Corrupted purity: Chinese poetic mastery meets contemporary reality

My short poem about corrupted purity was inspired by some of the eternal truths shared in the poems of perhaps the greatest Chinese poet Du Fu. Also known in the West as Tu Fu (712-770) he wandered during China’s vicious civil war by the Yangtze River, the hotbed of Chinese naturalist culture. The realism of his masterful blending of the abstract and the concrete innovated Chinese poetry from his time on. As a poet-historian his panoramatic and truthful description of the suffering he met along his exile in far West and Southwest of China back then still reverberates in the hearts of humanity today. His grasp of Taoist philosophy speaks to us with a spiritual depth so profound that it is timeless.

tea and poetrytea time

Alone in Her Beauty is a gorgeous poem about the nature of the self and how it is influenced by the feuds of power and society far away from its truth. This is my favorite excerpt from this poem. Let it flow and tickle your conscience.

“… The brook was pure in its mountain source,

But away from the mountain its waters darken…”

Du Fu as translated by David Hinton in his anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry.

corrupted purity

Here is my contemporary rendering:

My soul, the purest cup of blood

Bleeds out with more lies told

Corrupt by desires of society

I imprison my heart in the tower of vanity

~ Joy

Corrupted purity is not irreversible, we can cleanse our souls from the dirt of lies. In India the burden is called karma, in the Western catholic tradition we cleanse ourselves from sins though repentance, but in general liberated authenticity is what leads our souls to the Eden on Earth.

King’s Joy Beijing: new wave vegetarianism swells in China

Vegetarianism (sushizhuyi) has swelled in China in tune with contemporary trends and so did its Michelin stars. King’s Joy (in Chinese Jing Zhao Yin) has lured celebrities and middle-class intelligentsia of Beijing even before it was awarded two stars in the inaugural 2020 Michelin Guide for the megapolis. Lucratively staged inside siheyuan, a traditional courtyard residence in the narrow Wudaoying Hutong alley, now so trendy in Beijing, the fine restaurant pampers its customers, English speakers inclusive. Once an aristocratic appendage to the Forbidden City, the old Beijing cultural district is where the Confucius Temple and Lama Temple have dwelled for centuries.

vegetarian restaurant Beijingvegetarian Beijing

Literally, a bamboo garden replenishing the green spirit in the heart of the Chinese capital, King’s Joy 京兆尹 is to Beijing what Tal Ronnen’s Crossroads is to Los Angeles. Elegant, sleek, upscale vegetarian restaurant, yet its creativity and charity surpass even the Hollywood king of trendy plant-based fare. As the harpist plucks the strings under the ecological flash of daylight, you wonder if the t-shirt he wears is appropriate, but like in LA, in China restaurants accommodate any fashion, just make sure you can afford the meal. King’s Joy is expensive by Beijing’s standards. Yet, what you are about to savour is one of the best healthy, organic, sustainable, vegetarian dining experiences in the world. I tried the widely reported best in Europe (Barcelona, London, Paris, Prague, Vienna, Zurich,…), Northern America (LA, Miami, New York, San Francisco), the Middle East, North Africa, Japan and Hong Kong and the fine Chinese cum Western light cuisine at King’s Joy measured up and I dare to admit even slightly above these top flesh-free restaurants. A higher challenge even as we ordered half of the dishes from its extra-large digital menu at our daily visits.

King’s Joy shares traditional Chinese charity spirit by providing free tea for pedestrians and on the first and fifteenth day of the lunar calendar also free porridge.


The pentacle of health in Chinese culinary philosophy

The term used for vegetarian food in China is sushi, meaning ‘simple’ or ‘plain’ food, which is the only commonality with the simple Japanese sushi consisting of sticky rice and fish or seafood, perhaps wrapped in seaweed. King’s Joy “promotes environmental protection and nursing, and a healthy organic diet that is timely, diverse, five-color, five-flavored and five-lined. The ingredients are preferably selected in the order of wild, semi-wild, natural, super-organic, organic and green.” From the Chinese translation I am not sure what “super-organic” or “semi-wild” mean, but you get it, natural diversity is served to improve your health when dining out at King’s Joy. The necessity for the growing Chinese population to include more sustainable, plant-based food in the regular diet is now utterly delectable for the Beijingers.

The food is steeped in history yet with a firm footing in the present progress: “In order to show the taste of the ingredients, our food is low-sugar, low-fat, low-calorie, no-additives and preservatives.” 

