Of all the openings in the F&B scene this year, this is one of the most highly anticipated! Ignace Leclair, owner and founder of the TRB Hospitality Group, has created a new concept for the casual dining market called Hulu.
Smack bang in the middle of Taikoo Li South’s 3rd floor (by Hatsune, Saigon Mama, and Café Flo), Hulu is set to make a big splash, given the pedigree of the masterminds behind it.
“Hulu brings the warmth and comfort of home-cooked food to casual fine dining. Our goal is to strip away the formalities of fine dining to offer you a home away from home, a place to enjoy time with good company and quality food in the heart of Beijing. With an international menu created by the TRB culinary team, you can expect refined service and dishes that won’t compromise on flavor, freshness or presentation.” – Hulu
After a pre-opening menu tasting and snagging a table with fellow foodies on their opening night, my first impressions of Hulu’s design and menu will reveal that this is and isn’t a far departure from TRB.
It’s clear where Hulu’s foundations are born from, but they’ve really adapted the concept to fit its new location. In line with the hustle and bustle of the trend-setting Taikoo Li in Sanlitun, Hulu is a great social space. Maybe because it was their opening night or maybe because all of TRB’s die-hard fans were first to book in their reservations for a taste of Hulu, but guests were mingling throughout the evening and the excitement of being there was palpable.
While they’ve made an effort to try not to be fine dining, the space is still sleek and minimalist. Featuring high ceilings with hanging geometric light fixtures, I wouldn’t call Hulu casual by any means, but it’s certainly more relaxed and lively in comparison to TRB’s picture-perfect, formal fine dining establishments. I’m not sure the paper placemats match the gold cutlery and chic plateware, but you’ll hardly notice any of these minor details when the draw here is the buzzing vibes and the giant menu (literally).
Hulu is aimed therefore at those looking for a touch of luxury in a warm, smart space. Nothing too over-the-top, and less pressure to impress your date with your wine knowledge, or which cutlery to use. This will stand amongst Taikoo Li’s lineup of F&B giants as a place to impress, and versatile enough to come on a regular basis without breaking the bank.
Exterior in Taikoo Li Sanlitun
Main Dining Space
Our Private Dining Table Around the Corner
First up, this menu is huge and runs the whole gamut. No exaggeration. From gorgeous canapés to comforting soups, salads, and pastas and brunch classics to jaw-dropping meat dishes, a premium selection of caviar and show-stopping desserts, Hulu has got you covered. I can’t imagine anyone flipping through this enormous menu book and not finding something that catches their fancy.
My first impressions of Hulu’s dishes is that they are not messing around – this is a seriously large menu for a new opening concept. While it’s ambitious to offer such a huge menu right off the bat, it’s to their credit that they can offer so much diversity in choice while also giving a wide range of very casual to very formal. Some of the dishes – the bone marrow, the canapés, their signature soufflé – look like renditions I’ve previously had before at one of TRB’s two branches, where others – the trio of sliders, the salads and brunch classics – are more like refined versions of plates you might see elsewhere around the city.
The shared plates are really where it’s at, and I would encourage you to come with a decent sized group. The dishes are all great value and perfect for sharing between a group of 3-4 friends.
Hulu’s Picture-Perfect, Monster-Sized Menu
Cucumber Salmon Mousse (RMB 38 for 6 Pieces)
Pretty little bites, this is an example of one of their many gorgeous canapés that aim to impress, but also great value.
Mushroom Soup (RMB 32 per person)
Creamy, earthy and delicious, this mushroom soup is thick and so full of flavor. Next time I want to try their Carrot Ginger Soup!
Sweet Potato Fries with Parmesan Cheese and Fresh Rosemary (RMB 48)
Crispy and thin, these sweet potato fries topped with fresh rosemary are a real crowd-pleaser! And there’s something really special about their ketchup – it’s definitely a big step-up from Heinz!
Garlic Prawns with Chili, Garlic and Mixed Greens (RMB 38)
Even though it’s called “Garlic Prawns”, I was still surprised (in a good way!) by the potency of the garlic in this dish. It also packs a punch with the chili flakes.
Pork Belly and Foie Gras Pâté on Toast with Brandy Pickled Purple Cabbage (RMB 32 for 4 pieces)
A real highlight for me was this pork and foie gras terrine with pickled onions which had the lovely acid from the onions combined with the richness of the terrine. Also one of the most eye-catching presentations with the contrasting colors and smartly served on a bed of peppercorns.
