Puzzles: A New Western-style Restaurant on Baochao Hutong

By Yinmai O'Connor, June 5, 2024

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The Place 

The hutongs are one of the best areas in Beijing for a relaxing brunch, dinner or drink away from the modern hubbub of the city, and the newest addition to Baochao's eclectic group of culinary offerings, Puzzles, is an ideal spot for all three. 

Excuse the obvious pun, but each piece of the restaurant – from the décor, menu, and staff to the presentation of the food and drinks – fits together perfectly.

Puzzles was started by two hospitality veterans, Munich-born Max Besler (previously of French Michelin-starred restaurant Jing and TRB) and Dongbei-native Ann Zhang (previous Beverage Manager of the Peninsula Beijing), who met while working at the Peninsula Beijing. 

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The Food

Both Besler and Zhang's years of experience are apparent in the well-curated mix of food and drinks offered by Puzzles. 

Besler developed the menu based on the various dishes that he enjoys to eat on a daily basis. 

His goal is to provide an assortment of western classics that are well-prepared and thoughtfully presented.

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Image by Yinmai O'Connor/That's

A meal begins with puzzle-piece shaped butter arriving tableside, along with complimentary bread, aligning with the venue's name.

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Puzzles offers a number of cold dishes such as Cucumber Potato Salad (RMB68)Smoked Salmon Carpaccio (RMB108) and Iberico Ham with Honey Melon (RMB118) that is artfully presented in a melon bowl. 

While the cured meats are imported, the produce is brought in every morning from the local hutong vegetable market just around the corner, ensuring only the freshest ingredients. 

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Puzzles' hot menu includes a variety of Pastas (RMB68-88), Stuffed Paprika (RMB98), Sirloin Steak (168RMB) and 'Good German Pizza' (RM88), a diverse list, to say the least. 

pear.jpgSince Puzzles opened, their simply named dessert – A Pear (RMB48) – has sold out every day. 

Only about a dozen are carefully prepared the night before, and after going viral, they said that many customers have come in just to taste and photograph the delectably presented fruit. 

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Image by Yinmai O'Connor/That's

Regardless of the fruit dish's fame, what grabbed our attention is the Crème Brûlée (RMB58), the the star of their dessert menu. 

It's crusted – but not hard – top layer gives way to a rich – but not too sweet – creamy center. 

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Image by Yinmai O'Connor/That's

Although most of the dishes are suitable for consumption at any time of day, they do offer a brunch menu with a few simple options. 

Although seemingly standard in appearance, the Fried Egg with Spinach (RMB68) bursts – literally – with flavor when the gooey soft-poached egg yolk is peirced and dribbles down the side of the plate. 

Crispy fried hashbrowns lend a juxtaposing textural crunch, while a verdant spinach sauce bridges the two.

As for the drinks front, Zhang's artistically prepared concoctions showcase Puzzles' attention to detail. 

The branded ice cubes feature their signature puzzle piece logo, and the citrus peels are meticulously cut into the same classic puzzle shape. 

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Image by Yinmai O'Connor/That's

Case in point, the barrel-aged Not Really Negroni (RMB98) could convert even those abstaining with its complex layers and by how the acohol's sharpness is mellowed by Zhang's aging process. 

Besler and Zhang ensure customers have a pleasurable dining experience – often bringing complimentary treats to each table to thank them for their patronage.

The Vibe

The duo designed and decorated the space together after searching for the right location for over half a year. 

The subtle décor features pleasantly muted tans and earth tones covering the cozy – but not cramped – space. 

Everything from the staff's linen clothing to the rotary phone near the entrance – that actually works – blends together to create a relaxing aesthetic. 

Besler and Zhang even painted the large canvases that adorn the main room and bar in the back themselves.

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From the expertly selected utensils and tableware that match the furnishings to a welcome plate complete with lemon wedges, cucumber slices and mint leaves for guests to tailor their water to their particular tastes, all the details are meticuosly cared for. 

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Although Puzzles might not be the ideal place for someone on a budget, you will definitely get your money's worth, and it is reasonably priced when compared with other Western options in Beijing – especially with those that are located around Gulou. 

Whether you are looking for a spot to have a snack, satisfying meal or cocktails, Puzzles is a comfortable and welcoming place to stop by the next time you are in the hutongs.

There is also an extra bonus for the dog moms and dads – Puzzles is pet-friendly!

Puzzles

Open 11am-10pm (closed on Tuesdays)

Tel: +86 010 6405 9001

No.52 Baochao Hutong, Dongcheng


For more Beijing Restaurant Review

[All other photos are courtesy of Puzzles]

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