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  All materials © 1999 
  Beijing Scene


Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 27, September 24 - 30

Le Beccassine
by D.S. Manon

Wash down a sweet or savory crepe or a panini with a draught of English cider

With Beijing's sweltering summer over, you've lost the craving for ice cream. So on these crisp, clear autumn nights, why not take a stroll beneath the stars, sit under cozy lamplight and partake of that particularly French repast, the crepe. A light, crispy pancake with a melange of fillings to choose from, the crepe will satisfy both a sweet tooth and savory craving.

Beijing's new creperie, Le Beccassine, is set behind a modest patio paved with cool, gray flagstones and a few potted perennials. The single-story bistro attempts to replicate some of the architectural flourishes of a small-town, European coffee-shop. Le Beccassine derives its name from the popular French children's comic strip about a misadventure-prone housekeeper with a penchant for culinary capers and other instances of household hilarity. 

Located on Dongdaqiao Road (on the section also called Guanghua Xili), sitting snugly between a haute couture French hairdresser and the Mexican Wave, the creperie combines a French theme with fresh fast food in a style that will appeal to many Beijingers, both local and expat. 

"Crepes are not unlike our Chinese chunbing pancakes," says 25 year-old Le Beccassine proprietress Tracy Liao. "The only difference is the filling. The Chinese have a tradition of savory, vinegary fillings often featuring tofu (soy beancurd). The French make crepes both savory and sweet." The gregarious Ms. Liao decided to bring to the Beijing dining experience something new and yet immediately appealing to both locals and foreigners. Indeed, the fillings at the creperie span a broad spectrum, including ham, bacon, cream, ice-cream, 
fruit preserve and chocolate.

A proper French crepe (pronounced 'krep' rather than 'krayp') is round, paper thin and closely resembles a fine lace doily. When folded over, its tender delicate covering encloses various fillings including meat, vegetables, cheese and fruit. The crepes at Le Beccassine are a little soft and thick, but the fillings are satisfying and the salads fresh and wholesome with a modest dollop of mayonnaise-based dressing. The chef goes heavy on the black pepper, but it goes well with most of the fillings and complements the full-bodied house red. The bar stocks a generous selection of alcoholic ciders from Stassen, Woodpecker, and Strongbow. In addition to the usual range of alcoholic beverages, fresh peach and apricot nectar make for exotic treats. 

A recommended menu includes the Crepe Au Poulet Grille et Fromage and the Crepe Complete typical brunch fare with ham and cheese filling and a fried egg on top, making for a tasty egg melee. The Panini is a little dry but otherwise a nice change from the standard Subway sandwich. All fillings are smothered in mozzarella cheese, which is not particularly French and has the propensity to leave tendrils of melted cheese dangling from your mouth. 

In addition to the savory crepes, there is a broad selection of sweet crepes for dessert. There are several types of Crepe a la Confiture which ooze various kinds of fruit preserve and cream. The Crepe Banane et Chocolat is plump with fresh banana slices and melted chocolate, and there is of course the traditional Ice Cream Crepe. An adventurous array of additional toppings includes honey, papaya, mango and amaretto ice cream. 

The biggest surprise of our meal is the shape of the crepes. They are square and resemble a flat genre of waffle. The proprietress assures us that her chefs were trained in France, and I am inclined to believe her. If you are allergic to MSG, and tired of the faux Italian, Mexican, American and hotpot options that crowd Dongdaqiao, a repast at Le Beccassine makes a pleasant and refreshing respite from your regular haunts.


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