Iberico Ham Croquettes (RMB 42 for 5 pieces)
Another set of canapés stunning in presentation and very tasty. We were big fans of the accompanying chili sauce and kept it for more dipping pleasure. Tip: Spread this sauce on your mini burger sliders!
Steak Tartare with Raw Marinated Australian Beef with Beech Mushrooms, Beetroot and Dijon Mustard (RMB 88)
A generous portion, this steak tartare is probably one of the best value dishes on Hulu’s menu. The tart, pickled beech mushrooms compliment the spicy dijon mustard and the presentation is spot-on.
Prawn Stuffed Tomatoes with Fresh Prawns, Creamy Avocado and Lemon (RMB 48 for 4 pieces)
This dish is playful and cute, and perfect for photo-ops! Cut away the wines and you’ll find that each tomato is stuffed with fresh prawns and creamy avocado! It’s refreshing and a great concept for a dish, but ultimately the taste of the tomato overwhelmed the ingredients it holds.
Prawn & Arugula Salad with Endive, Kale, Celery and Apple (RMB 38)
The prawns were aplenty, but greens were drenched in a bit too much dressing. A minor complaint for another great value dish.
Bone Marrow and Snails with Parsley Foam (RMB 98)
The bone marrow is gorgeous and a favorite of many among my fellow foodies. The roasted snails swimming in parsley foam paired beautifully with the marow. My only gripe was that the bread to bone marrow ratio was a little out of proportion. The best way to eat it is to spread the roasted marrow all over some great bread and let the flavours mingle in your mouth.
Foie Gras with Fig Marmalade (RMB 98)
Indulgently creamy and rich, this foie gras terrine is a great example of a “fancier” dish featured on Hulu’s menu, but also very reasonably priced.
Spinach Pasta with Lemon, Pine Nuts & Parmesan (RMB 58)
Light and topped with fresh greens, this spinach pasta was quite delicate in flavor. Perhaps because I expected the sauce to be pesto. While I’ll always prefer more pungent pasta options, this is a nice option for vegetarians.
Norwegian Salmon Avocado Rose (RMB 68)
The salmon and avocado rose is just a stunning dish. It is essentially sushi without the rice with a really lovely sauce that compliments the chunks of salmon sashimi.
Quail Eggs, Cucumber and Thai Dressing (RMB 42)
A platter full of pan-fried quail eggs served sunny-side up over freshly sliced cucumber, this is a light and refreshing brunch dish. But unlike your classic egg dish, this one comes topped with a zingy Thai sauce. Really eye-catching presentation and unique flavor profile.
Mini Beef Sliders with Emmental Cheese, Tomato, Purple Onion and Romaine Lettuce (RMB 68 for 3)
The mini sliders were so good, we got both options. One is a standard burger (pictured above) and the other has pulled pork on top of the juicy beef patty (pictured below). The sliders are messy, juicy and everything you want your burger to be! And it’s great they come served mini so that you don’t get too full eating one thing.
Mini Pork Burgers with Beef Patty, Pulled Pork, Cheddar Cheese, Purple Onion, Pickled Cabbage and Romaine Lettuce (RMB 78 for trio)
Avocado Toast with Radish Slices (RMB 48)
Not a dish that left a lasting impression, but I get that avocado on toast is all the rave these days.
Fluke Ceviche with Tomato, Pineapple and Lime (RMB 98)
A generous portion of fluke ceviche in a tangy, citrusy dressing, I recommend dunking the top half of the ceviche in the sauce so that it soaks up more of the dressing.
Slow Steamed Seabass with Lemon and Parsley (RMB 88)
The seabass is presented like a wrapped present before the top is cut open! The fish cooked really nicely, as it was so tender you could eat it with a spoon, but it lacked taste. There is more parsley and lemon and chili oil to add as you wish, but I think it was missing something to give it something to help it stand out.
Eggplant Ragoût with Bell Peppers, Tomato & Pine Nuts (RMB 36)
A nice compliment to the many meat dishes we ordered, this side dish of eggplant, bell peppers and tomato is simple, but done really well.
Beef Flank 200g (RMB 148 or RMB 350 for 500g)
The flank steak was cooked medium rare just as we asked and the chimichurri sauce is a nice touch to what would otherwise just be a pretty solid steak.
Homemade Chorizo Pasta with Fresh Parmesan (RMB 48)
Highly recommended by our server, we were quick to oblige and I’m so glad we did. This is a massive upgrade to the mac ‘n cheese that I grew up eating! A very “TRB touch” for the fresh Parmesan to be grated tableside as the dish was served.
