember having a roast pigeon dish and a lamb soup that were just wonderful and left me more than happy paying the high price for them.

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[...]

The check came to RMB 1500 (USD ~185) which is about what I would have expected to pay in the United States. The bill included a mandatory 15% service charge.

Kent:

In some past discussions, some posters asserted that restaurants in Mainland China do not expect nor accept tips or service charge. I questioned on the currentness of this and the response seemed positively up-to-date.

Tipping in China

What is your experience dining at different restaurants in Mainland China (Beijing and other places) during this trip? Do they all post mandatory service charge? Most of them? Only a few of them?

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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  • 2 months later...

Six of my family went back to the CourtYard a week ago for a very enjoyable evening out (and a break from all the Chinese food we'd been eating!).

The food was quite good, though I thought that the chef must have changed because some of the dishes that I had ordered before weren't executed quite as well -for example the steak tartare with red curry sauce was much better the last time I had been there (admittedly about a year before).

Some dishes, like the duck breast with baba ganoush and red pepper sauce, were more successful than others like the vegetarian option my father had in which the salty duck egg croquettes were decidely lacking in 'salty-egginess'. Two people ordered the pork chop stuffed with 'Sichuan sausage stuffing' which got everyone's thumbs-up.

And the desserts were as good as ever (but why oh why do they put bananas under the jasmine-tea chocolate genache tart?!?! It was much better without them...) and the service was excellent. We enjoyed wines from Grace Vineyard in Shanxi (the reserve Chardonnay, which had seen a nice bit of oak and had good acidity and the Tasya's Reserve Merlot, which was rather good value with very silky tannins and good fruit). I think that they should try and offer more Chinese wines on the list, but having said that, the wine list is very good for selection and range.

As for the price, yes it is expensive (though still cheap by London standards!) but as we watched the swallows dipping in flight by the eastern moat of the Forbidden city and the setting sunlight making the tiled roofs glow and as we enjoyed the peaceful calm surroundings and good service (both such rarities in China!), my father said, "By God, it's really worth it, isn't it?" :smile:

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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I went to Made in China for my birthday a year ago and it was excellent, but you have to order wisely.  I didn't dare bother with the Shaobing that were RMB65 (not that much different from the ones I get near my apartment many mornings for only RMB0.5).  However, I do remember having a roast pigeon dish and a lamb soup that were just wonderful and left me more than happy paying the high price for them.

We went to Made in China as well on this trip - and I must say that I think I must have ordered wrongly as I thought that everything that arrived was vastly overpriced. My 4 year old niece was in a jiaozi mood and the price of the jiaozi nearly made me faint!!!

I'm afraid that nothing in the lunch really stood out for me (though that may have been because we went for the Fragrent crispy duck rather than the roast duck....and we were rather heavy on the noodle and jiaozi front due to the familial requests..) and the bill still came to 1,500RMB!

To be honest, the day before we'd had dinner in the food court in Oriental Plaza and I remember the food from that evening as being more memorable than the Made in China food!! :rolleyes: We had some lovely biangbiang mian...and some darned good jianjiao/guotie/potstickers and 'meat on a stick' and it only cost us 200RMB for eight of us......

To be fair, though, the roast duck at Made In China did look very good and I'm sure that if I had picked dishes better, I wouldn't have felt so dissatisfied. I did think that some of the prices were just taking the piss though (like the shao bing!!! argh!)! :wacko:

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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