Earlier this week, I posted about recent visits to two venues projected to soon open – The Legation Quarter and China Doll (3.3. Building edition). I had hoped to start posting today about two other spots I toured – the new Nali Studio (already home to Ciro’s Pomodoro and soon-to-be-home of Project H20 and the new Saddle) and 1949: The Hidden City. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked the past two days with other projects and with getting my e-newsletter out (it’s free; to get on the mailing list, e-mail email@example.com with “sign me up” in the subject line). I’ll post about these venues by Monday at the latest. I also hope to post about another major project that has just popped onto the radar – details to come.
China Daily reports that six establishments at Workers’ Stadium, home of soccer / football matches during the Olympics, will be closed just prior to and during the Games as a security measure:
Restaurants, bars and nightclubs in one of Beijing’s main nightlife centers and celebrity hangouts are to be closed to help ensure security at an Olympic football venue, said authorities.
“About six restaurants and bars inside the Beijing Workers’ Stadium compound will be ordered to suspend operation for more than 20 days before and during the Olympic Games,” said He Zhenxing, stadium vice manager.
The venues, popular among Beijing residents, would suffer lost business, but the order was issued to guarantee security for the Games, he said.
“The stadium will not pay compensation to them, but may extend their leases or give preferential treatment after the Olympic Games,” he said.
According to the article, managers of the establishment had to receive formal notification. They were reported to be – and here is the understatement of the year – “very unhappy” with the situation.
The articles cites Mix and Outback Steakhouse, both at the stadium’s northern gate. Vics and Kro’s Nest are also at that gate.
Speaking of Workers’ Stadium, does anyone know what that boat-like structure being built on the edge of its “lake” will be used for?
(Hat tips to M-dawg and Adam “I just bought a chunk of salmon sushimi the size of my fist” S)
This is the second in a series of posts on places that I have recently toured and that are projected to open over the next few months. Previously: The Legation Quarter
Ai Wan (far left) and China Doll vie with Suzie Wong at last year’s TBJ awards. (Photo: that’s Beijing)
Venue: the new China Doll
Stated opening: mid-May
When China Doll opened in Tongli Studio just over a year ago, I quickly associated it with several things: 1) cozy seats and subtle lighting and thus an avoidance of the excessive neon that plagues other places; 2) an excellent four-sided padded bar manned by efficient staff; 3) a looping (to some) erotic video that rapidly got old; 4) a diverse client base of locals and expatriates; and 5) and a spirit that seemed like it would quickly outgrow the venue’s tight confines.
A split between owners last fall saw the creative side, Ai Wan, leave and she is now part of a team set to reopen in new digs on the fifth floor of the nearby 3.3 building (the building’s north face already sports the China Doll banner). The space is bigger – much bigger – with more than 1200 square meters of enclosed space, including an open area of 850 square meters, and an additional 400 square meters of rooftop.
China Doll will include a lounge, a compact dance floor fringed by two levels of seating, and seven VIP rooms and a VIP lounge. Patrons will access the club via two elevators at the back of 3.3.
The slogan is “Sexy – Hip – Cool” and management says there will be a focus on promoting art and culture. The strategy is to start drawing patrons into the lounge from the afternoon on. Ryan Horne, from the Los Angeles clubbing scene, is managing the place.
Ai Wan brings a loyal following from the original venue, a successful track record, and strong contacts and creative design ideas. The downside of opening in a mall is somewhat offset by the private elevators. The big question is whether enough people can be drawn to 3.3 to regularly fill this massive space. That, and the status of the original venue – will both places promote themselves as China Doll?
After the Australia-South Africa wine tasting last Saturday night, The Flash and I perused Super Bar Street. There is no shortage of venues – Afro Arena, Shamba, Back Street Club, Lakeland, Beach Bar, Escape, Qiu’s Roast Oyster, the 5:19 (re-opened by new management), Pili Pili, and – what sounds like a great name for a hotpot restaurant – Boiling Tribe (100 C) Club, among others. We decided to check the German restaurant Wirtshaus an see, which The Flash translated to as “Inn by the Lake.”
This is the only place I have seen with Flensburger Gold pilsener. The Flash notes that Flensburger is a northern German city and famous as the spot where traffic violation records are maintained. You might lose your heart in San Francisco, but if you’re German, you’ll lose your license in Flensburger. Wirtshaus an see also offers Bitburger (RMB25 for .25 L, RMB35 for .5 L) and Weihenstepan (RMB40 for .5 L)
This restaurant is large and airy with comfortable chairs in groups of four to eight. We were the lone customers. The floor manager was polite, efficient and spoke German.
The place has potential, but needs to get over the “too” syndrome – too much dressing on the salad (kidney beans, corn, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, carrot and mushrooms), too much pepper and salt on the seared tuna, and too much time spent by the burger on the grill (translation: it was dry). On a positive note, the baked potato and the French fries were decent, and The Flash found his rump steak to be pretty good and cooked to medium as ordered.
By the way, is it me or is traffic finally starting to pick up on Super Bar Street? If there were ever a street that should be cobble-stoned, studded with trees and made pedestrian-only in this city, this would rank among the top contenders (I’m also thinking of the small pond behind Pili Pili which, if properly cleaned up, could become a mini-Houhai).
This is the first in a series of posts on four places projected to open over the next few months. Tomorrow: the new China Doll.
I had yet to enjoy watching the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, I remained unaware that the Black Eyed Peas provide the ideal beat for apartment cleaning, and I could still fit into my good black jeans – all these things were true when The Legation Quarter, the most anticipated food and beverage project in this city, was first scheduled to open more than a year ago.
