Aria (China World Hotel, Beijing)


No. 1 Jianguomenwai Avenue. //北京建国门外大街1号,中国大饭店内 Tel: 8610) 6505 2266 ext.6644

Molecular cuisine and fine-dining arrive in Beijing.
Bold, strong, and fresh, Aria is a whole new process in dining. Simple yet elegant, Aria is an under-publicized gem, whose genius in culinary creation has yet to be popularized by the public.

What is found at Aria is truly fine dining. Every dish successfully brings molecular cuisine to the dinner plate, and each one simultaneously deconstructs the flavors to their essences, while at the same time turning each singular flavor into a melding of robust sensations.

There is no one motif at Aria and every dish is served to the hilt. From cooling palate cleansers of Tomato refreshers that have a certain acerbic gusto, to guiltily crisp Pig Ears that give bar food a whole new meaning, to Steak Tartar that is well-balanced of spiced mustard and unequivocal steak, eliciting Australia tenfold with each bite, Chef Matthew provides extraordinary insight and sensitivity to the art of food. He serves creations that are complex yet retain a simplistic charm, and within its nuances of taste and texture lays its grandeur.
A Goat’s cheese cannelloni stands out, yielding a spritzy thrill of heavy, sundering eggplant with cloyingly sweet yogurt, and topping it off with a hint of olive liquorices. Artfully presented, and ready to burst from inside the cannelloni, this is a tingling, lusciously cream dish sure to make anyone moan.

The Jerusalem artichoke soup truffle is buttery yet spiced, and delicately situates each flavor upon each other. It is a soup of esteemed quality and true perfection, giving a sense of repose while at the same time pushing the interpretation of soup to new horizons. The aroma of this soup is heady and absolutely saturated with flavor, while still held back tenuously by the relative levity of artichoke.

The Scallop and Crab Ravioli is a sheer, translucent display containing an orchard of citrus salt and lobster stock. It presents an elegant and sophisticated take on ravioli and the Seared scallop spaghetti is another seafood burlesque dance of sorts, artfully blending asparagus, pea and ponzu together to give a savory oomph.

The Apple sorbet, apple foam, and black pepper yield a wide sensation of tastes. Cool, crisp, sharp, tart essence of apple is superbly captured, making for a rather bracing experience. The addition of pepper adds a piercing contrast.

The Tajima Wagyu friars triffle brood is a strong bold dish, sophisticated and well aged. It is a confident presentation that amalgamates natural succulent steak juices with sauces of coffee and olive that never quite fuse together, but rather pulls apart each flavor in different directions, leaving you with a new experience completely.

Few dishes fail to amaze, but the Smoked lobster caviar crouton’s is intense if vaguely off putting. The croutons are overly buttered and cannot compliment the caviar, which is itself slightly too lemony. The Duck breast roulade also fails to impress being unnecessarily fatty. Its pairing with cabbage apple and cauliflower also does not find a way to successfully bring the natural juices of the duck with the astringent nature of the cabbage.

To conclude, the desserts do not falter. The Aria Cheesecake is a versatile concoction that possesses subtle notes of vanilla, toast and cream and somehow maintains a surprisingly restrained finish. The Melting chocolate terrine is a mellow dish showing lovely earthy flavors.

Throughout the meal, a most impressive display of bread is offered complimentary, from gentle olive oiled to vivacious cranberry. Each dish can be paired with Aria’s stellar wine list, from a Valckenberg Riesling, with light floral and mineral flavors, to the pleasingly dry yet juicy and tight Beringer Founder Estate Chardonnay. The Yalumba Shiras-Vlognier, is a recommended wine and hand-picked, it successfully neutralizes juxtaposed elements of the Duck breast roulade and cabbage. The Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua is equally excellent, a smooth, mature-tasting wine, with plenty of smoke, leather, and meat. For dessert, the Alvera Solera 1927 pedro Ximenez port is one of the best ports you will find in China, off-dry rather, crisp not heavy, with plenty of stone fruit flavors.

No single dish is overwhelming or monolithic in its texture and taste, and Aria and Chef Matthew may be deserving of a Michelin rating. Aria is clearly in another league culinarily, and even looking back at the other fine-dining restaurants I have visited in China, the food at Aria is exciting and will leave you impressed. Aria should exceed your expectations, and the kitchen's dedication to quality produce, precise technique, and culinary creativity gives you an unabashedly bold and brash tasting encounter, with lively flavors that jump at you from every bite.

-- by Larissa Paschyn

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Scallop, steak,