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
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
"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.