Veggie burgers. Nut roasts. Tofurkey. Despite its rise in popularity, modern vegetarian cuisine has largely fallen into the trap of imitating traditionally meaty fare, which often only ends up serving as a jarring reminder of the original's excellence. Hot take: vegetables are tasty, so why the need for all the veg-as-meat posturing?
Enter Feast, the CBD’s newest fine dining restaurant located in Wanda Plaza (and not to be confused with East Hotel’s own Feast restaurant). Led by seasoned executive chefs Yang Jie, Zhao Bin and Liu Peng, Feast specialises in vegetarian banqueting, offering diners a choice between two set menus priced at 518RMB and 688RMB for roughly 10 courses. À la carte options are off the table here, however Feast dabbles in both Chinese and Western cuisine, neatly sidestepping the mushroom-dressed-as-lamb approach to vegetarian cooking.
Feast's take on the Beijing classic zhajiang mian noodle.
Rather, produce is allowed to speak for itself. A starter of Cantonese-style clear broth with dried figs and goji berries provides an earthy backdrop for a medley of mushrooms. Roasted beetroot (sliced to resemble tuna sashimi – the closest Feast gets to the faux-meat trope) is made even more vibrant by a swatch of beetroot purée contrasted against garlicky stir-fried kale. Clever, but not overly precious, Feast's menu also offers a feel-good take on Beijing’s signature noodle dish zhajiang mian as well as a secondary main in the form of a buttery eggplant pastry with mashed potato and golden hollandaise (Feast certainly doesn‘t claim to be vegan).
Courses, for the most part, lean towards the refined and virtuous, though the upscale eatery is occasionally in danger of veering too close to the simplistic. A series of tomato-focused amuse-bouches include gazpacho and a single raw tomato topped with tomato granita, while latter courses include a duo of grilled baby corn paired with creamy corn soup. Tasty love letters to the tomato and corn nevertheless, but arguably too simple for most tastes.
Feast's ode to corn.
Beijing's fine dining scene has broadly disregarded vegetarian cuisine, its plant-based ingredients largely at odds with the premium placed on meat and exotic delicacies. With its imposing laser-cut wood panels and double-height ceiling, Feast possesses an ambiance that gourmet-inclined vegetarians in Beijing have long craved but rarely encountered. Service is knowledgeable and efficient, dishes are whisked away and replaced with military precision and live classical music filters through the cavernous space. However, dining in Feast's subterranean cathedral comes at a price: an additional 10 percent service fee that will test the devotion of even the most evangelical of vegetarians. And for particularly cautious carnivores, it’s unlikely that this sting in the tail will do much to convert them to the cause.
By Leanne Wong