Exploring Beijing’s vegetarian options can be daunting. Restaurants in the capital specialising in meatless cuisine tend to be pricy, unimaginative and lacklustre. In search of new vegetarian options we found ourselves in Maizidian, an area known more for its Japanese fare than anything vaguely vegetarian.
Located on the second floor of the New Grand Dynasty Hotel, Lin’s Dining Lounge is spacious and well designed. Geometrically-inspired lamps and tables in shades of off-white and dark grey are interspersed with screens of varying texture and opacity that create a number of semi-private spaces within the lofty dining room. Comfortable booths and private rooms make Lin’s a good place to come in groups to take advantage of the space.
At lunchtime, Lin’s is abuzz with well-dressed diners enjoying prolonged feasts and sipping afternoon tea. In a city with precious few vegetarian restaurants of note, Lin’s Dining Lounge is clearly attracting some attention for its fashion-forward décor and creative riffs on Western staples and Chinese dishes. From the starters, the cherry tomato cocktail in champagne dressing served in a cocktail glass (28RMB) goes down well. The sweet, skinned tomatoes float in a bath of tangy dressing, a Western-leaning take on the classic Chinese chilled tomato liangcai, trading up from saccharine syrup to a light vinaigrette.
For mains, the generously plated Japanese tofu stuffed with mushroom pâté and smothered in seasoning (78RMB) is a favourite, but the roasted aubergine sprinkled with cheese (68RMB) is equally memorable. Although faux-fish and mock-meats can scare us off at less practised haunts, Lin’s take on the Sichuan classic boiled fish dish, shuizhuyu faux-fish (128RMB) and spicy mock cold sea whelks (38RMB) are two of the more intriguing dishes on offer.
The ‘fish’ is spongy tofu and joined in the bowl with crunchy sliced lotus root, coated in lip-smacking red oil with a subtle numbing buzz, while the whelks retain some of their sea-bound cousin’s toothsome chew. Both lack the weight of flavour found in the originals, but they are not far off.
With an eye for detail and mains hovering around 100RMB, Lin’s is not far from a bargain. The relaxed restaurant drew us in with its creative meatless menu, but we’ll keep coming back for that beautiful dining room and its stylish flair.
By Veronica Houk