A restaurant known to provide excellent value, this one caught everyone by surprise when it opened at the end of 2015 and after a handful of visits with different foodie friends (including a BJ FOoDiEs Charity Dinner that hosted 110 guests), I was long due for a return visit. TRB Bites@The Courtyard brought on a new international executive chef Sebastian Schafer last fall (August 2016) and we have heard excellent reviews so I was eager to try
TRB Bites has an unique menu format that lets you put together your own 3 or 4 course meal in whatever way you so please. Forget the traditional menu template with starters followed by mains and then desserts. The “bold and funky bites” here are broken down into different categories for you based on each dish’s star ingredient. While “Meaty & Hearty” and “Sticky & Sweet” are a bit more straight-forward, “Tender & Tantalizing” can range from scallops, salmon, duck leg and foie gras. All tender and tantalizing, but also all very different featured ingredients!
The menu at TRB Bites recommend you choose between 3 (RMB 298) or 4 courses (RMB 368). Their Chef’s Tasting Menu also featured four off-menu dishes (RMB 428 per person). This menu changes every two weeks and as tasty as it sounded, we didn’t want to have the same dishes so we opted to instead just order a variety of dishes to share off their menu with 21 different dishes.
A Playful Menu for a Place that Doesn’t Take Itself Too Seriously
As we were a party of two, we had originally planned to just pick 4 dishes each and share between the 8 different dishes for more variety. Due a bit to our indecisiveness and hungry eyes, we ended up with 11 courses. This might sound slightly excessive and over-indulgent but rest assured, not even a drop of sauce was left behind or forgotten. We managed to eat everything, savoring every morsel.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I’ll walk you through our dining experience which started with two fantastic signature cocktails (RMB 108 each).
“Bites Garden” with Hendrick’s Gin, Apple Juice, Elderflower, Lime, Cucumber (RMB 108)
“Bites Gin Tonic Bites” with Random Old Tom Gin, Tonic Water, Orange, Cloves (RMB 108)
LDS Snapshots of TRB Bites’ New Dishes:
House Bread with Paprika and Soft Butter
Amuse Bouche Served in a Small Jar
Baby Carrot with Quinoa & Herbs
Part of Bites’ “Fresh & Fabulous” menu section, I have a soft spot for carrots. It might not look super exciting, but it’s packed with flavor and sure to satisfy both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Duck Egg, Spinach, Bacon, Parmesan
Also listed under the “Fresh & Fabulous” section, I recognize that this doesn’t look particularly fresh or fabulous. I’m not sure why it’s in the same section as the baby carrot dish, but I guess soup-y and salad-y dishes are both ordered at the start of the meal and since this category is at the top of the menu, I guess they can lumped together. In any case, don’t let its appearances fool you, this one is fantastically fabulous. Anything with bacon is a bonus and this dish was delightfully creamy and tasty.
Cod Fish, Radish, Black Garlic, Sesame
A highlight of our meal, the unique flavor combination of the black garlic really complemented the rich cod fish in a way we didn’t expect. A very generous portion, this dish will go down as one of the best cod fish dishes I’ve ever had.
Scallop, Miso, Coconut, Beetroot
You can never go wrong with scallops at Bites. Seared to perfection, ensuring that the scallop is tender and succulent.
Prawn, Pomelo, Frisée, Chili
Like a deconstructed Thai curry, I recommend you mix everything together and use their house bread to soak up any last drops of that savoury coconut chili sauce.
Octopus, Red Pepper, Chorizo, Potato
Smoky and packs a punch, the octopus pairs well with the chorizo and the pureed potato makes this dish quite hearty and satisfying.
Lamb Loin, Eggplant, Artichoke, Mint
Smoky eggplant puree and lamb loin with grilled artichoke is a brilliant flavor combination. So moreish, this was hands-down my favorite dish of the night.
Pork Belly, Sichuan Leaves, Garlic
Not the peppercorns that turn your mouth to numbness, it’s very clever they’ve opted to instead use Sichuan leaves on top of the rich and tender block of melt-in-your-mouth pork belly.
Beef Flank, Bok Choy, Bone Marrow, Potato
Seeing some more Chinese inspiration behind this Beef and Boy Choy dish. I both appreciate and commend that.
With such a stellar reputation, we almost expect TRB to over-deliver on each and every visit and this experience was no exception. Truth be told, when I heard that there is a new chef leading the kitchen team, I expected to see new dishes on the menu, but I didn’t expect to notice much of a change from previous visits. And as beautifully presented as always, you (my dear reader) won’t be able to see any difference from the dish photos I’ve posted above in comparison to the blog post I wrote over a year ago, but the sauces, the flavor combinations, the taste of every dish reflected the creativity and talent of their new chef. All the new dishes were distinctly different – the bold flavors used in the black garlic sauce of the Cod fish and the smoked eggplant in the lamb loin were the main talking points of our meal.
The only thing that really surprised us about this visit, is that the desserts did not live up to the rest of the menu. They weren’t bad. They just weren’t on the same “wow” level as the other dishes.
Banoffee with Banana, Caramel, Peanut, Chocolate
Mango Coconut Rice
Surprise Mini Dark Chocolate Cake
A place where they will spoil you endlessly no matter if you’re there for a birthday, an anniversary, or just returning because you felt like it. I found the “Welcome Back” message on our surprise chocolate dessert complete with a candle absolutely adorable. I should also mention that the staff at TRB Bites will take your photo, have it printed out and given to you in a beautiful gold envelope before you get up to leave.
Don’t wait to have a meal at TRB Bites because you never need an “occasion” to celebrate at either TRB or TRB Bites.
Bites by TRB Contact Details:
- Address: 95 Donghuamen Dajie, East Gate of the Forbidden City
- Chinese Address: 东华门大街95号 (故宫东门)
- Tel: +8610 6401 6676
- Opening Hours: Open Every Day (Starting Sept 28), 11:30AM-10:30PM
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.trb-bites.com
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.