Chef serves traditional Chinese fare with a unique touch
Take a lotus-leaf-like pancake, smear it with some special fermented flour sauce, place slivers of roast duck, cucumber and shallots on it and roll it up. It's the traditional way of eating a Peking roast duck.
The duck is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The only difference at Lin's Dining Lounge is that this is a vegetarian dish-the "duck" is made using sticky rice and vegetarian ham-and the sticky rice gives the "meat" a taste similar to duck.
Yang Weida, executive chef of the restaurant, has created this dish as he has been familiar with roast duck since his childhood.
"In our team, we have a chef who used to work for a Peking roast duck restaurant. He makes sure that the flavor is like the real thing and uses his own recipe to make the special sauce," says Yang.
At Lin's Dining Lounge, Yang puts all his culinary experience onto the dishes, aiming to bring Beijing diners "something delicious, without meat".
The 32-year-old chef from Beijing began to study cooking at a culinary school in the city in 2002 and graduated three years later. His first chef job was at the Kunlun Hotel in Beijing, a five-star hotel that has several restaurants focusing on different cuisines including Japanese, Cantonese and Western.
During his six years working at the hotel, Yang got the chance to rotate between different kitchens to learn the cooking skills behind the different cuisines.
"From a breakfast buffet and Indian cuisine to Shanghai cuisine, my experience is varied," says Yang, who finally found his focus with vegetarian food in 2011.
In 2015, Yang was invited to become the executive chef for Lin's Dining Lounge. There, he tried to combine cooking methods and ingredients from Western cuisine and Chinese cuisine in one dish, but this was not a hit with diners.
Then, gradually, after updating the menu three times, Yang found a way of cooking Chinese cuisine in the traditional way but presenting it in a Western style.
"My goal is just to cook delicious vegetarian food for diners, whatever the cuisine or cooking techniques," says Yang.
Typhoon shelter tofu is one highlight of Yang's menu. It is made using the way typhoon shelter crab is cooked to make tofu. The tofu is fried with garlic and red chili. For the dish, Yang uses egg tofu and adds diced mushroom and butter as fillings.
"I like a contrast in my dishes, such as in this tofu dish. Egg tofu is usually a light dish, and I make it unexpectedly spicy," Yang explains. Yang is very strict about ingredients. The vegetable sashimi is one example where he uses premium mushrooms, such as tricholoma matsutake, and black truffle with fresh vegetables, which he serves with mustard.
The vegan dishes are marked clearly on the menu for diners with strict requirements. According to Yang, if the diners have specific requirements with regard to vegetarian food, the chefs will cook them accordingly.
"Unlike other cuisines, vegetarian food does not have a specific standard. At my restaurant, to make the food delicious is my standard."
Beijing's traditional noodles with soybean paste can be found at Lin's, where Yang uses eggs to fry the soybean sauce.
He also uses wax gourd, mushroom and tofu to make a "braised pork dish", which looks and tastes like braised pork.
Creating new dishes is a passion for Yang. When he designs a new menu, he often spends time alone in his room at night with a bottle of baijiu (white liquor) and some spicy peanuts and writes down all his inspirations.
Yang recently created a summer tasting menu which starts with an ice ball on a plate.
After the ball is cracked open, a pink lychee pops out. The lychee is marinated in gin together with red berries for 24 hours.
"You can't eat it right after you crack open the ice ball, because the frozen lychee is not in the best condition to be eaten. But what you need is to wait for a few minutes and all the flavors will come out.
"Diners are always in a hurry when they are eating, but I hope they can slow down and enjoy my dishes."