Reviving five-star dining experience with bistro touch

Restaurants in five-star hotels are not just for rich people and fine dining, that's the message that more hotels want to send to their guests. Bistro, the French concept of having simple meals with great value in a modest setting, has been introduced to many high-end restaurants, including the recent transformed Vic Bistro in Sofitel Wanda Beijing.

While continuing to serve breakfast and lunch buffet, the restaurant has replaced its dinner buffet that used to cost 420 yuan (S$92) per person with a much more casual and affordable a la carte menu. At the same time, they added "Bistro" after the original name VIC.

"People are looking for something different, as you can't come to eat the buffet every single day of the week," Jeremy Aniere, the hotel's general manager, said during restaurant's opening last week. "What we want to create is use the talent of our chefs to provide a home-style dining experience that people can enjoy regularly."

The Australian hospitality veteran with a French heritage feels that the concept of "bistro" has become universal, despite its French origin.

"It is not fine dining, or just snack, but simple food with good value of money," he said. "It is the kind of food that you can eat, that you have a choice of, and that you used to cook at home and eat with your parents. It should be easy to order and simple to prepare, but always very flavorsome and with really good value of money."

To make sure the food is authentic, the hotel encourages the restaurant's three specialty chefs to cook the food they grew up with. Combining the talent of French chef Mikolajczak Yann, Indian chef Vinod Kumar and Beijing chef Liu Jianxin, the menu provide just about almost everything.

"When I think of Bistro in Chinese, the dishes that come to my mind are Peking duck, the old-fashioned pork skin jelly and roasted lamb, which are all in the new menu," said Chef Liu, the restaurant's executive chef. "Many people feel timid of walking into a five star hotel, and we want to change that concept. By adding those foods, we want to attract the customers who would not normally eat in the hotel."

"In my language, I understand bistro as all kinds of food available, that's comfortable to eat. Almost all the Indian food can be bistro, such as curry, barbeque and bread," said Indian chef Kumar. "But most Indian dishes are spicy. After we adopt the a la carte menu, I can adjust the flavor as required by the guests."

General Manager Aniere feels that hotel restaurants going free-standing has become the revolution in the industry today, and a hotel restaurant should not be seen as a part of the hotel, but compete with all restaurants around it.

"If you build a restaurant just only for the guests, I think that the people are missing the opportunity to provide what they are offering to everybody," he said. "We provide a great opportunity for our guests to come down, but we also want people to visit us from outside the hotel, to come here and to experience all the good things about our hotel."

If you go:

Vic Bistro, Sofitel Wanda Beijing, Tower C, Wanda Plaza, 93 Jianguo Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing. +86 010-8599-6666.