Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Western Food and Chinese Wine in a Hutong: Dinner at Chi Restaurant in Beijing, China

Picture: Chi Restaurant in Beijing

In early June 2014, I spent a week in Beijing, China. I visited TopWine China in Beijing, which took place during June 4 to 6 at the China National Convention Center (which is part of the Olympic Park). I have reported about the German winemakers and wines at the 2014 TopWine China here:

Germany at TopWine China 2014 in Beijing, China

The main reason for flying over to Beijing, however, was the birthday of my daughter Cornelia Tremann, who lives with her husband Chris Tremann in Beijing. Cornelia is with UNDP and Chris with the American Diplomatic Service. On the day of our arrival, Cornelia and Chris took us to Chi Restaurant in a hutong, where we had Western Food and Chinese Wine.

Picture: View of Beijing from the Appartment of Cornelia and Chris with the famous CCTV Headquarters Building on the left


Hutongs are a type of narrow alleys, commonly associated with northern Chinese cities, most prominently Beijing. In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences. Many neighborhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. With the construction boom in Beijing, the number of hutongs has dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, however, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.

Dinner at Chi

Chi is a small, one-room venue, with an open kitchen, a few simple tables, and bar seating viewing the work of the chefs. The style of the interior is urban renewal, with re-purposed materials, unfinished wood and exposed brick.

Food is organically-sourced Western fusion, delivered in a succession of small plates, tapas style. There is a set, handwritten menu only, which I was told, changes often.

Pictures: Chi Restaurant

The Food

The price for the 5 course dinner was 260 Renminbi (1 US$ = 6.2 Renminbi), tax and tip included (you do not tip in China).

Pictures: The Menu

The Wine

Most of the wines of Chi Restaurant are imported wines. We chose a locally produced 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend: People’s Cabernet 2011, Grace Vineyard, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot. After that, when Chi General Manager Nathan Hui Xiang Zhang joind us, we had a Chi house wine, from Spain.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Chi General Manager Nathan Hui Xiang Zhang

Grace Vineyard

Named Best Winery 2012 by the Chinese edition of La Revue du Vin de France, the family-owned winery in the country’s northeastern Shanxi province was founded in 1997 by C. K. Chan. Its first vintage was 2001. Along with the smaller operation Silver Heights in Ningxia, it is one of the few internationally recognized Chinese wine makers.

Picture: Grace Vineyard (Source: Grace Vineyard Facebook Page)

Today, Grace Vineyard has 200 hectares in Shanxi (and Silver Heights 75 hectares in Ningxia). Combined, they produce 2.5 million bottles per year. The current portfolio of 13 wines, crafted by Australian winemaker Ken Murchison, includes predominantly red varietals — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc — as well as some Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Retail prices start from $10 for the entry-level Vineyard Series to $77 for the high-end Chairman’s Reserve.

Since 2002, C.K. Chan’s daughter, Judy Chan (Leissner), a former human-resources analyst, has been in charge. Torres China takes care of the distribution.

Picture: Judy Chan (Source: Grace Vineyard)

People’s Cabernet 2011, Grace Vineyard

Grace Vineyard: The red grapes were selected from different plots of vineyard neighboring Mount Helan in Ningxia, at 1,000 meters altitude, grown by local farmers from Qing Tong Xia region which were trained to obtain low yield and to pick at optimum maturity.

The grapes are lightly crushed and transferred to the stainless steel tank for a short period of pre-fermentation soak, follow by alcoholic fermentation (which takes around 6 days). The wine is off-skin (press) early without extending the post-ferment maceration. Secondary fermentation (malolactic) takes place in stainless steel tanks, follow by a short aging period (5 months) in older barrel.

Dark red with crimson hue. This wine shows distinctive character of fresh red & dark cherry fruits, with hint of pepper spice character underlying. Medium weight wine, with good acid / tannins balance while having hint of coco-spice on the finishing.

Picture: People’s Cabernet 2011, Grace Vineyard, China

The People Series of Grace Vineyard

From the press release: People’s Series is a tribute to the People of China, with images of people on the label: workers, farmers, students, merchants, etc. It is also a modern approach on Chinese winemaking for Grace Vineyard. The grapes for the red wine, People’s Cabernet, were selected from different plots of vineyards neighboring Mount Helan in Ningxia at 1,100 meters altitude, grown by local farmers from Qing Tong Xia region who were trained to obtain low yield and to pick at optimum maturity. As for the white wine, it is made by 100% Chardonnay grapes coming from the vineyard neighboring the winery in Shanxi wine region.

There are plans to export the wines.


Cornelia and Chris, thanks for a great evening.

Picture: Cornelia and Chris Tremann

See also:
Dining and Wining at a Malagasy Institution: Chez Madame Chabaud in Mahajanga, at the West Coast of Madagascar

Bye Bye

Picture: Chi Restaurant in Beijing, China

Chi Restaurant
English address 67 Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng district
Chinese address 东城区五道营胡同67号

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Dining and Wining at a Malagasy Institution: Chez Madame Chabaud in Mahajanga, at the West Coast of Madagascar 

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