The new wave vegetarianism (sushizhuyi) swell in China

Vegetarianism was once widely spread within the Buddhist Chinese population, but even centuries before (as early as during the Shang dynasty 1766 – 1122BC) since confucianism and tao philosophy include pacifism, respect to nature and animal welfare in their core belief (entitlement vegetarianism). In his thesis on Chinese vegetarianism Brendan Nuse writes: “Since the opening-up reforms of the late 1970s, a new form of Chinese vegetarianism focused on the endangerment has emerged. This new Chinese vegetarianism is not one that a certain religion or ideology imposes, and, unlike Western vegetarianism, it is not a social movement, but a tool that Chinese people use to grapple with contemporary problems such as environmental degradation, obesity, and food safety concerns.” Catering to the middle class, university educated, Chinese concerned about health and safety of meat consumption in the scandal-ridden country, King’s Joy timely moved from its original, five-decades-old, location in Taiwan.

The popularity of clean, vegetable-based food is increasing in China. In Shanghai Tony Lu, head chef at his elegant vegetarian restaurant Fu He Hui got his first Michelin star in the 2017 edition of Michelin guide China that has not included Beijing in its rankings as of 2018 yet. So much is brewing on the Chinese vegetarian gourmet dining scene in the mighty country’s capital, Beijing, that I suspect that the Chinese vegetarian Chef Ci Shi of King’s Joy will be a hot candidate in its inaugural Beijing edition. Revising this article in 2020 literally confirmed my gut feelings.

King’s Joy Beijing

Clean design that nourishes health

The indoor space balances the historical nature of the building. The spacious elegant dining rooms designed by Beijing architect Yung Ho Chang, MIT Professor of Architecture, are modestly sized (King’s Joy accommodates up to 210 guests, including the VIP rooms) for a Chinese restaurant. Traditional building materials such as tile, brick, wood and hemp were used in the interior, while high tech tools ease your experience. Digital, yet taste buds teasing photographs of the dishes are presented on a tablet, a click away, type number of portions and “complete order” with the clack of your fingertips. To our relief, first timers are eagerly helped by the English-speaking staff. Toilet-going is an anxiety rising experience to converse about after your visit. I won’t develop on the story here, just a hint – the door “should not” open. The design merges nature with technology brilliantly – negative ion sprays for cooling and cleansing pollutants from the urban-heavy outside smog create an oasis in the midst of the infamously poor air of Beijing.

The harpist sets the slow dining pace for you to savour the meal mindfully. At lunch fellow expats relished its holistic aural embrace next to the clean food so desired by the elites (these who can afford it in China) who conduct business and enjoy dinner with wine like us at our next visit at King’s Joy. Click on the first image below for a full view.

The Bamboo charcoal black truffle radish pastries were Michelin star worth morsels I could eat every day. The fairy-light charcoal beehive pastry nested white radish freshness inside its fragrant shell. Sweet sauce topped Vietnamese spring rolls westernised with a slice of avocado. My husband relished in the Spicy Dried Bean Curd starter with a devilish hedonism.

Lotus seeds, simply boiled with green asparagus and lightly seasoned are served warm in an earthen pot.

Clear, healthful soups are medicine in China, but the Stewed yam with red bean and coix seed broth tasted slightly better than the herbal potions dispensed by TCM specialists. More fun were the Vegetable soup dumplings, bite, let the steam off a bit and slurp the juice before devouring the sizzling hot vegetables inside (beware, veggies keep heat longer than the meat served usually inside these Shanghainese ravioli).

Mushroom lovers rejoice! Stewed konjac (the almost calorie-free diet fungus) combined with fragrant matsutake and king oyster mushroom hotpot nourishes the belly, joints and the soul. We did not like however, the Soup with fungus and walnuts, the Spicy morels with stir-fried tofu, and worse even were the Bamboo charcoal vegetable dumplings, overcooked and not short of tasteless. Healthy house recipes of Zhang Daqian 張大千, a renowned calligrapher and artist were incorporated into King’s Joy menu. Jasmine Rice with Asparagus, Sunflower Braised Bamboo Shoots, Taiwan Mushroom Tofu and Basil, and Pine Mushroom with Cheese Balls were the favourites of the healthy food loving artist, who befriend the founder of King’s Joy, even donating two scrolls to decorate the restaurant’s walls.

