After checking out the China Open on Thursday, p3wong and I headed to Sanlitun for some post-match libations. A quick summary:
1/5 bar (1949: The Hidden City)
If spots like 1949 and Union Bar & Grill are determined to provide overly keen and aggressive service, then patrons should receive, free of charge, the same drugs taken by the seemingly hopped-up employees. Seriously, there is a fine line between being helpful and annoying, and a growing number of places in this town are leaping across it and into the latter territory.
Take 1/5: As we looked for a seat, the waitress practically ploughed into us while energetically making hand gestures at this or that spot to indicate the obvious – they were empty.* Several requests for her to relax brought temporary relief – until we sat down, at which point she returned and stood about a foot behind us as we perused the menu. Several additional requests for space and to “please give us a few minutes” finally encouraged her to stand about two meters away.
I don’t doubt the staff friendliness, but who is doing training here: Richard Simmons? Are employees timed on how fast they take orders, with severe penalties for those who can’t secure one in under 10 seconds?
This is not to say 1/5 lacks positives. The design, décor, and “check him/her out” vibe (at least on this night) make it a decent place to entertain business clients and/or for the expense account crowd to relax after eating at the associated Duck de Chine or 1/5 Taverna. Actually, the place reminds me of a smaller classier Browns.
The bar includes a small but sedate patio (though it faces that huge KTV across the street). If you like eighties music – The Bangles, Yes, Human League – this was your night. And we received plenty of free popcorn. p3wong also liked the coasters, which include space for name, phone number, and message, and presumably can be sent between tables.
The downsides include the limited menu. The beer choices are Sol, Chill, Carlsberg, and Guinness, while only five wines are listed (the one I requested was unavailable). I imagine persistence might get access to the superior wine menu at Duck de Chine.
As for the cocktails, they didn’t live up to their prices. My Martini (RMB49) tasted like vodka cut with chilled water, while P3wong said her Bloody Mary (RMB59) lacked celery salt and needed more Worchester sauce, Tabasco, vodka, and… tomato juice. The drink simply had too much ice and, ultimately, water.
* Something similar happened when I recently entered Union and the host, finding himself behind me and unable to point out a hundred places I might sit, nearly tripped me as he pushed by to get in front.
Mesh (The Opposite House)
We started the night at Mesh, where Thursday features a buy one get one free deal on a limited range of cocktails and beers from 7 to 11 PM. Drinks start from RMB60 plus RMB15 percent service charge, which converts to RMB69 and up. The chic decor continues to impress; the dim lighting continues to mean flashlights are needed to see the menu.
I found the cocktails weaker than on previous visits. p3wong called her Cosmopolitan (RMB69) “average” and said she preferred the Mojito (RMB69). I found the Aperol & Mandarin Sour (RMB80.5) and Passion Fruit & Lychee Martini (RMB80.5) OK, though light.
While some confusion occurred as to whether single malts are covered by the special (they aren’t), the staff was friendly, especially the bartender who explained some of the more unusual cocktails on the menu.
Tun (Sanlitun South)
We ended the night at Tun, as I wanted to check out the band and to see if the snappy Italian joint next door was ready to open. As mentioned earlier, I love the layout of this place, though the men’s bathroom is a bit dodgy and the food could use work. Anyway, it’s a nice spot to see a band and have a couple of Tiger beers (RMB15), especially when the guitarist’s hands are so quick and deft that they almost look like they are smoking as he plays Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire.