"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
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
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: $$