Sequoia Cafe in Sanlitun offers the most imaginative, enjoyable and affordable wine tastings in Beijing. Period. Last Friday, I tried seven Austrian and German wines, munched on appetizers and chatted with wine distributors, a winemaker and plenty of friendly folk – all for 50 kuai. The tasting of eight Slovenian wines and the tasting where every attendee brought a bottle of wine and some cheese were also memorable. I can only see things getting better once Sequoia’s two decks open (to get on the event mailing list, email email@example.com).
With an exhausting week behind me, I was going to call it an early evening after trying those wines. Fortunately, a new friend from Siberia steered me from evil. We ended up checking out:
- Kokomo: This place looks a bit better every time I visit, though the closed kitchen and our grumbling stomachs made this stop a quick one, as we headed to…
- Apertivo: It was packed, but comfortable, with an earthy feel and a calming rumble of conversations as background noise. More than a dozen wines are available by the glass, from 35 kuai, and my Sangiovese was a sizeable pour. The calzone hit the spot.
- Cheers: We popped our heads in to find the usual cast of characters and the band getting ready to unleash some Xinjiang music.
- China Doll: The second floor was getting crowded by 10:30 PM and I always enjoy propping my elbows against that soft, sloped bar edge and sipping a drink. China Doll has some promotion whereby two people who kiss for ten seconds get free drinks. What’s next? Spin the bottle? Truth or dare?
- Q Bar: Though it was busy, we wrangled two seats at the bar. As for drinks, I had my favorite of the year, an Alfonso Special, and then a Strawberry Margarita, which someone bought for me (I can guarantee you, this is not a cocktail for which ye olde Beijing Boyce parts with cash). I also tried a splash of Caol Ila 18-year-old single malt, which inspired me to rewrite my will and demand that I be embalmed with this liquid… Note 1: I ran into Trevor K, who makes the best burgers in town and will (hopefully) again organize, with Kenn, a few BBQs on Q Bar’s deck. Note 2: The usual DJ was off, sparing us the dance music. Instead, his replacement had the good sense to play Peter Schilling’s Major Tom, Talk Talk’s It’s My Life and numerous other rarely heard tunes. Q Bar owners, this music is good! I repeat, this music is good!
- Browns: The bar was less crowded than usual, but the vibe more than made up for it, as did the 20-kuai Guinness, Kingfisher and Beamish served from the bathtub out front. It’d take about 10,000 words to describe the weirdness at Browns, so two brief sketches will have to suffice. First, there was a scraggly haired guy on the bar top, with biceps the size of Christmas turkeys, lots of tattoos and a baseball hat, whose dance routine consisted of pointing at his crotch, pointing at the crowd, and pulling his baseball cap over his face as though he were crying. For reasons that will confuse scientists and therapists for centuries, this stimulated numerous female patrons. Second, there was a girl on the bar top, who has obviously done some modeling, and she shook out her hair and jerked her lanky body about like a hyperactive vogue-ing insect-robot – it was better than it sounds and mesmerizing in strobe light. Also, being an empathetic person, I think I pulled a calf muscle just watching that display…
(By the way, what’s with the mini toll booth, they’ve set up on the street that goes past The Bookworm on the way to Browns? See below)
On Saturday, after doing my best to develop my carpal tunnel syndrome by answering about 70 emails in the afternoon, I went to a going away party for one of my favorite bloggers. Weirdly, I found myself sitting around a coffee table not only with him, but also with this blogger, this blogger, this blogger, this blogger and this blogger. Being the junior blogger, I didn’t know what to say, so I got on my Blackberry and left comments on their sites (kidding). Actually, this blogger earned his place in heaven, should I ever be on watch duty the day he approaches the pearly gates, as he showed up not only with a bottle of The Balvenie, but also one of Talisker, and later cracked open yet another The Balvenie before finishing with the equivalent of a dessert wine after a long and hearty “meal” of single malts – a 12-year-old Chivas. A smooth finish to a fun evening…