Baked Potatoes with Creamy Parmesan Cheese and Braised Short Ribs (RMB 36)
This side dish is not to be overlooked! It might not stand out like some other dishes in terms of its presentation, but there is so much flavor and that irresistible gooey texture that makes this dish so indulgent. And beneath all that cheese and potato are tender, braised short ribs for added goodness. A true comfort dish!
Roasted Pork Neck Marinated in Herb Blend (RMB 88)
Accompanied by 2 different sauces, the roasted pork neck was another favorite. Succulent pork that melts in your mouth, it was dishes like this one that left me very conflicted. I wanted more, but liked the fact that the small portion let me sample more variety.
Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan Cheese Foam (RMB 68)
I wouldn’t normally even order a risotto, but this was another highlight of our meal. So full of flavor and the rice perfectly al dente, this mushroom risotto is a winner!
Slow Braised Beef Cheek in Red Wine Sauce (RMB 98)
The beef cheek is incredibly tender and the juice so rich and flavourful, I would drink it as a soup if they offered it. A really soothing stew, ideal for these cold winter months in Beijing.
Blue Tea (RMB 38)
Before we began feasting on Hulu’s delectable desserts, we were introduced to this unique, all-natural “Blue Tea” by our server who highly recommended it to our table. We were sold as soon as he said that there was also another magical ingredient that transforms the color to purple. Intrigued, we couldn’t resist ordering a pot for the table! As a blue tea, I can’t say the tea had much flavor but with the addition of fresh lemon juice (the touch of magic), the tea immediately changed to purple. I only wish I had my phone’s boomerang function ready to capture the color change! #instafail
Transforms to Purple with Lemon Juice
To finish up, I have got to hand it to the chefs who came up with the desserts. Each one of these desserts will be devoured in the blink of an eye. They are, in my mind, a great compromise between haute cuisine and populist sweets.
Classic Tiramisu (RMB 88)
Winning praise all around, this Tiramisu hits the nail on the head with the right balance of sweet from the cream, bitterness from the coffee and raw cocoa and it’s surprisingly light and airy.
Passion Fruit Panna Cotta (RMB 28 per piece)
Creamy panna cotta topped with tart passion fruit is a match made in heaven. The portion is designed per person (not for sharing) and that’s a good thing because you’re going to want to keep this all for yourself.
Lemon Meringue Tart with Tangy Lemon Custard (RMB 35)
Super sharp and sour, the gooey lemon custard is a far cry from anything remotely mild. The billowy meringue is a nice compliment and a delightfully acidic dessert.
Flaming Ice Cream with Passion Fruit Sorbet, Fresh Strawberries and Sweet Meringue (RMB 58)
There was some skepticism about the flaming ice cream before it came out, potentially something with more style and flash over substance and to be honest it is a little bit of a misnomer. It is more of a tropical fruit sorbet that is covered in meringue and set alight. Delicious though, and the blue flame is unabashedly cool. It’s not our favorite dessert, but I’m sure it will get its fair share of coverage on social media.
Our Dessert Finale!
Maison Callebaut 70% Dark Chocolate Soufflé (RMB 68)
Grand Marnier Soufflé (RMB 78)
There is a reason why Hulu’s signature soufflés are featured on a double-page spread. Prime real estate to showcase some serious show-stopping desserts. I would recommend either the dark chocolate or the Grand Marnier as we found the passion fruit to not have quite as much flavour, but honestly they were all brilliant and the perfect way to end a spectacular meal.
Hulu is an excellent addition to the Beijing dining scene. The food and the location are both stellar and it will be interesting to watch how Hulu ends up positioning itself as it evolves. At the moment, it straddles a somewhat undefined space between luxury and treat. Many of the dishes are surprisingly affordable and great value relative to a lot of comparable Western restaurants. On the opening night, our table of six paid just under RMB 200 per person and we went to town on the menu.
Ultimately, I’m confident Hulu will continue to be one of the most talked about new restaurants this year and make a name for itself in Beijing for its extensive menu filled with beautifully presented, competitively priced dishes and top-notch service.
Hulu’s Contact Details:
- Address: 3rd Floor of Taikoo Li, S4–32, Taikoo Li South, Sanlitun, Chaoyang District, Beijing
- 地址：北京市朝阳区三里屯太古里南区S4–32, 太古里南区3楼
- Tel: 010–65125701
- Open Daily: Sun-Thursday: 11:00 – 23:00, Friday & Saturday: 11:00 – 24:00
- Email: [email protected]
- Wechat: HuluBeijingOffical
- FB: HuluBeijingOfficial, IG: hulu_cn
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.