Migastronomy: Why Migas and Olabegoya rank among Beijing’s best

Crunch time is revealing. Ask me what is the best bar or restaurant in Beijing and I will hem and haw and pro and con until I narrow it down to a final seventeen. But give me a specific situation, to pick a place for a particular person for, say, lunch, and a clear candidate — at least in my opinion — usually pops into my head. Yesterday, with two publishing bigwigs in town, the kind of people who are used to eating at creative quality venues, this is the one to pop: Migas.

It turned out to be a good choice for both predictable and unexpected reasons. Here’s why. First, Migas’ three-course set lunch is an exercise in value and quality – see photos below – that we supplemented with tasty calamari and octopus dishes. Creamy soup, juicy duck, deftly cooked seafood — striking but balanced flavors all around. Second, we opened a bottle of wine I brought and chef Aitor Olabegoya tried it with us as he explained some ins and outs of his business. (Note: He is now using ham he started aging some eighteen months ago.) Third, Olabegoya introduced us to a table of strangers because they were in a similar business and he thought it would be useful for all concerned: it turned out one person is with a firm I have long been trying to contact. Fourth, another table of strangers gave us a taste from their bottle of Amarone. Fifth, Migas makes a post-meal stroll easy and pleasurable since it is fun to show visitors the adjoining bar made with recycled materials and the well-designed rooftop — now under construction: the theme changes every spring — with its excellent views of Sanlitun and surrounding areas. Etc.

True, you won’t always meet new contacts or get strangers sending you wine when you visit. But leaving that aside, the recipes and homemade ingredients, the service and prices, the decor and atmosphere make Migas and Olabegoya constant presences on my favorite restaurants and chefs lists. It’s fair to say we all left full and happy yesterday. Plus, there is always something new going on at Migas — Olabegoya says he will have his glass-walled food and wine “lab”, just inside the front door, operating in about a month.

Some photos from lunch:

Migas amused our bouches with this pumpkin soup.
A bacon-mushroom combo as appetizer. Good texture and taste.
I had this juicy duck with preserved fruit as the main course.
A neighboring table shared a taste of this 2001 Amarone with us.
A neighboring table shared a taste of this.
And it's always fun to check out the Gin Tonic cart.
It’s always fun to check out the Gin Tonic cart.
And the rooftop. Look for a new look in a few weeks.
And the roof. Expect a new look in a few weeks.