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  Beijing Scene

Beijing Scene, Volume 6, Issue 6, November 19 - 25

by Sharon Zekaria

Crystal Balls and Bamboo ShootsRelief for hungry vegetarians in Wangfujing

"If it swims in the sea, flies in the air, or crawls on the ground, it's edible," (hailiyoude, tianshangfeide, dishangpade, dounengchi) is the basic principle underlying Chinese cuisine, rendering this world-famous fare less than accommodating of the dietary requirements of vegetarians. In a country where many waiters consider fish a kind of vegetable, trying to explain that you do not want any meat in your food can be a frustrating experience.

The Green Tianshi Vegetarian Restaurant is a meat-free oasis for vegetarians struggling to maintain their dietary discipline in Beijing. Situated in the busy commercial area of Wangfujing, the restaurant is a popular destination both at lunchtime and in the evening. This is not surprising, as Green Tianshi promises food "with high protein and vitamine but low calorie and zero cholesterol," a boast the vegetarian restaurant mercifully makes good on.

The main dining hall is on the second floor, at the top of a staircase lined with pictures of such 'famous vegetarians' as Socrates, Einstein, Plato, Darwin, and Paul Newman. The dining room is decorated with mock Ionic columns and glitzy chandeliers, and there is a constant stream of new age music piped in from all four corners. Accompanying the ballroom decor, the dining tables are draped with pink tablecloths and set with simple cacti displays and crystal formations. It may be too millennial for some, but the restaurant is clean and the atmosphere relaxed.

The menu catalogues a wide array of dishes emphasizing wholesome and healthy alternatives to meat and MSG. A number of the dishes offer faux meat and fish in a variety of fruity sauces. Ordering is simple as the dishes are listed with English translations and the most popular entrŽes are illustrated with photographs. The waitstaff are all vegetarian, and are helpful in suggesting dishes that go well together.

Our meal starts off with the "Flying Buddha" entrŽe - a savory concoction of taro, bamboo shoots, mushrooms and vegetables that falls under the fungus-based "Mountain Food" category on the menu. "Fried Vegetarian Chicken in Lemon Sauce" comes next, accompanied by "Bean Curd and Vegetarian Garden". The combination makes for an aromatic mix of textures. "Sweet and Sour Vegetarian Fish with Pine Nuts" is a fish-shaped tofu dish covered in a sweet and sour sauce. Although the "flesh" does not taste completely like fish, the texture is remarkably similar and the crispy skin layer over the tofu both looks and tastes authentic. "Grilled Vegetarian Beefsteak" arrives sizzling on an iron skillet, smothered in onions and black pepper. While tasty, the texture is just a little too reminiscent of luncheon meat.

The final dish to arrive at our table is "Steamed Vegetarian Chicken with Ground Rice in Lotus Leaves." In the photo in the menu this looks extremely appetizing, somewhat similar to the Greek dish of stuffed vine leaves. Unfortunately, unwrapping the lotus leaf reveals a pale brown worm-like object completely lacking in flavor. Dessert makes up for the disappointment of our final dish as we indulge in "Deep-Fried Cinnamon Banana Fritters." This may not be the healthiest of repasts, but it is definitely a taste treat.

The drinks menu is equally large and impressive, and includes alcohol-free beers, wine and champagne as well as more adventurous sounding cocktails like "Triple Colored Water". The Green Tianshi also offers an enticing range of freshly-squeezed fruit juices.

On the ground floor beneath the restaurant is a crystal shop and a vegetarian convenience store. The waitstaff is more than happy to expound on crystals and their healing properties, and crystal jewelry can be purchased for very reasonable prices. The vegetarian shop is a slight disappointment as the shelves appear to be filled almost entirely with chocolate and chips. However, they stock a few more interesting commodities such as carrot chips, vegetarian spicy veal and vegetarian gluten patty.

What is perhaps most enjoyable about Green Tianshi is that it makes a refreshing change from your average Chinese restaurant. Even if you are an ardent carnivore, you can eat your fill here and not feel the need to go out for a cheeseburger for dessert. Green Tianshi provides wholesome, healthy food in a relaxed atmosphere

Green Tianshi Vegetarian Restaurant
57 Dengshikou, Dongcheng District
(50 meters east of Wangfujing Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza)
Tel: 6524-2476; (Shop 6524-2349)
Hours: 9 am-9 pm (Shop: 8:30 am-11 pm)
Food: ** Ambience: ** Service: *** Cost: $$


Restaurant Guide

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The Blue Lotus

Club Vogue

Le Beccassine

Triumphal Arch

Hotline 1950


Coffee and Books at Sculpting in Time

Rotary Sushi

Jintaiyuan Restaurant

The Mother of All Theme Restaurants

Waterside Cafe


Tian Gen Yuan Authentic
Beijing Restaurant

La Place

Havana Cafe

Alamuhan Authentic Xinjiang Cuisine

Scandanavian Food

Real Spring Rolls
Real Beijing Food