Pubs, pics and playlists: Q&A with Jonathan Kos-Read a.k.a. DJ Midlife Crisis

jonathan cao cao kos-read beijing china

“I told you ‘no requests’.”


You might remember him from such Chinese TV classics as Alien Caveman Vampires and Dial Later, My Love is Busy! but Jonathan Kos-Read is more than just a pretty face fighting scary monsters while managing a voracious sex life. He’s also a writer, photographer and, rumor has it, underwear model. Plus he DJs at my local watering hole. That all necessitates a Q&A.

Before we talk beverages, you recently mentioned a project that brings together Chinese and international photographers. What’s that about?

It’s opening this Saturday (April 19). I noticed that expats and Chinese shoot China really differently. But I couldn’t articulate what the difference was. So we put this show together where we have China photos from 20 international and 20 Chinese photographers up in opposition in the gallery.

Condensed into one sentence the theme would be: “Foreigners see things Chinese don’t see, Chinese see things foreigners don’t understand.

The opening is this Saturday at 3 PM. In 798 at the Inter Art Gallery. Just inside the south gate. You don’t need a ticket and there’s free Slow Boat beer. (More info here.)

I’ve seen you DJ at Fubar a few times. How did you get started and is it true the DJ gets as much free booze as he or she can handle?

I just turned 40 so I am having a midlife crisis. I was depressed and getting drunk in Fubar with the owner Kevin. I said, “I want to try DJing, man.” He said go for it.

So I sort of stumbled up and gave it a shot. I always figured I would be good at it. And how hard can it really be, right? You just press play and stop. So I was really crap the first few times but Kevin was cool and now I sort of figured out how to do it.

But I told him I didn’t want him to pay me. So I do get as much free booze as I want. I even made myself a DJ shirt that says MIDLIFE CRISIS on it in Chinese.

What are your top three spots in Beijing to grab a drink after a long hard day on the set?

Slow Boat for the beer and the fryburger. Great Leap 1 for the courtyard. Fubar because it’s the perfect bar (and Kevin lets me DJ).

You’ve been in Beijing a long time. What’s one bar now closed that you wish was open so you could introduce it to newcomers?

I wish Nightman still existed. It was this awful dance club that opened in the late 90s, like an excited but embarrassing father of Mix and Babyface. But in 1997 Chinese people were experiencing that kind of thing for the first time. So nobody was jaded about it.

Remember that “Token White Guy” column you did for the former Beijing Talk, the one that covered your wild and crazy times as a foreign actor in China (see “Stupid TV Show Plots” and “I Want Her to Be Fat“). When are they going to come out as a book? And when that book gets turned into a movie, who is going to play you?

I actually optioned the columns but the project just bounced around Hollywood. The scripts they made were horrible. They wanted Jonah Hill to play me.

Iam fazinated from China and the Beijing Oprea is amazing so I developt this idea from kissing opera girls.

Does it really matter whether a Chinese or international photographer took this? On display in 798 from April 19. (Courtesy JKR)

This is Sanlitun: Playing at a theater near you…

this is sanlitun movie poster


Mockumentary This is Sanlitun is part of the 2014 Beijing International Film Festival that just started and goes through April 23. Those who spend time in Sanlitun might well recognize some of the sights in the movie, from The Den to The Village to the scooter shop just down from Tavalin Bagels.

The story revolves around Gary (Carlos Ottery), a Brit who left his life in London to make his fortune in Beijing by selling a North Korean hair growth product and to reconnect with his former wife Lin (Ai Wan) and their child. That is, when he isn’t pounding beers, getting dubious advice from “old China hand” / impromptu roommate Frank (Christopher Loton), making ends meet by teaching English, subsequently finding himself in a tumultuous relationship with his student Momo (Hu Gaoxiang), etc. There are plenty of scenes that ring familiar, like the one with the self-professed “professional” English school owner (“What days can you work?” “Monday to Friday.” “You’re hired”), the one between two expatriates over who has the best Mandarin skills and the one where Gary finds himself hired for a day to play a chef — a.k.a. the token white guy — in front of investors (“it’s like being a male prostitute except you don’t have to do the sex”).

I saw the movie last week and while the plot is a bit choppy, the acting a bit rough at times, I found it enjoyable overall, with some laugh-out-loud scenes. You might want to pair it with an ankle flask of Red Star baijiu and a post-movie trip to a chuanr stand.

Note: I’m told there will be screenings on April 17 at 6:30 PM at Poly Cinema in Huamao Mall and on April 19 at 4:30 PM at Broadway Cinema at Pop Moma.

Sips & bites: Beer Mania, Pinotage, Duvel Moortgat, Trouble, Jing A

pinotage dark lager

Home brew coming to Pinotage in Sanlitun Soho.


Beer Mania is marking Belgian Beer Day on April 5 with a free keg of Chimay per hour from 9 PM to midnight. The kegs will alternate between Chimay Gold and Chimay Red. Expect music, games, and food and drink specials, too.

Look for South African restaurant and bar Pinotage to have its trio of home brews from the Shunyi branch available at the one in Sanlitun Soho within the next two weeks. Options include a wheat beer, a pale lager and a dark lager, with pricing at 元20 for 300 ml, 元30 for 500 ml and 元50 for a liter.

Joining the Great Leap April menu is Iron Buddha Blonde, infused with oolong tea from Fujian Province. Other additions include Silver Needle Wheat Ale, another tea-infused brew, and Ghost General Wheat IPA. Some good options as the weather warms up.

Duvel-Moortgat to will start distributing its 2014 Triple Hop beers soon. Every year, Duvel switches the third hop in the recipe, using Citra in 2012 and Sorache Ace in 2013. This time around the beer includes Mosaic hops and will be available in 330 ml bottles.

