Lamdre, Beijing — Seasonality-Driven, Plant-Based Cuisine Takes Centre Stage at This Award-Winning Restaurant

At this Beijing-based restaurant helmed by head chef Dai Jun, an array of vegetables and fruits are transformed into exquisite plates that are as creative and inventive as they are delicious.

01 May 2024

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Photo caption: Owner Zhao Jia, Head Chef Dai Jun and team | Photo Credit: Lamdre

Nestled in the heart of Sanlitun, one of Beijing’s busiest neighbourhoods, Lamdre has fast become one of the must-visit restaurants in the China capital. Opened in 2023, the establishment, helmed by owner Zhao Jia and Head Chef Dai Jun, was awarded a string of accolades less than a year into operations, including its first Michelin star and a coveted diamond rating in the Black Pearl Restaurant Guide. Most recently, the restaurant was bestowed the American Express One To Watch Award at the 2024 edition of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, giving it further global recognition.

All of this is quite impressive for a restaurant in China, championing cuisine that is 100% plant-based.

Much of Lamdre’s success can be attributed to Zhao’s vision of vegetarianism and Chef Dai’s sharply honed culinary artistry. A vegetarian herself, Zhao shares that Lamdre is about more than just not eating meat but a way of life – one that prioritises health, sustainability and a connection to the natural world.

While Lamdre is Zhao’s first culinary venture, Chef Dai is no stranger to the scene, boasting over three decades of experience under his belt including stints at three-Michelin-starred King’s Joy and one-Michelin-starred Vege Wonder. Classically trained in Cantonese and Chaozhou cuisine, Chef Dai has been cooking vegetarian cuisine since 2011 and sees plant-based cuisine as the ultimate expression of ingredients.

“As much as my dish needs to taste good, the integrity of the ingredients must be preserved. At Lamdre, we believe in respecting the ingredients’ original flavours and beauty,” Chef Dai says.

  Photo Credit: Lamdre

The bustle of the cosmopolitan city falls away as you enter the restaurant’s tranquil courtyard, featuring a stunning blend of Chinese heritage and modern, minimalist aesthetics. Inside, the dining area features large picture windows, allowing plenty of natural sunlight to stream in, and also serve as the perfect photo frame for the manicured courtyard and soaring locust tree.

A Homage to Nature’s Abundance

Photo caption: Chef Dai’s dishes pay homage to nature’s abundance | Photo Credit: Lamdre

On the food front, the menu shines the spotlight on a vast array of ingredients sourced from around China, such as pine nuts from Taizhou in Zhejiang, gingko from Tengchong in Yunnan, buckwheat from Inner Mongolia and more. Passionate about discovering ingredients unique to each Chinese province, Chef Dai spends a considerable amount of time on research trips across the country, seeking out lesser-known ingredients which he then transforms into refined dishes.

Photo Credit: Lamdre

“On one of my trips, I chanced upon wild bamboo fungus, nurtured in the pristine natural environment of the Bamboo Sea in southern Sichuan. This ingredient is considered a prized delicacy in our country as they are not easy to come by. Bamboo fungus has a very short lifespan, but fortunately, with the help of the locals, we can get hold of bamboo fungus before they break through the soil. Once they are delivered to our restaurant, we use the residual heat of the oven to stimulate the temperature and humidity needed for the growth of bamboo fungus eggs – the highly coveted part – loved for its texture which is both tender and crispy. Our guests all rave about the dish we’ve created with this fungi so it is worth all the effort,” Chef Dai explains.

Photo caption: Amuse bouche made with Artichoke.

Photo caption: Amuse bouche made with Gingko nuts | Photo credit: Lamdre     

While his culinary philosophy is simple, his cuisine is anything but. Every dish is a work of art on a plate, from the opening course of sea sedge, corn and feathery, rich morels that appear on the table like a delicate fan of concentric, sunshine-yellow discs set in the shape of a flower to the garden-like plate composed of Jerusalem artichoke mousse with edible moss crisps, sun-dried tomatoes and glasswort flowers.

At Lamdre, the menu changes according to the bounty of each season, and while many chefs may find it stressful to conjure a new menu every three months, Chef Dai thrives on the challenge.

Photo caption: Chef Dai | Photo Credit: Lamdre

“I am constantly fascinated by nature. We live in a country with vast and diverse geographical environments and endless coastlines, rich in biodiversity. I am always discovering new flavours and textures, which inspire my creations. While cooking with only fruit and vegetables is much more challenging than preparing meat dishes, it has made me push the limits of my creativity,” Chef Dai admits.

A must-try dish for every guest is the signature tofu, an elevated homage to China’s humble childhood comfort food. Handmade with soybeans from Heilongjiang, the tofu is soaked in matsutake mushrooms and seaweed from Fujian for two hours, then served with soy sauce, chilli sauce and a cup of fresh soy milk, all made fresh in-house.

Looking Ahead

Despite all the accolades they have garnered over the past one year, Zhao and Chef Dai are determined to continue innovating and pushing boundaries to deliver even more exceptional dining experiences. “Lamdre is derived from a Tibetan Buddhist meditative system, meaning ‘path’ and ‘fruit’, or that the result is within the journey. Our restaurant’s namesake encapsulates our attitude, and we believe that if we work hard, good results will naturally come,” Zhao says.

Photo Credit: Lamdre

Author: Michelle Yee

A content and communications professional, Michelle spent more than a decade creating content for several leading media titles including Lonely Planet Asia, Yahoo Singapore, and Wine & Dine. After leaving the media industry in 2019, she has been honing her craft at a global communications agency where she helps develop and drive publicity campaigns for brands in the consumer and corporate sectors.

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