If there’s one thing you can count on at a Badr Benjelloun joint, it’s change. But as momma surely told you, change can be good, and the worst thing that happens when Badr changes the menu is you’re made to try something new, as you will at Caravan.
And he will change the menu. In fact, he changed it when we were halfway through the business lunch, thus we just missed the newly added duck étouffée. Served Monday to Friday, the set lunch includes two courses for RMB68, three for RMB98, and coffee, tea, or something fizzy. A word of warning: The coffee is tremor-inducingly strong, and best sipped very slowly as you offset any post-meal stupor.
Diners can pick from four starters, but the sharmoula should be mandatory. A generous sprinkling of cracked black pepper decorates carrot slices and potato cubes that have spent two days marinating in a sharmoula sauce, rendering the vegetables just this side of crunchy with notes of herbs, cumin, garlic, and a hint of lemon, plus those marinated olives we know and love from Cu Ju. Served with rice pilaf and the freshest lettuce leaf Beijing has ever seen, if it was any bigger we’d order it as a main.
We lucked into the mechoui lamb at lunch as the daily special. More regularly available as part of the set dinner (two courses for RMB120, three for RMB150) this lamb shank is first stewed, then finished in the oven, a process that takes several long hours.
A basting of honey and the juicy, plump raisins that make an appearance in a few dishes at Caravan infuse the tender meat with an appreciated touch of sweetness.
Another main, the beef slaoui, made an impression on us during the restaurant’s earliest days. More of that fresh lettuce cradles seasoned minced beef, basmati rice and thin slices of a fat zucchini. It’s suggested to eat it as a wrap, but we have yet to keep all the stuffing contained in the roughage in a way that allows us to inhale it at the desired speed.
Spring for the three courses and get dessert. Both the Caravan flambé—bananas doctored with rum and orange liquor, topped by creamy rum raisin ice cream and cracked pepper—and the affogato (with more of that potent coffee) make for a fine treat before you mosey back to the office.
Our rating: 4 out of 5
Where: 44 Guanghua Lu, 光华路44号
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