The lady bar touts and substance pushers seemed sparser on Sanlitun North the past few weeks. A recent stroll down the main drag attracted only six “sexy girl” solicitations, in contrast to the usual dozen, and not one “Hey man, want some stuff?” was muttered as I walked the side streets to Apertivo. Where hath the intrepid intruders gone? Perhaps they took advantage of the new Beijing-Tibet express and are on summer leave. Or maybe they were turfed by the notorious security guards at nearby Tongli Studio (true, no bodies have been found, but a telling sign would be if the area’s kebabs suddenly tasted gamey). Whatever the reason, any break from these — let’s be generous – carbon-based life forms is as refreshing as when strong winds occasionally dilute Beijing’s air pollution. Unfortunately, it’s usually just as short-lived. / Speaking of Apertivo, I’ve been there twice this month. The service is reasonable, it’s a nice place to chat with friends on a pleasant summer evening, and things would be even better with an upgraded by-the-glass wine selection. / Across the street, Saddle offers a minimalist menu of burritos, Spanish fried rice, salsa and chips, and fajitas as well as Pepe Lopez, Camino, Jose Cuervo, Olmeca and Conquistador tequilas. These brands cover the less-than-100-percent agave end of the tequila spectrum and some premium varieties would surely be welcomed. Saddle also has something called “Brett funnel” on Fridays, which involves chugging a beer via a tube for 10 kuai, and is not for the faint of stomach. / The Pavillion has a two-for-one happy hour, 5 to 8 PM, that covers house wines, cocktails, soft drinks, and beer, excluding Guinness and Kilkenny. In addition to an excellent patio, The Pavillion also has: 1) proper wine glasses; 2) one of Beijing’s more impressive Whisky selections; and 3) a slight identity crisis, since upon arrival patrons may come across anything from an alcohol-free graduation party to a beer-fueled rugby-mad crowd, with things thankfully tending toward the middle. / Maggie’s has upped its bottled Qingdao to 30 kuai from 20 kuai. Otherwise, it’s the same old, same old, which means hot dogs out front, reliable music inside, and an ambience that doesn’t live up to the former locale on Gongti East. / Shunyi-based sports bar The Pomegranate had a high-tech summer as it added a video projector, 42-inch flat screen, and wireless Internet access. My suburban friends tell me this is a good spot to sip a few beers, eat some pub grub, and catch a game. / DJ David Lindinger will spin all-plastic sets of “nujazz, groove and house music” at Q Bar on Fridays during September. This is a bit surprising since some owners were once strongly opposed to a DJ and since patrons seem to love the current ambience, which includes blues and jazz tunes. Q Bar seems to be drifting from the cocktail-first culture of First Cafe and Midnight, where two of the owners cut their teeth, and this will no doubt worry some long-loyal customers, including yours truly. I mean, this is like the city-specific that’s Beijing putting a huge brochure-like picture of Thailand on its cover (oh wait, it just did that, or do I have a copy of that’s Bangkok in my hand?). Or like me adding a dozen book reviews to my bar newsletter (oh wait again…). / Speaking of which, rumblings abound that Keiko Shirata, who owned First Cafe until it was chai’d about a month ago, is planning to open a new spot in Beijing. / Each of my four visits to Rui Fu has found this lounge/club increasingly busy and fun. My initial reservations have been cancelled by its spirited groove, interesting clientele and decent music (though a bit loud last time). The cocktails are a problem. As oft mentioned elsewhere, Rui Fu is a place to see and be seen, with last Friday featuring a marathon of seeing and being seen that left my ocular nerves exhausted and thus, having saw and been sawn, I resolved to wear an eye patch next time and thus maximize seeage and being seenage while minimizing strain (that is, when I return from my vacation at a coastal apiary - a sea and bee scene.) Putting preening aside, Rui Fu’s menu includes numerous pricing oddities such as Johnnie Walker Red and Johnnie Walker Black both at Y35, suggesting the latter will increase in price with the club’s popularity. Let’s wait and see (and be seen). / Capone’s plans to open a restaurant in Beijing. The general manager says his aim is to have “one of the biggest if not the biggest wine selections in Beijing.” / Also coming to the Jing: Hong Kong’s Park 97 and Middle-class America’s Hooters. / Finally, there are lots of choices out there for tonight, Friday, September 1. Frank’s Place will hold an end-of-summer party with all-you-can-drink Freixenet sparkling wine (7PM, 100 kuai) and its weekly pool tournament (8 PM, 50 kuai per person, winner takes all). Summergate will have a tasting of South Australia’s Kingston wines at Face Bar (7-10 PM, 100 kuai). Stone Boat has Muwen playing (9:30 PM), Q Bar sees its inaugural DJ night, and Rui Fu apparently has DJ Edmund, a friend of a friend from Taipei, spinning tunes.
(From Beijing Boyce XXIII, first emailed on August 31, 2006)