Gung Ho Pizza: Gourmet pies to fly in Gongti next Thursday

New Zealanders Jade Gray, known for his role in Pyro Pizza in Wudaokou, and John O’Loghlen, whose resume includes a stint with Domino’s Pizza, are teaming up to launch Gung Ho Pizza in the China View complex on Workers Stadium East Road.

Gung Ho is slated to open July 8 in the former Alba Italian restaurant space with a month-long buy one, get one free promotion. Given the modest amount of seating, look for delivery to drive this business, with a dozen electric vehicles already on site and decorated with the Gung Ho brand. Large pizzas will range in price from RMB55 to RMB95 on a menu that will include pastas and salads.

According to an email from Rich Akers, who is handling marketing, we can expect, “a delivery experience offering 10 signature gourmet pizzas, available with plain and whole-meal bases, using the freshest ingredients, a bunch of New Zealand mozzarella, and offering a handful of homemade spinach pastas and knock-out salads. Throw in some classic New Zealand red and white vino, micro brews and a range of freshly squeezed fruit juices and you have Gung Ho Pizza.”

The email describes how Gray and O’Loghlen went on a quest to the eastern U.S., the Mediterranean, and even Sweden “in search of the perfect pizza“, and eventually found it only after a return home: “They wound up on Waiheke pretty happy with the Pinot Gris and oysters and had a Gung Ho Moment… Artisanal food, simple ingredients, cheeky fusion, use what you’ve got, keep it healthy and hearty; they had found their perfect slice at a ‘Pizzeria Shack‘ on the side of the road next to another idyllic Kiwi beach.”

Back in Beijing, they worked with ex-Orchard, Element Fresh, Kro’s Nest, etc chef Jeffrey Powell on the recipes and nine months later the place is almost ready to go. Local pie competitors include specialists The Tree, La Pizza, and The Kro’s Nest, as well as spots such as The Den, Danger Doyle’s, L’Isola, and Bella.

George’s bar: Free drinks for official opening tonight

George’s will have its formal opening tonight in the southwestern corner of Workers Stadium across from Le Quai. The bar is the newest project of George Zhou, former co-owner of Q Bar, and will offer a select menu of free drinks tonight, including rum cokes, gin tonics, mango mashes, passion fruit mojitos, sparkling wine, and a shooter apparently called the G Shot, from 8:30 PM to midnight. This place is dangerously close to my apartment and I have already visited a handful of times to enjoy the blend of tasty drinks, comfy seats, and calming decor.

World Cup in Beijing: DJ Socceroo reports on 12 spots

DJ Chunky, apparently answering to DJ Socceroo during the World Cup, made the rounds last night as four crucial games kicked off. Here is his wrap up…

Paddy O’Shea’s: Jam packed inside; a lot of England jerseys on display with about 30 people out front.

Luga’s: Big crowd out front enjoying the England game with the U.S. game on inside with a sizable following. No sign of Luga but with that many people around you’d need a search party to track down the diminutive guv’nor.

3.3: They have set up back-to-back screens on the sidewalk and had a good number enjoying both matches, probably at the expense of Poachers, which had a handful indoors watching the England game

Saddle Cantina: Big crowd with the U.S. game projected on the Nali Patio wall. As with the Olympics, this venue offers the best screen in town for watching major events on a deck with a frozen drink in your hand.

Nali Patio: Yep, they too had the game on a big screen in the central arcade, with a light crowd. If you want to get a table outdoors with a good view of the action during big games, this is your best bet. You also have your pick of a range of decent dining options.

Union: Packed with a big U.S. crowd. Andy the manager is a happy camper now that England made the cut.

Tun: Empty with a few people on the patio.

Nanjie: Also empty and with the game on indoors as well.

The Den: Packed with the usual suspects.

Hooters: Busy with a local crowd and the U.S. game on most of the tellys. At least the customers knew where to look for a change.

Danger Doyles: Empty downstairs. This place has all the right stuff to be a top sports venue but it hasn’t built the necessary following that its neighbor The Den has.

George’s: Still in soft open mode so it is under the radar for now. U.S. game on a big screen with a light crowd. Definitely a new venue worth checking out, it’s about three doors down from Fubar, with the same emphasis on quality drinks and service.

Venues that have a big US and UK following, like Paddy’s, Union, and Luga’s, will be happy with last night’s results. Sadly for the Beijing Billabong, Australia’s run has ended, so it’s time to throw our lot in with the Old Dart (if the Kiwis don’t prevail tonight that is, of course). And yes, they have the Ashes and yes they populated our country with all its undesirables back in the day, but how nice would it be if they stopped whinging?

