So far in Beijing, the exploration of culinary culture has mainly moved on the boundaries of regional ethnic food. Spicy Sichuan delicacies—which used to have a strong grasp on the capital’s food scene in the past decade—passed the torch to the natural flavors of Yunnanese cuisine and other healthy Southern alternatives, like Cantonese soups and nutritious congees. Moreover, in an endless storm of food scandals (from gutter oil to cat meat sold as lamb) consumer concern about food safety has become a key point. Sustainability, quality, simplicity and a a carefree dining experience, are not always easy to find in the capital.
Enter CHI restaurant; a new creative answer to food enthusiasts' demands. Located in Wudaoying Alley—a hot spot in the old neighborhood of Lama temple—CHI’s founders Li Yang (surname Li) and Li Yaoyang (surname Li) have the goal of encouraging and growing a culture of simplicity, food craftsmanship and sustainability. The core idea is to work with local craftsmen, who handle farming products with a higher awareness of their history, with a conscience for the work quality food requires.
CHI is also an ongoing project which aims to promote local goods and artisans. Among the growing list of collaborators, CHI is offering Jing-A beer, from a local brewery; Uncle Bean coffee, roasted by Zhao Hui, a Beijinger who learned in Europe; a Grace Vineyard People’s Cabernet from Shanxi and fresh vegetables from Beijing Organic market.
CHI’s location used to be a shabby bar, which never took off and ODD Studio—a Japanese design firm based in Beijing—managed creatively to turn it into a cozy space and a multifunctional environment. The design recalls the concept of nature and upcycle: Natural colors, hardwood floor, a dining counter facing an open style kitchen and a few tables. The screen made of old window frames and doors which divides the entrance from the dining area is a three-paneled shifting wall, which can hide the kitchen to host art exhibitions and events.
CHI doesn’t have a menu but offers seasonal dishes prepared by Yao Yang and his assistants, with a philosophy similar to a tapas restaurant. But CHI doesn't identify itself as tapas, nor fusion; freshness is a priority and Yao Yang’s creativity embraces many different food traditions. Among the delicacies currently available are organic pork with foie gras, octopus salami in olive oil and mussels with butter sauce.
CHI will also be hosting guest chef nights on a monthly basis. The first in the lineup is The Opposite House and EAST’s chef Rob Cunningham. The future will welcome not only professional chefs, but also friends with different backgrounds who simply love to cook.
CHI is located at 67 Wudaoying Hutong in Beijing. View our slideshow for a closer look inside.
Interior photos by Alessandro De Toni, images of dishes courtesy of CHI