Sweet and sour lotus shoots play on the Shanghai drum preferring it bold and sweet, while the Sweet and sour Land Ginseng served in a Parmesan Shell was a fusion of the West with the fried delectables of the East. More Western flavours emerge from the kiln oven, where bread, biscuits and pizza are baked to please the home-longing diners.

Tempeh stacked vertically in a stash of onion leaves with an extra ordered side of Stir-fried rice with vegetables fills the big bellies or those with fast metabolism like myself. The Chun Miao Sauce Egg Tofu with Chinese Pancake was solid too, but the unbeatable Vegetarian Beijing Duck with crispy rice mixed in hit the jackpot. Perhaps better than most of the real duck dishes in the city of its delectable fame! Spread it on the warm pancakes, add some hoisin or hot chilli sauce and devour without guilt. This mock meat “fanghun” dishes have been popular in China since the Song Dynasty (10–13th c.). Overall the dishes are rich in sauces, seasoning and excellently creative with meat substitutions.

No need to order desserts, as per tradition in China fruits fill in for the sweet cravings. At King’s Joy a bowl of fresh strawberries in late spring, ripe pineapple or other pure fruits are complimentary offered at the end of the meal.

Contemporary Chinese tea roomChinese tea tea tasting

Cultured dining in authentic Chinese style

The Afternoon Tea in Chinese fashion titled “High Tea Musical Listening” is very popular and includes desserts. The inner courtyard under open skies seems ideally set up for this occasion, if the pollution recedes.

The tea selection at such a hedonistic, peace-tuning, dining room matches to the broad biodynamic or organic wine list. We enjoyed the La Forge de Tart Burgundy as well as one of the best Aussie Pinnots by Phillip Bass with dinner. At lunch we sipped on Wu-yi large black robe oolong tea, the grand dame of Chinese semi-fermented teas. A tea library by the entrance signalises the seriousness of the tea tasted, served and pondered about at King’s Joy. Like a lounge it comfortably welcomes you or closes your dining experience at the restaurant.

Other creative beverages include a warm Black rice and coix soy milk, a liquid breakfast more than delectable digestive sans alcohol. I could not finish it, it just tasted strangely heavy. Drip coffee (machinery by the Japanese Haro) has infiltrated the tastes even of the tea nation. Simple juices like the risqué bitter melon (sometimes trying something new does literary does not pay off! Terrible, too healthy tasting, even the waitress empathised over my disgust) but also orange, pineapple et al. For a super healthy drink order the Matsutake mushroom broth served in teapot. Black truffle wine on the menu is yet another vanity of the Chinese nouveau riche excess, and I was not even faintly tempted to try that. Further, fake aromas surprised me at a place that claims “no-additives” as their philosophy.

King's Joy Beijingtruffle wine

The original King’s Joy brand established by a Canadian Chinese David Yin in Taipei over a half century ago was significantly upscaled with his Chinese partners in Beijing. Local celebrities do not hesitate to flood in. If you want to balance your business or leisure trip to China, venture in!

A service fee of about 9% is included, so tipping is advised only if you do not consume any costly alcoholic beverages.

 2 Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100027

 +86 10 8404 9191

Daily 11:30am – 10pm

8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Shanghai: Italian dining with stunning views across Pudong

81/2 Bombana bar
Chef: Umberto Bombana has been constantly upgrading his reputation on the Asian dining scene in recent years. After opening his first Italian restaurant in Hong Kong a couple of years ago, this year he launched his first 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo restaurant in mainland China. Here in Shanghai as well as in Hong Kong the chef named his restaurants after his favorite Italian film director Federico Fellini’s 1963 autobiographical movie “8 ½”. Celebrating Italian lifestyle, art and pleasures became the motto of his restaurants.
Chef Umberto Bombana
In Shanghai the chef Bombana has teamed up with an Executive Chef Alan Yu, Chef de Cuisine Silvio Armanni, and Pastry Chef Sohya Takahashi to create a unique blend of flavours.
Atmosphere: Depending on where you are sitting, the bar is more fun and off-beat, while the restaurant is more uptight. The service is friendly, knowledgeable and impeccable. Each wine by the glass we were not sure about was given us to sample a sip so we could make up our mind according to our preferences while the wine waiter explained each wine and its producers in detail. I would recommend you dress up nicely at both – the bar and main dining area as the restaurant has quite a luxurious feel.
Crisp and original Italian grissini
Food: Innovative Italian classics, visually appealing and tasty. You can order the entire tasting menu or if you like select only one or two dishes from it as you fancy and add some items from the a la carte list.

