Sips and bites: Maggie’s, Mosto, Naijo, Tryst, Tun, 12SQM, Fubar, and more

Notes from some stops about town this past week..

Tun: You might feel like humming Jingle Bells in the toilets now that–at least in the men’s loo–the walls are Christmas stocking red, the stalls pine tree green, and the urinals bone white. In other developments, the pool table is now near the door, the bar is freshly scrubbed (though there remains a slight musty odor, kind of like someone who skipped a shower and tossed on extra deodorant instead), and the kitchen is being redone (maybe we will see something along the lines of Kebab Nation – good filler you can eat standing up or sitting down). Kudos to bar man Robbie who explained some  finer points of football as I honed up for the World Cup.

Fubar: Haunch to paunch, hooting and hollering, sloppy and crazy busy on Fridays. That’s why I tend to go other nights, when I can simply relax and have a beverage. The staff ranks among my favorites because it constitutes such an eclectic cast of characters. By the way, Mojitos are one kuai from 7 PM to 9 PM tomorrow, but Utah rules are in play, which means you have to finish the drink in your hand before you can get another.

Stadium Dog: I don’t pay RMB20 for the sometimes Gobi Desert-dry hot dog. I don’t pay RMB20 for the sometimes too-hard bun. I pay RMB20 for the toppings: the chili, cheese, black olives, Jalapeño pepper rings, diced onions, hard-to-find—at least in Beijing—mustards, sauerkraut, julienned pickles, et al that I pack under, beside, and on top of the meat. Frankly, if we could combine the grilled hot dogs at No More Bunz with the toppings at Stadium, world peace might ensue. I also think nachos and cheese would be a big hit at this place.

Tryst: Made my usual Tuesday night stop to see Pat D during his weekly gig behind the bar. Given he still had maple syrup leftover from two weeks ago, I had a Knob Creek Old Fashioned, this time with a Meyer lemon twist. Pat adds the ice and alcohol in stages, so the glass ended up with a thin film of ice on the outside. I also tried a concoction that included rum and Pat’s fruits of the week–fresh pineapple and blueberries. While it looked unpleasant in the initial stages, after muddling, shaking, and pouring, this turned out to be one smooth looking and tasting – and deceptively strong – drink. Laoban G, making a rare Beijing visit, gave it two thumbs up.

12SQM: A call from The Lager Meister, a Twitter message that announced a special two-for-one deal, and the visit of Laoban G inspired this visit. As noted before, I prefer the newer and bigger 12SQM, which is almost four times the original size, and last night provided a perfect example of how homey this place can feel: A half-dozen people relaxing at the bar, a few chilling on the sofa, one surfing the web, house dog Mafan zipping about. Coopers Pale Ale at RMB30 is decent value by my books; a pair at that price is hard to beat.

Salud: The Lager Meister and I wobbled here and found it business as usual: Earthy digs, infused rums

Paddy O’Shea’s: The busiest spot visited on Tuesday. Why do so many people like Paddy O’Shea’s? The quality of the Guinness? The extensive sports schedule? Or the Mona Lisa-like smile of Karl “Who’s Your Paddy” Long? I’m guessing it is a combination of the three. A sizable crowd, a good vibe….

Mosto: The enomatic system here makes it possible to store open wine longer and thus feasible to offer less common varieties by the glass. Options include Oregon Pinot Noir as well as Pinotage, Malbec, and Vermintino. Half pours start at RMB28, with flights of four at RMB120 and flights of six at RMB150. Mondays feature a 30 percent discount on bottled wine. Someone recently asked me about Albarino: this place has two, Martin Codax 2008 and Pazo de Barrantes 2007. (By the way, I gave a Meyer lemon to the bartender, who seemed rather unimpressed with it, though head chef Daniel Urdaneta found the juice pleasant.)

Naijo: A Spanish acquaintance says this restaurant has the best paella in Beijing – high praise. Like Mosto, on the same floor, it also has Albarino. Anyway, I stopped for a glass of wine and left with a few suggestions in mind:

  • The dozen or so wine-by-the-glass options are spread throughout the menu—two on this page, one on that page, and so on. How about a page that lists them all?
  • Most people are unfamiliar with Spanish wines, so it would help to know how fruity, heavy, and so on is each. While some do have such tastings notes, but others have little or no info, or simply comments like “sunshine in a bottle.”
  • The bartender had to leave the bar and go to a fridge beside a work station near the door to get the wine. Why not have the wines, at least those offered by the glass, behind the bar?

Anyway, I hope to soon return to try the food–especially the paella.

