The dearth of Southeast Asian food in Beijing has been a recurring topic in these pages for years. Despite the region’s historical solidarity (and shared land borders) with China, its cuisine just doesn’t fly here. So close, yet so far.
But in recent months we have been bestowed with two notable Vietnamese joints: Rollbox and Saigon Mama. Could these humble new openings be catalysts for a Southeast Asian gastronomic revolution? Or, to be more direct: Might we soon be able to find decent Thai food here too?
If Solana’s Grand Bazaar is any indication, the latter question can be answered with a resounding yes – this restaurant’s seafood-heavy selection is genuinely superb. As for a gastronomic revolution? Maybe. But there’s a catch: this place been open for a year, and we hadn’t realized. Shame on us, perhaps. Though in our defense, the lakeside restaurant launched quietly in a space once occupied by another Thai outfit.
Anyone familiar with Grand Bazaar’s predecessor, Lantung, may remember a cocktail bar serving disappointing Thai snacks. Now the two-story spot – revamped, renamed and under new ownership – offers a wide choice of excellent Southeast Asian fare, from curry to a Thai paella (Thai-ella?).
This isn’t immediately obvious from the setting. Found on Solana’s quieter side, the Mediterranean-style building (coupled with its Persian-style name) doesn’t exactly scream Thai, though it is smart and welcoming nonetheless. Authenticity comes from the menu, which offers impressive interpretations of dishes we’ve long pined for.
If classics are a fair test of a restaurant’s character, the chicken coconut soup, beef salad and fish cakes (all RMB68) sing with well-balanced flavor. But the tom yum kung seafood hotpot (RMB258) is the real find at this bazaar. Choose from tiger prawns, scallops, mussels and slices of delicate white fish (be warned: all are easy to overcook), and let them soak up the wonderful spicy-sour broth.