Perched on a busy corner of Dongzhimennei Dajie, the two-storey Blossom Vegetarian cuts an imposing figure that’s hard to miss. Inside, all the tropes of Eastern interior design collide quite beautifully – walls of muted grey brick spotted with patches of latticework, graceful circular doorways, living bamboo trellises and luminous, lotus-shaped lamps suspended from the ceiling. Menus arrive on iPads, as if the rustle of paper would be too great a disturbance to the atmosphere.
Flick through the menu – our one issue with this digital format is the cumbersome navigation – for a rambling assortment of offerings, all without meat.
There’s a vegetarian riff on celebrity chef Da Dong’s foie gras cherries (48RMB). Here, we’re told the foie gras is made from soy (what isn’t, really?), but it’s so creamy, so rich and so oddly reminiscent of the real thing that it’s hard to believe.
We’ve had chilled cherry tomatoes marinated in plum sauce once before, and they were like eating plump memories of summer. At Blossom Vegetarian, the attempt is ‘marinated tomato with prune’ (26RMB), but what arrives is only halfway what we once experienced. They’re slightly deflated, slightly dull, somewhat warm cherry tomatoes. The transgressions aren’t severe enough to ruin the dish, but it certainly doesn’t sing as it should.
Forgotten classics like hot and sour soup (10RMB) are triumphs and worth ordering. Sure, you can get it at any small hole-in-the-wall, but this outstanding rendition is delicately balanced and clean. A willow-leaf steamed bun (liuye bao 柳叶包, 8RMB) bursts with bits of egg, chopped cabbage and glass noodles. Braised aubergine with a soybean sauce (32RMB) melts across the tongue brilliantly and is finished with a topping of grassy pea shoots to cut through the heavy brown sauce.
It’s in a handful of dishes, though, where the kitchen’s talent really shines through. You’ll be ladling out bowls of the vegetarian duck with ginger and rice wine (68RMB) until the spoon scrapes the bottom. Its broth is rich and complex, rippling with powerful notes of ginger, and the mock duck hits a textural bulls-eye. What’s called ‘organic spinach’ (38RMB) is not that at all; the dish is actually gorgeous two-bite ingots of translucent jelly with broccoli, walnut, carrot and thousand-year-old egg tidily jammed together sardine-style.
People, don’t limit yourself. It may have a no-meat policy, but Blossom Vegetarian won’t disappoint even the most polemic of carnivores in your life.