deep in the student Middle Earth of Wudaokou, we’d heard rumblings of Ricci
Café for some time before it finally cracked opened its doors in early April.
And while rumours that Brian McKenna, of ROOMBeijing fame, was to pen the menu
sadly petered out, the result is still a spacious, modern yet cozy café. But can
the kids afford it?
A good opening
gambit is Ricci Café’s own Sichuan Spicy Mocha (36RMB). Flavoured with numbing
huajiao (Sichuanese peppercorn) and a slight kick of chilli,
it tingles the throat as it goes down. For less adventurous palates, go with
the mango coconut (36RMB), a blend topped with cream. It’s fruity and doesn’t
exceed the sickly-sweet threshold, with the sago floating on top adding a
little chew while you sip.
our appetites is the salad Ricci Waldorf (45RMB). A huge portion arrives –
enough for two. Assorted leafy lettuce is topped with pecans, round cuts of
chicken, slices of green apple and sesame seeds. It satisfies with lively
flavours, but begs for more
a bit of comfort, we dig into the Chiangmai Curry Beef (48RMB). Chunks of beef,
stewed until tender, arrive in a hearty green curry, balanced with sweet and
spicy flavours and a fragrant amount of coconut milk. Served with rice, this variety
takes liberties with the old Thai favourite, adding soft cubes of pumpkin to
hearty effect. It’s filling comfort food, clearly aimed at bulking up starving
local tastes, a bite of the zha jiang mian (32RMB) reveals
it is far from authentic. It’s mild in flavour and garnished with parboiled
bean sprouts and cucumber. The dark sauce is missing the strong garlic taste we
crave, although the noodles retain that springy feel of freshly hand-pulled
there is comfort in the dessert menu. Ricci Café's sharing plate (88RMB), meant for
two, is enough for four, especially if you’ve indulged elsewhere. Served on a
wooden board are nine different desserts, including biscuits, cookies, cakes, a
three-layered chocolate mousse and gigantic truffles, of which the green-tea
variety are surprisingly good.
prices here aren’t too student-friendly, with complete meals averaging around
100RMB per person. But it cosies up to its clientele well, with bulletin boards
packed with posts and classes to sign-up for. Service is assured and competent,
and the cosy interiors and WiFi make this the perfect hideout. Better still,
plans are afoot to roll out more Riccis across the city. The kids might be left
sharing a spicy mocha between three, but Ricci Café was worth the wait.