TRB (aka Temple Restaurant Beijing) has been charming the hell out of people for years now over in Beijing’s hutongs. And while it’s hard to beat a dining room with views of the Forbidden City, the top-notch food and service has played just as big a role in its success.
So how would a new concept by TRB’s creator (Ignace Lecleir) fare in Beijing’s Sanlitun district – aka downtown party central? Particularly one aimed at an all-day-dining crowd in the area’s busiest outdoor mall…
Turns out they’ve done a pretty good job (who’d have thought it).
The new restaurant is called Hulu (‘gourd’ in Chinese, with double meanings of ‘protection’ and ‘blessing’) and sits among all the other casual dining spots on the top floor of the Tai Koo Li mall.
Paper placemats and oversized, photo-led menus might make you think you’ve accidentally stumbled into nearby Element Fresh, but it’s the classy touches Lecleir is famous for that reassure you you’re in the right place: gorgeous cutlery, pristinely starched napkins and ultra-polite and professional staff in pastel-coloured uniforms, for example.
Oh and when we mentioned the big menu we weren’t kidding. There are close to 80 different dishes to choose from at Hulu – all of them reassuringly TRB-esque, but none of them ‘reassuringly expensive’. In fact Bespoke ate a veritable banquet on opening night (there were six of us), and the total bill came to less than 200RMB per person.
Just to give you an idea of what’s being proffered at Hulu, here’s the full list of dishes we ate (don’t judge):
Slow braised beef cheek in red wine sauce; pork neck with BBQ sauce; beef flank with chimichurri and chilli flakes; eggplant ragout; sweet potato fries (with some inexplicably delicious tomato ketchup); mini pork burgers; Iberico ham croquettes; pâte on toast; prawn arugula salad; chorizo pasta; mushroom risotto; and potato with short ribs and parmesan cheese (a moreish highlight).
Finally, we gorged on an embarrassing number of desserts, including two truly stunning soufflé (one chocolate, one Grand Marnier), a passion fruit panna cotta, lemon meringue tart and – the pièce de resistance – a flaming ice cream. Not just for the photo op, this is a surprisingly tasty and textured combo of passion fruit sorbet, fresh strawberry, biscuit and sweet, almost chewy meringue.
So there you have it – if you want TRB-quality dishes and service on demand, but in an altogether more convenient setting (and at a more affordable price), Hulu is your go-to.
And as you can see from our exhaustive list of dishes, it’s perfect for a big old feast. What better way to celebrate the Year of the Dog?!
Hulu 3F, S4-32, Tai Koo Li, Bei Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district (Tel: +86 10 6512 5701; Open daily 11am-11pm daily).