As a Californian, I was a Chipotle regular but admittedly more out of convenience and peer pressure (my friends were hooked). For those who aren’t familiar with Chipotle, it is widely known as the ”healthy” fast-food Mexican grill chain that spread like wildfire across America. Over the past few years in Beijing, I’ve heard people talk about Avocado Tree 油梨树, but mostly in comparison to Chipotle. While I was keen to reminisce the days I used to eat at Chipotle multiple times a week, Avocado Tree’s older branches have been based out in Wudaokou, Shunyi and Sanyuanqiao – all out of arm’s reach and I’ll be honest – I was never all that crazy about Chipotle anyway so I never made the effort to go out of my way to seek out a meal at Avocado Tree until recently.
A growing restaurant empire with 5 branches spread across Beijing, one of Avocado Tree’s newer, swankier branches is in City Mall (or PingAn Mall on the northwest side of Liangmaqiao, just west of the Westin Hotel) and after my first ever visit to this location, I have since been back 3 times in the past week in spite of the torrential downpour of summer rain that’s left our city a hot, flooded mess. Needless to say, that’s a whole lot more effort than I ever gave Chipotle back in California.
Avocado Tree has been in existence since 2010, which goes to show you that some businesses do take time to mature and hit their stride. I am very glad that Avocado Tree has had time to do just that as their branch in Liangmaqiao and most recently in Sanlitun’s food-filled Topwin Mall is a godsend if you live/work in the area and want something tasty and healthy for lunch.
For the Liangmaqiao branch, the easiest way to find the is to walk round to the back of the Westin and then go down the stairs in to the subterranean court. Avocado Tree is just next to the Nazca Cafe with a big, bright sign and a lot of green around their outside seating.
While the restaurant’s concept drew inspiration from the Chipotle chain, Avocado Tree is far from fast and all about the quality of their ingredients which is why so much is made in-house. Yes, this is a place where you line up at a counter and make your own Mexican meal by selecting the ingredients you want to fill your base of grains (bowl), lettuce (salad) or tortilla (burrito), but don’t let this casual dining concept fool you into thinking that just because you can get your meal quickly, that it is in the same bracket as fast-food.
“Avocado Tree was inspired by the idea that healthy food can be simple and affordable. Beijing is so fast paced that we are forced to eat out too often and we want to give people a place to grab a convenient meal. When Avocado Tree first opened 5 years ago, there were very few places serving California-style burritos and burrito bowls, and there was very little awareness for this type of food. We have both enjoyed and struggled with introducing our food to Beijing and especially to Chinese people. Through the process of explaining what we offered, we came to realize what was most important to us: fresh, healthy, and simple. Avocado Tree’s mission is to handcraft simple and fresh meals. We want to make the customer’s food right in front of them so that they can tell us directly how to customize their meals. We want the customer to feel that it is simple to eat healthy and feel good.” – Owners Chelsea Fan & Nemanja Maric
Avocado Tree’s quality ingredients are what makes these simple foods something special. It doesn’t matter if you want to have a taco, a burrito, a grain bowl or a salad because it’s everything you choose to pile on top that will keep bringing you back here – especially their in-house marinated and slow-cooked tender meat options. And vegetarians can rejoice because you will be treated to heaping portions of glorious guacamole!
Avocado Tree’s Simple & Straight-forward 1-Page Menu
Chips (RMB 6), Queso (RMB 15), Guacamole (RMB 21)
It would be a shame to go to Avocado Tree and not get your fill of avocados. The best way to satisfy your cravings is with heaps of guacamole, which Avocado Tree proudly serves up in generous portions.
“Our secret to making great guac is just to always make it fresh and serve it chunky so you get the full taste of the avocado fruit itself rather than a paste.”
Chicken Quesadilla (RMB 30)
Cheese Quesadilla (RMB 30)
The quesadillas were served just how we like it – hot and filled with oozing-gooey cheese. The cheese quesadillas has slices of jalapeños for a spicy kick, but we were smitten with the tender, flavorful chunks of chicken in the Chicken Quesadillas.
Fresh & Zesty Salsa
While all the vegetables were fresh and colorful, the meats are where Avocado Tree really shines. We tried all four meat varieties (pork carnitas, marinated beef barbacoa, steak and chicken) and everything was melt-in-your-mouth tender and well marinated with plenty of flavor. Our favourites were the slow-cooked beef barbacoa and the chicken made from chicken leg (hooray for using the dark meat of chicken!). The pork carnitas divided opinion – juicy and tender, but the unique flavor marinated through might not be for everyone.
“We cook our meats in a very traditional way; we take care to leave enough time to marinate our meats properly. We use our own homemade adobo sauce to marinate our meats, which tastes very different from packaged sauces sold in China. Other than sourcing good meat, we also focus on sourcing good natural spices for our meats. We use over 18 different types of natural spices such as juniper berries, cumin, fresh garlic, cloves, pepper, oregano, thyme, etc. which bring out the full flavor of the meat itself.”
There is a decent choice of vegetables, with all the stalwarts; roasted peppers and onions, black beans and even options to add pickled jalapeños if you so wish! Finish your creation off with sauces – sour cream and hot sauce or less traditional oil and vinegar (for the salad base option).
Needless to say, we were delighted by the portions of avocado, generous in Beijing and quality avocados that are just right – creamy and tasty!
Barbacoa Grain Bowl (RMB 34 + extra RMB 6 for cheese topping)
Chicken Tacos (RMB 13 each)
Steak Tacos with Guac (RMB 19 each)
Barbacoa Tacos (RMB 16 each)
Carnitas Tacos (RMB 13 each)
Tightly Packaged Burrito (RMB 34)
Bite Me: Barbacoa Burrito (RMB 34)
Summed up: if you live nearby one of their five branches, happy days! Great value for a quality meal. It’s going to be a stalwart for a quick and healthy lunch from here on in!
油梨树 Avocado Tree’s Contact Details:
1) Shunyi store顺义店:
Shunyi New Convention Center, Pinnacle Plaza 310
2) Western Academy of Beijing store京西学校店:
Laiguangying East Road, Beijing Riviera Plaza, 2nd floor
3) San Yuan Qiao store三元桥店:
Xiao Yun Lu 35 counrtyard
4) Liangmaqiao store亮马桥店:
1 Xin Yuan Nan Lu, Citymall Ping An, B1-B15
5) Sanlitun store三里屯店:
Nan San Li Tun Lu, Topwin Center, B1-13D
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.