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  Beijing Scene

Take a Sunny Holiday

Sunny Holiday serves up bona fide international cuisine from German spaetzle to Mexican chili con carne

Sunny Holiday is not only beautifully decorated, it serves up one of the widest selections of authentic international cuisine in Beijing. As the name suggests, this is a place where you can relax and enjoy yourself. With its affordable prices, it's also a respite from similar, but more expensive, Western eateries around town.

You can indulge in food prepared with care, and fine imported wines hand-picked by the maitre d'. Sunny Holiday has the ambience of a Mediterranean holiday. You can pretend you have ducked into a cool bistro after a day of basking in the warm sun.

According to manager Woody Cheng, 32, the restaurant opened after five months of planning and construction - a considerable length of time in a city where buildings are knocked down, replaced and open again for business in the blink of an eye.

The payoff is immediate as you walk in the door. The deep turquoise ceilings and softly-lit yellow walls lend the place a distinct Mediterranean feel. Colored glass bottles from Spain line a brick wall next to hand-crafted blue and white ceramic plates. The dining room floor is paved with imported Mexican tiles, while large South American-influenced stained glass windows cover the wall facing the bar.

Reading the four menus at Sunny Holiday - the Main Menu, Specials, Pizza and Pasta, and International Daily Specials - is like reading a series of colorful, short novels. The exquisite offerings would make any four-star chef envious.

What is really unique about this place is its daily International special. Each day of the week features three famous dishes from a national cuisine. We happen to visit on a Wednesday, which is German Day. Never having had brilliant German food before, I was initially skeptical as to how a Beijing eatery could surpass native ones. However, the Frankfurt Sausage with Green Pea Stew and Spaetzle (oval-shaped pasta) is surprisingly good - and tastes infinitely better than it sounds.

The global tastes tour begins on Monday in Mexico, with dishes like Chili Con Carne. Tuesday offers French food, with Baked Snails and other selections. Wednesday is German fare. Thursday is English Night (the Quail comes highly recommended) and Friday Mediterranean (think Musaka). The weekend is celebrated with Italian on Saturday nights and Spanish delights on Sunday.

"I wanted to take the best dishes from each country and bring them to China for both foreigners and Chinese to enjoy," says Cheng.

Our meal begins with a sample of starters. Seasonal Green Salad with homemade creamy French dressing and the Chicken Roll Sunny Holiday-Style. Both are delicious, particularly the chicken roll, which consists of chicken-liver pat served on a bed of crispy romaine lettuce and sprinkled with a light Italian dressing.

The large and varied menu gives us an excuse to spoil ourselves and order a large number of main courses. The South American Pizza is perfect, one of the best pizzas I've had since arriving in China more than a year ago. The base is thick, but not Pizza Hut-greasy and is smothered in a gloriously rich and tangy homemade tomato sauce. Every one of the ten or so pizzas on the menu are large enough to feed two people comfortably, or one person for a week.

The Gratin Chicken Breast with Mushrooms and Cheese is also well-received and quickly devoured. The Spaghetti Bolognese and the White Cabbage Roulade with Meat Stuffing are first-class. And if you are looking for that perfect wine to go with your meal, a full selection of hand-picked imported wines covers one wall, replacing the traditional wine list. Like ripe fruits, the bottles sit waiting to be picked and uncorked.

In short, Sunny Holiday's food is excellent. As one of my dining companions put it "this is the best Western food I have ever had in China." Considering how many Beijing restaurants now cater to foreign tastes, this is high praise indeed.

Sunny Holiday is a place where you could happily spend an evening relaxing over good food, wine, and conversation, and not notice the hours slip by. The cotton napkins, fresh black pepper served straight from the mill by waiters, and complimentary supply of fresh bread only enhance the feeling that you are in a restaurant that knows how to take care of its customers. In fact, you feel like you are on a much overdue holiday.

Sunny Holiday Restaurant & Bar
No. 7 Gongti West Road, Chaoyang District
Tel: 6551-3529
Hours: 11 am-2 am (No orders taken after 10 pm)
Food: **** Ambience: **** Service: *** Cost: YYY


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