From the later I tried the Artichoke Soup served with shaved italian black truffle first. It was quite a hearty soup, good for an autumn, but not a mind-blowing selection as it was quite simple. I would not order it again.
Much better was the Wagyu Tajima Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio topped with vegetables brunoise & crispy parmesan. The wagyu grade beef was superb, thin and juicy as it should be in a tasty carpaccio. Basil pesto levelled up the vegetables and the crispy parmesan crackers added depth and contrasting texture to the delicate and fatty beef.

Wagyu Tajima Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio
From the tasting menu I loved the seasonal Hairy Crab gratin with parmesan foam & oscietra caviar. I would lick all the sauce from the plate if I was not at a fine dining restaurant. The creamy parmesan sauce was so delicious and the gratin of crab with cheese and refreshing scoop of caviar just clicked all well together. A glass of a more acidic wine such as Riesling or Pinot Gris would be ideal for this dish.
The main courses feature the Italian signature Breaded Veal Chop “Milanese Style” with cherry tomatoes & oregano salad that is made to perfection here keeping its authentic crunchy texture and thin meat, it is not oily but more on the drier side so some might prefer it while others might miss a bit more juice. The tomatoes are succulent and intense adding zesty acidity to the dry character of the Milanese style veal chop.
Hairy Crab gratin with parmesan foam & oscietra caviar
Drinks: The wine list is studded with big names in the wine industry such the Angelo Gaja’s expensive Italian breed, but also with lesser-known off-the-beaten-track producers.
We went for the wines by the glass since they looked appealing. I found an interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made by Livio Felluga to be my favourite. This blend is called Vertigo and is produced in the North-eastern Italian IGT region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Elegant, smooth, deep with dark fruits such as rich blackcurrant and ripe tannins all made it not only a good wine with food but also enjoyable on its own.
Italian Livio Felluga Vertigo blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
With your drinks you can savour the restaurant’s own baked Italian bread sticks – grissini. There are three kinds, but the plain ones are simply the best and perhaps the best I have had so far.
Cuisine: Gourmet innovative Italian.
Visit: October 2012.
Price: High (anything near to the prestigious address of the historical Bund in booming Shanghai has an expensive rent, in addition being backed up by an established Italian chef, the prices at the restaurant move to higher levels).
Opening hours: Dinner: 6pm until midnight.
Contact: Tel : +86 (0) 21-60872890
Address: 6th floor at Associate Mission historical building, 169 Yuanmingyuan Road, Shanghai, China

The House of Roosevelt in Shanghai: the ultimate stop for wine lovers

The Roosevelts are known as a prominent US presidential family which shaped America. What is not in the common consciousness is that the family had quite strong ties with China through its Roosevelt China Investments Corporation. This investment body is involved in a wide range of activities in China from funding the Tsinghua university, pharmaceutical and software companies to a more recent endeavor – the House of Roosevelt at Shanghai’s Bund.
Its location at the most prestigious area in Shanghai might have guaranteed the popularity of this restaurant, private club, roof lounge and wine shop in one. However, it is the cellar which is the most wondrous attraction of otherwise a very fancy and quite elitist hangout.
The cellar at The House of RooseveltThe cellar at The House of Roosevelt
Do not be discouraged by the ostentatious Rolex shop right by the entrance or by the inquisitive man on the door asking about your whereabouts. Just say you are going to the wine bar, take a lift to the second floor and once the doors open you will enter a world of bottles, shelves, wood, and glass. You will be amazed by its scale. It is honestly as huge as everything  in China.

The cellar room

The atmosphere is almost magic. Surrounded by wooden shelves; immersed in charming tunes of old blues, soul and jazz music; pampered by stunning views of  the miracle of modern architecture – the Pudong; one finds oneself at the crossroads between the colonial past and the booming presence. This an ideal setting for savouring wine. As with wine – its past evokes melancholy, but it is its presence that impresses us.
Your table at the cellar
The wine cellar could see the world in its present scale only thanks to the collective effort of the management working closely with a wide range of wine importers to China. From Bordeaux to Washington, the selection is impressive. Do not expect very old and rare vintages, though, rather a wide scope.