How times have changed.
I toured The Legation Quarter last week and ran into the man most associated with the project, Handel Lee (Three on the Bund, The Courtyard, RBL), who outlined several buildings before marketing director Lulu Liu took over. Word is that some venues will open in mid-May (see below).
The Legation Quarter is big and, in many ways, beautiful, so in the words of BEP, “Let’s get it started.”
Like many of Lee’s projects, this venue is laden with history. According to the company brochure, five of the Legation Quarter’s buildings date from 1903 and were built to house the U.S. Embassy during the waning years of the Qing Dynasty. The 170,000-square-foot space later served as the Dalai Lama’s residence, a state guest house, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs offices. Additional buildings and an underground space have been added to house a club, a bar, and other establishments.
Here’s a lineup of some key projects.
Projected opening: mid-May
- Maison Boulud (back center in image above), “a French concept restaurant by award-winning chef Daniel Boulud from New York,” according to the brochure. The ground floor includes a bar, lounge and main dining room; the second floor, accessible by two staircases, holds smaller dining rooms.
- The Legation Center for the Arts (right front), which will host exhibitions, film programs and lectures. The rooftop offers good views of the old post office and train station as well as Tiananmen.
Projected opening: mid-June
- Mission (right top), the 1400-square-meter nightclub portion of Legation Quarter, which will include a lounge, VIP rooms and deck space. Lee says that a New York-London outfit is handling the project. The brochure says Mission “is sure to blaze a trail across the sky of Beijing’s nightlife” (let’s hope they have fire extinguishers).
- Teatro (right middle), an Italian restaurant; this building will include a wine cellar and a shop that sells bread, cheese, olive oil, and other goods.
Projected opening: mid-July
- Shiro Matsu (left top), a Japanese restaurant.
- Tian Di Yi Jian (left bottom, barely in image), a Chinese restaurant “embedded” in a furniture showroom.
The Legation Quarter will also include a 650-square-meter underground theater.
This project is ambitious and, given the delays, obviously not an easy one to complete. I have no idea about the rent, but large expatriate kitchen staffs do not come cheap. Maison Boulud seems especially promising as it could become a must visit for US business and government delegations, among others. The Legation Quarter has potential for event launches, weddings and so on. It’s hard to say how many people will come for, say, Italian or Japanese food, but I guess individual vendors will shoulder at least some of the responsibility of bringing in patrons.
Last week, I posted about an upcoming Bookworm seminar on a scuba diving team that went to Mongolia last year and explored ship wrecks, surveyed fish, and came upon a really weird creature (I also griped about the media’s priorities when it comes to stories like this, but what can you do). Anyway, I put my minimal design talents to use and created a poster for that seminar, being held tonight. If you plan to come and learn about the mysteries of Mongolia’s deeps, you might want to arrive fairly early – a large turnout is expected.
Beijing enjoyed yet another “100 wines for 100RMB” (USD14) event as GELIPU and Winelink teamed up to present Australian and South African wines last Saturday at Tim’s Texas Roadhouse.
Save for occasional rinsing water shortages and a few shaky pours that ended up on hands instead of in glasses, the staff did a decent job. Kudos to the organizers for placing A4-sized printouts in front of many bottles to indicate the producer, vintage, varietal and price, thus saving much squinting. Based on the lively chatter throughout the night, most attendees had an excellent time.
For the South African wines, the very drinkable Stonecross Merlot Pinotage at RMB 65 per bottle stands up to other competitors in that price range, such as Signos and Fortrant. The Stonecross Shiraz is also worth a try. Among the higher priced labels, the 2005 Klien Zalse Shiraz packed a wallop at 15 percent alcohol and offered nice dark fruits – this one isn’t cheap at RMB350.
With the Australian wines, I noticed people enjoying the The Little Wine Co Gewurztraminner 2006, with its ample grapefruit flavors (RMB235), and one patron said her favorite wine of the night was 2003 Bremerton Old Adam Shiraz (RMB1288).
The tasting included over a dozen liqueurs and ports from Castle Glen Vineyards. The Ginger White Port – according to the label, it is aged in American oak – is hot and intense but tasty (RMB239). The Dragon’s Breath liqueurs, all at 30 percent alcohol, were very in-your-face. Numerous people raved about the the chocolate and chili version – suffice to say, save this taste bud-vaporizing liquid until after finishing your wine.
Spicy liqueur is no match for chili-eating champ Gabriel Monroe.
Mare is an excellent spot to sit down and share tapas. The unpretentious surroundings – the simple arched doorways, the decent lighting, the white walls dotted with a few pieces of colorful art – make it a nice spot for a business meeting, getting together with friends, or chilling out with coworkers. Mare also does a great job at catering as I discovered when the place supplied tapas for a Whiskey tasting last year.
The Cellar Rat and I decided last week to give Mare a spin as a bar. Mare offers a substantial wine list. The list features 55 different bottles, starting at RMB200, with Cambridge Cellars Sauvignon Semillon at RMB208 and Stump Jump Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre at RMB 255. There are nine wines by the glass – one sparkling, four red and four white – with the entry level costing RMB35. Spirits start at RMB38 and cocktails at RMB45. In other words, the place has a lot to offer. The only downside is the bar itself is not very cozy. The layout is too tight, the stools a bit uncomfortable. So, if you go and plan to drink, it’s best to skip a strictly liquid meal and instead sit down to grab some eats.