This review should have appeared in the June issue of Xianease, the only local English-language magazine geared towards expats in Xi’an that I copy edit for. Long story short, the management overseeing the hotel the restaurant belongs to didn’t think they were getting exactly what they intended so they had the editor in chief pull the plug on my review. As I spent a far amount of resources putting it together, and ZJ took some pretty stellar photos (although I’m biased) following the article below:
I’m never one to shy away from experiencing fine dining, so when I mentioned to Xianease my interest in reviewing a restaurant, I never dreamed my husband and I would dine at Dolce Vita, located in the People’s Grand Hotel at Renmin Square, part of the Sofitel Legend family. Dolce Vita, an authentic Italian restaurant, opened its doors on April 27.
Dolce Vita and the People’s Grand Hotel exudes French touches including fleur-de-lis as a recurring motif. From the sling back chairs lacquered in black with Art Deco accents, sleek black and silver glassed tabletops, tables overlooking a garden with the faint sound of a fountain and Frank Sinatra, Italian or ambient music all delighting the relevant senses, there’s nothing to dislike decor-wise. The wait staff are very attentive, well-informed, and speak English fairly well. As for the menu, it features a breadth of dishes including antipasto, fish and meat, sides, pasta and risotto, and pizza from all corners of Italy.
Chef Andrea selected our five-course meal for us, wanting to provide an authentic journey. We started with amuse-bouche, a single bite-size hors d’œuvre of smoked salmon with orange and fennel salad; Dolce Vita cures the salmon in-house, making a world of difference in terms of the delicate, subtle flavors dancing on the tongue. The appetizer course, consisting of a salad served over eggplant caviar, not only tasted light, fresh and well-balanced, tingling our taste buds but also appealing to our sense of sight: it appeared as a flower, sprouting branches with leaves.
For the third course we were served Pizza Marinara, cooked in a wood fired oven, drizzled with olive oil infused with chili. The pizza, one of the best we’ve had in Xi’an, with its dough cooked to perfection, a nice balance of flavors, without any ingredient outshining another, and again tasting fresh and authentic.
Following our pizza course, we were presented with two pastas: paccheri with a lamb ragout, green pea sauce & pecorino cheese and spaghetti alla chitarra. Paccheri is a large tubed pasta, with a slightly gummier texture, if comparing it to rigatoni, is perfectly served with a lamb ragout where the sweetness of the green pea sauce and saltiness of the pecorino elevate the dish. The spaghetti itself, as explained by the chef, has a coarseness to it as they don’t use boxed pastas. This gives the pasta a grittier taste unfamiliar to most, and when paired with a hearty tomato sauce with halved cherry tomatoes, garnished with basil, tastes heavenly.
We then gorged on apricot soup served with homemade vanilla ice cream exceptionally displayed in a martini glass and a balanced lemon cake typically served in Capri.
To sum up, we would recommend any of the pizzas or pastas. The once-in-a-lifetime experience consisted of a personal introduction to each dish and a pasta class by the chef himself, a tour of the People’s Grand Hotel, and my husband’s first foray into fine dining. If you’re looking for an authentic Italian experience in the heart of Xi’an, this is the place for you.
PRO: Perfect date-night ambience and authentic Italian cuisine
CON: The meal doesn’t come cheap when considering both portion size and price
Average cost: 250 per person