Being vegetarian in Beijing is an excellent opportunity to hone your skills in apologetic speaking. “Is there meat in this?” “Can you leave the chicken out?” “No, it’s fine, I’ll just have rice then.” Much to vegetarians’ frustration, our lifestyle is severely underrepresented in this city.
Even more irritating is that most restaurants that offer substitutes for meat are keen to make it painfully clear that we are ingesting tasteless tofu and missing out on their signature juicy, hearty beef patty. I’ve had my share of overpriced underwhelming meat substitutes in Beijing. I really wanted to try Rootpop, a new all-vegan joint in Shuangjing, but my six years of vegetarianism led me to expect disappointment.
Which is why Rootpop is a pleasant surprise.
In the artsy Baiziwan area, Rootpop’s trendy space features modern furnishings and a clean, light color scheme. It’s the sort of effortlessly elegant atmosphere where you’d expect to see ladies in sundresses and red lipstick. But the menu – all vegan – is diner-style, with burgers, hot dogs, wraps and fries. Our food comes served on paper boats, like at a fast food restaurant. It’s clear Rootpop has a sense a humor.
The food is delightful. The vegan burger patties hold together nicely, and the cheese is so cheesy (but not actually cheese – again, vegan!). The beets, pineapple, and barbecue sauce in the Australian-style burger (RMB45) make for an unexpectedly punchy combination.
The Greek salad (RMB40) is another winner, combining toasted coconut, toasted pecans, pineapple, mint leaves and beets. Balancing savory and sweet, the Greek salad is one of those love-it-or-hate-it dishes – and we love it.
The highlight, though, is the tempura hot dog, which is more of a corn dog if you ask us. With sweet chili mayonnaise, teriyaki sauce and pickled red ginger ribbons, the tempura dog was rich, meaty, spicy, sweet and sour. We’re skeptical of any corn dog that costs more than 10 kuai – but this one is worth the price.
Admittedly, some of the menu descriptions are off. The ‘Sandwiches’ are more like burgers, and the ‘Hot Dogs’ are sausages on a stick. The durian and mushroom ‘sandwich,’ however, tastes delicious (i.e. nothing like durian).
Rootpop is for anyone, with or without sundresses, vegan or meat lover, who wants to be pleasantly surprised. Rootpop does everything differently, and we have faith that it will soon rise as the new indie nonconformist in the neighborhood.