If you haven’t tried the Jing A lineup, blow into The Big Smoke on Mondays for “flight night“, when 元80 gets you samples of all six beers on tap.

Finally, Trouble Bar is now stocking beers by Dogfish Head, including 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPAs. This place has more than 100 beers, including three on tap, as well as dried herbs, infused salts and more.

Bottle, Boot & Cigar: Douglas Williams’ newest to offer Sazerac, shines and smokes

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Douglas Williams — known for his work at Apothecary, Peekaboo and Parlor — says a new venture called BBC or Bottle, Boot & Cigar is slated to soft open the week of April 15 to April 22. BBC is tucked between Frost and Commix Bar, and across from The Big Smoke, just off Xingfucun Middle Road. It will be easy to spot due to its two-meter by two-meter stainless steel hand-etched door.

Patrons can expect a lineup of quality spirits, including plenty of rye, with house bitters, spirit infusions and syrups and ginger beers, tonic waters and soda waters also for sale. Along with the beverages, BBC will stock cigars and, soon, offer both shaves and shines. Sounds like the ideal place to get a straight razor shave with some Bourbon straight up.images from boot, bottle & cigar douglas williams beijing china (4) images from boot, bottle & cigar douglas williams beijing china (2) images from boot, bottle & cigar douglas williams beijing china (1) images from boot, bottle & cigar douglas williams beijing china


Bagels, pork knuckles and Imperial Russia: Must Try Series with Julian Tavalin

julian tavalin of tavalin bagels beijing china


The tasty bagels at Tavalin have inspired a resurrection of the Must Tries Series, where I ask people in the Beijing food and beverage business for picks from their own menus and from other places about town. Julian Tavalin, part of the team behind Tavalin Bagels, reveals his favorite bagel, his top spots for pork knuckles, pizza and steak, and why he’d like to have Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as a customer.


You guys offer more than 10 kinds of bagels. What is the “must try” bagel on the menu?

Every bagel has at one point or another been my favorite, however the “everything bagel” has to be the one that I have loved the longest. Incidentally, this creates some confusion when people ask me “which is the best one” or “which one is the most popular” and I say “everything”—after which they usually roll their eyeballs in disgust thinking that I am taking the piss. I am not sure where the term “everything bagel” comes from, but when I was a kid it meant that the bagel had all the flavors they put on top. In our case it’s garlic, onion, sesame and sea salt. I enjoy it because I can never decide on one topping, so with this one you don’t miss out on any of them. The everything bagel is priced the same as the others at RMB10.

What is the “must try” topping?

Tavalin Bagels used to be in my tiny Sanlitun apartment when we first started. As silly as it might sound I hadn’t actually tried everything on the menu three weeks in. At the time we were only a three-day-a-week delivery service and one day very early on we ended up producing an extra rosemary and garlic cream cheese by accident. I remember discovering it in the fridge and feeling like I should eat some of it so it didn’t go and because I hadn’t tried it yet. I ate the entire 250-gram tub that evening on stale bagels. Since then it’s been my favorite. It’s rmb25 per tub or rmb10 to add it to a bagel.

What are three “must try” foods or drinks you’ve had at other places in Beijing?

Every so often I seek out the pork knuckle (schwinehaxe) at the Paulaner Brauhaus at the Kempinski. It was the first place I’d ever had the Bavarian dish, and it rarely disappoints.

To satisfy a pizza craving I’ll usually go to the Kro’s Nest. Their pizza reminds me most of the pizza that I grew up with, the toppings are generous and I feel like I’m getting what I paid for.

And recently I’ve been treating myself to steaks at O’Steak if I feel I deserve it. I can’t tell if their service is appalling or if I just happen to be in a lousy mood every time I go in there but either way I really enjoy their 220-gram steak with black pepper sauce and ANY other sauce on the menu. They also have rmb10 pastis there, which I know is not for everybody but I love the stuff and would pay double for it in a heartbeat.

Bonus question: If you could have anyone famous stop by the bagel shop, who would you choose and why? 

If the person can be an historical figure it would have to be Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii at the moment. This guy was commissioned by Czar Nicholas II to take color photographs of imperial Russia in the early 1900s and I came across an article about the photos on last week. I loved the photos so much I wanted to see more, and luckily the Library of Congress bought the entire collection in the 1940s and has it on their website for public viewing and use so you can see the entire 2000-plus photo collection (see this link).

Strangely enough I saw my mom had posted about the same guy on Facebook just today—neither of us knew the other had seen the same article. If you’d asked me two weeks ago which famous person I’d like to see at the bagel shop I’m sure it wouldn’t be so obscure, however I have some specific questions I’d like to ask the photographer as I’ve really enjoyed looking at his photos over the past week and can’t stop thinking about him—incidentally some of them I’d seen before and had no idea they were from the same photographer.

He invented a breakthrough way of photographing color, where he would take three photos of the same thing, while holding three color lenses (red, green, blue) in front of his camera. Then he’d take the black and white negatives and project them through the same colored filters. When the images were lined up they created a really amazing color effect (see here). Anyway, I’d like to ask him about the different kind of people he encountered in Imperial Russia and why he decided to leave for Western Europe after the Bolshevik Revolution even though they offered him a professorship, and a few more questions about his subject matter.

On a less pretentious note I’d also like to meet Leonardo DiCaprio for what it’s worth. I just saw The Wolf of Wall Street and I thought he was really good in it. I’ve been enjoying his movies recently, and it’s been a pleasure to literally watch him grow up on the screen. From my perspective he started as a cheesy teen heartthrob and has become a great actor. Little known fact: he moved out of his mom’s house just a couple months before Titanic was released. Crazy stuff.

See also:

Tavalin’s rec? Everything bagel with rosemary cream cheese.


A Somewhat Steady China Hand on the Local Bar Scene