Wine weekend: 100 wines for 100 kuai, Slovenian sip-fest

A heads up on a couple of noteworthy wine tastings coming up (as mentioned earlier, I hope to again start providing a list of upcoming wine events each week):

Palette held an excellent tasting in December of more than 100 of the wines it distributes. The price tag? A mere RMB 100 (USD 13). If you missed the event, don’t fret, as there will be a Beijing repeat on February 2, from 2 to 7 PM, in the Central Park banquet hall (2F, in the building with Alexander City Club). RSVP with Shirley Guo at 6585-3099.

I very much enjoyed trying Palette’s Australian, Spanish and dessert wines. If you’re a consumer, it’s hard to find more value than this. (See this write-up of the December event.)

This week’s Friday night tasting at Sequoia Cafe‘s Sanlitun outlet features wines from Slovenia. RMB 100 gets you snacks and a taste of wines from the country that apparently has the oldest vine in the world (400 years). To RSVP, contact Frank at 13701178073 /

Catching up: Kro’s Nest, Bellagio

An Obama Slammer, a large Kro’s Nest pizza and victory is ours.
((c) Obama for America)

Some notes on places visited over the past month or two…

Kro’s Nest
Everyone talks about the huge pizzas at Kro’s Nest, but also impressive is the service. The staff is consistently efficient and good-humored, the drinks and pizza tend to arrive on time, and the bill, change and doggie bags come without delay.

Kro’s Nest is one of my default venues when I am a) hungry, b) meeting a group, c) looking for somewhere informal, and d) seeking to keep control expenses. With plenty of seating, a laid-back atmosphere, and the modestly named “medium” pizza starting at RMB 80, the place works on all counts. The Kro’s Nest Special, a hearty but not overly heavy meat and vegetable combination, has grown on me, and I can slap the other pie’s half with the Greek Mama, Philly Special, or, if with big eaters, Mighty Meat.

Also you never know who you’ll meet Kro’s Nest. One my last visit, I sat beside the Beijing for Obama fundraising group and suggested that they, a la the Alabama Slammer, come up with a shooter – the Obama Slammer or Barack Attack - and charge RMB 25 per shot as a fund-raiser. Sell 250 of these and you have a thousand bucks. For those willing to pay for a double shot, up the nomenclature to the Whamma Bamma Thank You Obama Slamma. People, I’m giving out this advice for free! (Remember me when the ambassadorships to safe and sun-soaked Caribbean countries are handed out.)

About the only downside to Kro’s, besides it destroying many a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, is the mafan hike down that dimly dirt path behind the place.

(Note: Kro’s Nest is closed during the Chinese New Year festival and on every Monday.)

Bellagio is a restaurant that maximizes its potential. The staff is not particularly friendly, the seating arrangements are nothing special, and the Taiwanese food doesn’t take me back to the island, but the place is usually hopping. The situation is no doubt helped by the place’s prominence, by business from nearby clubs, and by a good rep for late-night eats.

p3wong and I found the gongbao jiding pretty good, while the Taiwanese oyster pancake and string beans were OK. Where the place does well is desserts, particularly those shaved ice creations, if that’s your dish.

By the way, if you have not been to Hsin Yeh, the “other” Taiwanese restaurant on that same Gongti West strip, give it a try. It comes off as more formal, but the food is good value and among the most authentic Taiwanese fare I’ve found in the city.

The Saturday that was: CJW, Nanjie, Tree, Rickshaw

With this thing, it’s happy hour forever! ((c) Universal Studios)

Rare be those times when a Beijing birthday boy busts moves to the Back to the Future theme in a bar*, but such was the scene on Saturday night at CJW.

I haven’t been to CJW – Cigar, Jazz, Wine – since last summer, when I parked on its patio, sipped two-for-one martinis, and stared at that massive plasma screen in the sky. (Get out the RUB A535 if you plan to do this for any length of time).

The inner sanctum is impressive for its size and layout, with a bay of tiered seating ascending theater-style. Drinks flowed, drinkers danced, the band – wrapping up their stay at CJW, I am told – rocked the joint, and the boa, uh, constricted. Great party all around and I hope to get back to CJW soon to check out the after-work drinks scene.

Birthday shenanigans continued at Nanjie, with people flank to shank downstairs and packed in like sardines upstairs. In other words, it was typical Nanjie. With a heated argument at a nearby table posing escalation potential and the birthday boy already back to the futon, CP and I headed to The Tree for a wind-down pint and then The Rickshaw for medium wings. A solid Beijing night…

* And Scarface! I wonder how much he had to pay to get the house to play that one!

Aloha – Beijing’s favorite bar for foreigners?

Spotted in this post on The Beijinger forum: “Top 10 Bars Foreigners are Most Interested In,” according to AT0086, which states, “To be authoritative and honest, AT0086 ranking is inclined to act as a reliable and honest consumption reference for you.”

Hang on to your toques and search your memory banks, because here they are:

1. Aloha
2. 19 Bar
3. Arcadia
4. The Blue Lotus Cafe
5. CD Cafe
6. Downtown Cafe
7. Durty Nellie’s
8. First Avenue Cafe and Bar
9. Fly Bar
10. High Ground

Well, they do say you learn something every day. For those interested, here are the top ten bar / restaurant queries on this blog this month:

1. Hooters
2. Maggies
3. White Rabbit
4. Chef Too
5. Yugong Yishan
6. Salt
7. China Doll
8. Nanjie
9. Salsa Caribe
10. Treasure Island

Beijing Olympics: Check your smokes at the door?

A smoke-free Olympics? (Rcmathiraj)

“A Beijing official recently announced that ‘provisions to ban smoking in public places in Beijing (Draft to Be Approved)’ will go into effect in Beijing office spaces, restaurants, and hotels,” reports People’s Daily. It’s all part of a “smoke-free Beijing Olympics.”

“… restaurants and hotels will set up clearly-marked and well-ventilated indoor smoking areas or smoking rooms. At least 70% of rooms will be smoke-free,” states the article. “The government-approved prohibition of smoking in public places is expected to begin after February of this year.”

No details are given on how the ban will be enforced or what, if any, penalties will apply to offending smokers, including all those Chongnanhai-puffing expats, so perhaps we’ll see a San Francisco-like situation (see this Danwei post for more on the ban).

Somewhat related, last March, I posted about a China Daily article that stated, “Beijing is to introduce a rating system for its Western-style restaurants, bakeries, bars and cafes by the end of the year to help diners make more informed choices.” Does anyone know what become of this initiative? (See: Judgment call: How many friendlies for Fridays?)

No smoking? You must be joking. (Mocker)

(Hat tip to M-Dawg for the heads up on the People’s Daily article.)