Sanlitun recently welcomed a chic new Japanese restaurant to one of the hottest expat areas in town. You’ve probably seen it if you’ve visited its neighbors Home Plate and Taco Bar – it’s the slightly underground fishbowl spot that you keep saying you’ve been meaning to try. While it’s cute and well-located, it’s far from an expat-friendly place. Still, the food is solid gourmet fare and it has the potential to be a great new date spot.
The atmosphere is sharp and clean, almost sterile, reminiscent of many hip Tokyo eateries. It’s all white walls and wooden tables, and the waitstaff encourages you to store your winter accoutrements in little boxes that are then hidden away beneath the booths.
The menus are almost entirely in Chinese, but even if you have a decently serviceable vocabulary of characters, they lack any sort of descriptions as to what each dish is. This includes their offerings of cocktails and beer. We take a shot in the dark and order the Painkiller (RMB48), the Daxy (RMB48), and the Whisky Highball (RMB38), which turn out to be: a very milky pina colada, an uninspired passionfruit mojito and a fine whiskey ginger.
The food menu is divided into starters, snacks, shyno, rolls, meatballs, signature dishes, greens and desserts. All very streamlined and chic, but all rather perplexing and opaque. We aren’t sure what the rolls are like (again, no descriptions), but the inclusion of ‘Ribeye with Cheese’ convinces us to avoid that section. We opt for a Goose Liver and Mango Shyno (RMB38), and while we’re still not positive what ‘shyno’ actually is, what we receive are three petite pieces of perfectly seared goose liver atop slices of mango and some sort of biscuit. The shrimp and rosemary ‘meatballs’ (RMB38) turn out to be frustratingly petite shrimp that is unfathomably morphed into the shape of a ball. But they are delicious.
We skip over the signature dishes as they seem to be ones you would find at most Chinese restaurants, and order up some greens in the form of asparagus (RMB15) – maybe a stalk and a half on skewers that are perfectly salted – and the sweet potato (RMB18), which is an uncharacteristically large baked sweet potato with a mound of butter atop. We close with a chocolate mille crepe cake (RMB39), which is simply fine.
Shyno doesn’t get our full recommendation since it seems to value aesthetics above all else, but it’s an interesting place to try. Just make sure that you bring along a Chinese-speaking friend who can ask the many questions you’ll undoubtedly have as you’re dining.
[Images via Curtis Dunn for That’s]