Good, cheap wines? Grape Wall Challenge II is on…

After today, I should have a list of some good inexpensive wines available in Beijing. I’m spending most of it at Maison Boulud, helping with the Grape Wall Challenge, an annual wine tasting organized by contributors to sibling blog Grape Wall of China.

The idea is to let Chinese consumers participate as wine judges, both to provide insights into their preferences and to give them confidence in tasting, since many people are intimidated by wine. Like most wine sold in China, all of the bottles in the challenge retail for less than RMB100. They are tasted blind, with the labels only revealed afterwards, and the judges  only have four scoring options: “I love it,” “I like it,” “I don’t like it”, and “I hate it”.

This year, the challenge has 39 wines, including 21 red wines and 18 white wines, and they come from the biggest distributors to smaller operations: ASC, Aussino, CMP (Chateau Medoc Paris), DT Asia, East Meets West, Enoteca, French Wine Paradox, Globus, Links, Sea & Sun, Summergate, Top Cellar, and Torres. The wines are from seven countries, including Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Italy, South Africa, and Spain, and cover nearly 20 kinds of grapes, from Merlot to Malbec, Chardonnay to Viognier, Chenin Blanc to Tempranillo.

I’ll soon have details on which wines the judges liked and where you can get them.

World Cup in Beijing: Souk, Parkside, Eudora, Cafe Del Mar, Aperitivo, and more

Yeah, these updates come from Sunday, but if the French team can skip practice and mope on a bus, then I can take some time off, no? Places visited…

Pre-game

Souk: What do you want first, the bad news or the good news? Let’s go with the bad news. It looks like more than two-thirds of the dozens of bottled beers listed on the menu are no longer available. There was no Yanjing dark draft. And Corona has been replaced by Sol at five kuai more per bottle – doesn’t it usually work the other way around? The menus themselves are beat up, with running text, and the sofa we used sagged and creaked as if it were on the point of collapse.

The good news: The patio near the door looks like a good spot to catch a match or two, though if you want to save the frustration of hearing “we don’t have that” you best stick to common brew such as Heineken and Tiger or to Tsingtao pints at RMB20. And the place does have two large screens and several smaller ones inside, a certain rough charm, and a staff that seems nice enough if not particularly efficient.

Paraguay 2, Slovakia 0

Parkside Bar & Grill: A light crowd inside, a heavier one outside. Matches come with English-language commentary that, similar to other places, was about a half-dozen seconds behind the video. There are several large screens inside and an even bigger one on the deck.

I caught the tail end of happy hour: Samual Adams is RMB20 per bottle. And I tried the club sandwich (RMB48): Tasty, though it looked diminutive on that big plate (maybe a garnish would help). I found the fries too heavy and that tiny bowl of ketchup far from enough. And the ghost of poor service seems to be following chef Zach Lewison, who recently came from Union, where the staff have long seemed averse to providing silverware. The Parkside staff forgot it, too.

Pine Hill: Next door to Parkside, it has Korean-language commentary for the World Cup games, just in case you like Hangul with your bibimbap.

Rosedale Hotel: The beer garden has brew from RMB13, plus chuar and other typical drinking fare.

Between games

Frank’s Place: About a dozen people on hand, though it was between games. Manager Vish said a large group of Brazilians were booked for the late game.

Lido Hotel: What distinguishes this beer garden from the one at Rosedale Hotel? For one thing, the fruit plates on display are much fancier.

New Zealand 1, Italy 1

Eudora Station: Again, the biggest draw in Lido with 100-plus people on the patio watching the matches (Chinese-language commentary), more than all of the other none beer-garden spots I visited put together. About 20 to 30 people camped inside to take advantage of the air-con.

Irish Volunteer: About a dozen people on hand, meaning it was almost half-full.

Café Del Mar: The Tsingtao is RMB15, apparently the Filipino band is good, the food passing by looked OK, there were three screens showing the World Cup, and, this may be a downside or an upside depending on how you view such things, a couple of women seemed intent that I would “spend some time” with them.

Aperitivo: As expected, the Italians were out in force to watch their team manage a draw against New Zealand, a disappointment especially since the team laundry bill will be massive given how much time the players spent rolling about. This place has a decent Sicilian red (Nero D’Avola) at RMB38 per glass, though it looked like most people were content with the Aperol-based cocktails.