Thanks to a tip-off by a fellow foodie Ms. Sophie Van Pelt, I learned that La Dolce Vita was a new gem that needed to be rediscovered after a new Italian manager/chef that’s come on board. After doing some research, I discovered that La Dolce Vita has actually been open in Beijing for 13 years (since 2003)! It has, however, recently come under new management and moved locations. Tucked away behind Sanlitun’s infamous Bar Street, round the corner from Smugglers and next to The Tree, the new La Dolce Vita is on the second floor of the Youth Hostel Building. It is simply decorated, yet feels very warm and homely and sets the stage for the entire experience.
The new manager/chef Fabio Falanga told us that his goal is to showcase some of the lesser known aspects of Italian cuisine. He has searched for unusual styles of pasta (no spaghetti, linguine or fettuccini here!) and a few combinations that you won’t see elsewhere in Beijing. With only three to six options per starter, salad, pasta, main and dessert, the menu is small compared to many other places, but it is a refreshing change not to have to leaf through a novel to decide on your meal and shows focus and the attention to detail in each course’s creation and presentation.
First up, let it be said that the bread is not good and didn’t make a good first impression. It was served warm, but it was dry and just very average. On the other hand, it came with a complimentary glass of Prosecco and some small bites as an amuse bouche. Though the bread did not live up to the standards of anything else we were served, the Prosecco was a lovely surprise and the olive oil and vinegar that accompanied the bread were also of excellent quality.
We began our meal with the Lulu Salad where the quality of the ingredients really shined and the flavors truly popped. It was such a gorgeous salad – their Mozzarella di Bufala was a stand-out!
The roasted octopus was definitely a highlight of our meal, with the smoky flavour of the tender octopus paired against the creamy potato and hint of celery it is a beautifully balanced dish, something I would expect from a fine-dining Italian restaurant and was delighted to find in a cozy, understated place like La Dolce Vita.
Complementary Bubbly + Small Bites with Bread Basket
Very Mediocre Bread Basket
Lulu Salad with Mozzarella di Bufala, Grilled Artichokes, Cherry Tomatoes, Walnuts, Arugula, Black Olives, Pane Carasau & Balsamic Cream (RMB 85)
Polpoliscious – Roasted Octopus with Potato and Leek Cream, Tomatoes, Celery and Mullet Bottarga (RMB 75)
For the mains, we had the raguot pasta and the scampi. Full marks to the pasta as a comfort food, it made me feel very happy and warm inside. I still want to learn how to reduce a sauce to get it to stick to the pasta every time like the Italians do!
The scampi is a really delicate piece of seafood that you would think would be overwhelmed by the pungent parmesan and yet at no point did it seem unbalanced. The inevitable criticism is that portions are a little small – RMB 225 for the scampi for example – but the quality was very high and just a lesson for next time to order our own mains!
“Sunday Call” – Tajarin with Slow-Cooked Australian Beef Ragout (RMB 95)
Rustic Scampi with Roasted Peppers and Parmigiano Cream (RMB 225)
To supplement our smaller main, we opted for another starter rather than a second main and the Farm Fritters (3 large meatballs) did the trick! Each meatball was quite unique in flavor and the crispy exterior added a nice texture.
The Farm Fritters – Trio of Pork, Chicken and Beef with Eggplants and Tomato Sauce (RMB 65)
From their very reasonably priced and varied wine menu, we had a couple of glasses of the house white both of which were lovely and stay true to the goal of exposing the hidden gems of Italian produce.
Think of this as more of a romantic date night venue with a nice ambiance. Definitely worth visiting, it is a welcome renaissance for this space!
La Dolce Vita Contact Details:
- Address: 2/F, Youyi Youth Hostel, Bei Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District
- Tel: 6468 2894
- Opening Hours: Open Daily from 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5-11PM
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.