Maggie’s: ‘Mongolian Embassy’ jokes aside, this place gets high marks for efficient service, smart design, excellent lighting, clean toilets… for simply being a good bar. Half the original space remains blocked off by curtains, though it has looked ready to open for months. The newer section—which includes a second bar and two rooms that each sport a pool table—has been absorbing the consistently large crowds. This edition of Maggie’s remains tame compared to the previous location on Workers Stadium East where the restaurants Jasmine and Buffalo now stand.

: The kitschy décor, go-go dancers, good value vodka, and floor show remain, though the crowd is smaller, at least based on my last three visits. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given there is still a good number of people and the odds are much better of getting breathing space at the bar. Like Maggie’s, this place is on my “place to take visitors” list, though a year ago my friends and I popped in on a weekly basis: how quickly changes the bar scene…

NCAA basketball in Beijing: Catch the men’s college final next Tuesday

NCAA fans: The Irish Volunteer will show the men’s college basketball final next Tuesday, April 6, at 9 AM. The IV will open at 8:30 AM and if you come hungry, no worries, as the RMB35 breakfast (three eggs, bacon, home fries and toast) will be available along with coffee, juice, sodas, and stronger beverages (happy hour prices apply all day).

I’ll update this post if I hear of any other places showing the game…

Aperitivo encore: Sanlitun wine bar and cafe reopens tonight

A new bar up front.

Aperitivo will reopen tonight, in an hour or two, after weeks of renovations. Owner Stefano says it will be a “very, very soft opening.”

The key changes are in the first room: the bar is now to the right and more storage space has been added for wine. Regulars will either be happy or dismayed that the music selection still includes mixes from Suzie Wong.

In the lounge areas, expect to find a similar layout and color scheme — that familiar orange seating — with the ceiling designed to add depth.

Overall, the place has been refined, looks spic and span, and is set to add to the five-plus years it has served as a dependable watering hole, with spotless toilets to boot (never underestimate the importance of a clean loo).

Look for a new menu in coming weeks…

[Update: The music changed to Barry White.] [Update II: OK, now we have some good early evening music.] [Update III: I can't believe how much Stefano and staff have done in the past hour to get ready for tonight: cleaning deck, unpacking supplies, etc. Good teamwork.]

A familiar feel in back.

Luga’s Basement: Slated to open Saturday at 6 PM

Luga’s Villa is slated to open a sports bar this Saturday in the downstairs space formerly known as Boutique Wine Cellar. The new venue will include a long bar, five TV screens, and a pool table; the deck that leads to its entrance has been refurbished.

The opening will feature a screening of what I am told is a key football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at 7:45 PM (the commentary will be on), followed by Arsenal and Wolverhampton at 10 PM, and Poopingham and Chesterfield United at midnight <– OK, I made up those last two; I really have nothing against football, I’m just bitter we don’t see more North American sports in this city.

The deals include a Beijing draft and a hot dog for RMB30 and a two-for-one deal on Bombadier at RMB45.

Sips and bites: Kiosk, Maggie’s, Fubar, Stumble Inn, Constellation, & more

If you are planning to go to Blue Frog for tonight’s two-for-one burger special, you might want to head there now. This place has been packed to the rafters in recent weeks–and that’s saying something since it has two floors. Also on the third floor of Sanlitun Village, it looks likely that Japanese restaurant Tairyo will finally open this week, and an employee shakeup at restaurant-lounge-club-etc Zazou has seen its manager leave.

I went to the newer Kiosk yesterday for a Big Bite burger — that’s a 250-gram square patty folded around cheese and served in a baguette (RMB33) — and fries (RMB12). What I intended to be a lunch stop turned into an afternoon of sipping beer (RMB15 for Tsingtao), trading the occasional vodka shot with the owner or adjoining tables, and watching impromptu salsa lessons. Good value at this spot.

I visited Maggie’s twice in two weeks to see if the entire venue is finally open… and it isn’t. Half of the huge original space remains behind curtains, despite looking ready to go, though the two additional rooms with pool tables and second bar have kept traffic flowing. And, yeah, you can still get a hot dog (RMB30) out front.

Fubar will feature RMB1 mojitos from 7 PM to 9 PM as its April Fool’s Day special. Sounds like a good time to combine a few minty drinks there with a visit to Kro’s Nest for its Thursday five-for-RMB80 craft beer special.

After one slip in Sanlitun, The Stumble Inn crew is close to securing a new space there. I just hope the team duplicates that beer selection from the first venue.

Finally, Shanghai-based cocktail-whiskey bar Constellation — it has two outlets there and is planning a third — is expected to open in Beijing as early as May.