The treasures

There are some special wines stored in a sophisticatedly covered cellar hidden behind one of the sections of the library along the wall. These wines surely will cost a fortune. Chateau Margaux 1982 vintage or pricey Screaming Eagle from Napa are not for an everyday drinking, but you will not stare at a bottle of a centenary wine there.
The white wines ready to drink in the chilling cellars
The kitchen sparkling with energy

Chinese wine

In the main cellar, there is something for everyone. My curiosity about Chinese wines beyond the almost undrinkable Great Wall (one of the first commercial wineries in China; fans of this wine, please excuse my European palette, I believe some locals enjoy the Great Wall a lot) guided me to select a bottle of a Bordeaux Blend from Silver Hights 2009. This promising wine is made by a female winemaker Emma Gao and after savoring it all of us sharing the bottle had to admit that it was not bad at all. It was soft with palatable tannins and ripe fruit aromas. The winery is owned by the winemaker’s family and located in Helan Mountain region of Ningxia province, which is currently the hottest area for wine growing in China. To compare the Chinese Bordeaux blend with a real French wine from Bordeaux, I selected a Pomerol-based Chateau Laborde of an older 2004 vintage and only slightly more expensive than Silver Hights (about 500RMB or about 80 US$) selling for about 800 RMB (about 125 US$). The real Bordeaux was more complex, yet comparably enjoyable to its Chinese version when it came to drinking it with food.
The two Bordeaux blends - left Pomerol, right the Chinese version
Two hardly pronounceable wines-left Gewurtztraminer & right Gruner Veltliner


The tapas selection a the cellar is smart. The dishes are organised by their suitability for sparkling, white or red wine. With the reds we got Australian beef carpaccio with truffles and even more delicious German country sandwich with sauerkraut and pork. Cheese board followed the suit. I would have it with either a deep red or an intensely flavoured white wine.
Sucullent oysters from across the world
Before the two reds, we had also two white wines. I selected a bottle of Gewurztraminer from Alsace and Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Both are difficult grape varieties for foreigners to pronounce, therefore, they are often overlooked by consumers. I was pleasantly surprised seeing them in China. Again the selection of producers as well as vintages was quite good. The Gewurztraminer from Domaine Schlumberger, Kessler, Grand Cru 2004 was off-dry so its slightly honeyed profile called for a foie gras terrine, which was a perfect match. The Gruner Veltliner from Nigl was more zesty and grassy, therefore, a goat cheese enveloped in crunchy nuts  with grilled vegetables and oysters played interestingly together on the palette.
Overall, the Cellar at The Roosevelt House is a wonderful place to savor wines from around the world with plenty of special tasting events taking place every week. The only weak point is the insufficient knowledge of the wine staff. It is better if you know what you like and what you want to drink. The food was excellent the first time, but lacked a bit on our next visit. Each time I visit the ever evolving city of Shanghai, I have a couple of vinous sips there.
No. 27 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road, Shanghai, China
 +(86) 21 2322 0800
Currency exchange rate as for October 8, 2011 from

Shanghai Expo 2010 unveils world wine heritage

The main topic of the highly expected World Expo in Shanghai this year is “Better city, better world“. I have visited the site in July, and from what I saw I came to one important conclusion: Many countries think that not only better city means better world for them but also producing wine can [apparently] make our world better!
It is not a world-turning wonder that the pavilions of France and Italy shared their pride in making wine with the visitors, but the Chilean exhibition must have caused a slight blushing on their faces as it showed substantially more of the country’s wine and confirmed that in Chile they take wine seriously. Chile has staged an excellent wine bar together with a wine shop and young Chileans eager to answer all questions that may pop into your head.
I have sampled one or two glasses and learned that the red grape variety – Carmenere, which was thought to be extinguished and was one of the six original grape varieties found in Bordeaux [France], is still flourishing in its full strength in Chile. The Chileans are proud of their “unique grape” as the excited attitude of my ‘educator’ revealed.
"Wine rack" at Chilean Pavilion
Wine tasting at the Chilean pavilion
In particular the sizeable wine producer Montgras is one of Carmenere enthusiasts. Its deep, supple, fruity and dense flavour can indeed be a good companion to the more astringent and muscular Cabernet Sauvignon. The later is nowadays more popular not only in Bordeaux but also in most New World vineyards. For a long time it was thought that Carmenere in Chile was Merlot.
Indeed, Carmenere shares many characteristics with this fruity and juicy grape variety, and it should the global wine industry’s attention.
The Chinese have been bold in recent years with their wine exploration. First turning their palates to the French old timers, but learning fast, now they appreciate a wider selection including the New World pickings.
With the most populous country in the world sipping more wine and planting more vines, the choice has never been wider and drinking wine is as exciting as discovering new continents once was for the conquistadors.

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