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Dinez: Katia tells tourists where to eat in Beijing
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#1 Viva La Cuisine Francaise!

Recently some colleagues invited Katia Loridon, a very French and very chic young Corsican currently living in Beijing, to Les Millesimes a few days before the elegant club opened this spring. This three story social establishment that holds two restaurants, a huge underground wine cellar and a private, colonial style cigar smoking room made the very particular diner feel right at home.

"I had had a very awful week negotiating with my landlord," she said softly in her Parisian accented English, "but when I walked through those doors I knew I could relax; I felt as if I were back chez moi." She toured all 17 private rooms, each uniquely decorated and named after a classic wine cellar; "And all quite beautiful but I must tell you I was amazed by the cellar: they had a huge lock on the door and inside racks and racks of precious wines, even a magnum of wine: 10 liters, that looked quite wonderful." She found the cellar heavily stocked with Bordeaux but the sommelier quickly located a white wine exactly to her taste. She noted that several internationally known names: Petrus, Moulin Rothschild and Latour, along with a great variety of champagnes, fill the giant cellar chamber.

"The club offers wine tastings and I assume they also offer cigars to taste in a room with a humidor as well," the young Frenchwoman said; "It's expensive to be a member but if you join you receive discounts on food and wine." Indeed, memberships run from 20,000 yuan to 100,00 yuan with different offering of wines and substantial discounts (50%) on the food. Katia toured the smoking room although it is open to members only. They may use the space for company entertainments and private pleasures and add two other people to their card if they purchase a 100,000-yuan membership.

On the second floor Katia visited two restaurants. "You know, in France we often have brasseries; they are places where you can get seafood, large platters of seafood decorated with shells. They're always painted blue and white and not necessarily expensive but the food is fresh from the sea and very delicious. On the second floor they have such a place: La Maree." She explained that the eatery was pleasantly well lighted, with white walls and a blue ceiling, "reminding me of France." For those who are not lovers of the grape beer is readily available, starting at 25 yuan for domestic Qingdao and 50 yuan and above for imported brands. She had a cocktail for 40 yuan and said it was: "more than adequate in taste but what I really appreciated was the wine list and doing a wine tasting with my colleagues; it was just as if I were at home."

The chef, a cordial Frenchman named Yvan directed his pretty countrywoman into Meli Melo, a "French Fusion" restaurant. "You know this word is very special," Katia confided, "it is kind of an idiomatic term that means melting and mixed together, and it suits this second restaurant nicely. I would bring a lover here because it is quieter, with romantic lighting and a very cozy ambiance." The chef pointed out that this restaurant could be used for dancing if the diners felt like embracing closely in a socially acceptable fashion.

"The staff members at Les Millesimes are polite, friendly and international. I heard Cantonese, French, English and Mandarin while I was being introduced around," Katia said, "But what I really want to talk about is the food. My colleagues and I ate in the French style. We had two starters: both seafood and beautifully presented. Then I had the cheek of beef with a daube sauce, it was fantastic and literally melted in my mouth. As I ate I forgot my worries, I forgot where I was, and I was eating as if I were dreaming a very lovely, very beautiful story. Partly it came from the food and partly from the ambiance, the great service and the fact that Charles Aznavour was singing love songs. All French know this famous French singer, he is an icon, like Edith Piaf.” Clearly, for a "gourmande" like Katia, and for anyone interested in high quality food Les Millesimes offers diners an authentic French ambiance.

Les Millesimes is located near the Guomao subway stop, inside the CBD Central Business District.

International Mansion, Number 16, Yong An Li, Jian Wai Street. 建外大街永安里CBD国际大厦年度葡萄酒俱乐部

Telephone for reservations: 8521-9988 ext. 815 They are open from 11:00-14:20 and 18:00-22:30 daily.

(China.org.cn by Valerie Sartor and Katia Loridon May 9, 2008)

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