The new Kro’s Nest: Pizza oven vs front door, plus Q&A and a pic

Artist rendering (courtesy of Kro's Nest)

-

Eight workers from a delivery company stand on the street and look at a pizza oven that is too big to get through the front door that it is partly blocked by scaffolding. Beijing, we have a problem. Over the course of an hour they measure the oven a dozen times and the door a dozen times. Not surprisingly, they get the same results. The choice is between turning the oven on its narrower side and potentially damaging it, in which case they are told it will be sent back, and returning it to the warehouse and coming another day. They hem and haw, measure the oven and the door once more, and decide better safe than sorry.

I watch this scene in front of what will be the new pizza restaurant by Olaf Kristoffer “Kro” Bauer. He is patient and this seems noteworthy given that he feels five years of his work went up in smoke last spring after the well-known meltdown of relations with his collaborator Yuan Jie at Kro’s Nest. I note that situation and the one last night as reasons 752 and 753 to avoid getting into the bar and restaurant business.

The new Kro’s Nest—and Bauer does plan to use that name—will be just down from Bellagio near Ladies Street. It is long and narrow and will seat about 200 people, he says. There will be an arcade up front, open kitchens so patrons can watch food being made, a long bar, a small stage, and a DJ booth. A private area will hold up to 30 people while a large room at the back includes a loft and a glassed-in tree Bauer says he didn’t want to cut down. There is a lot of orange brick. And those who griped that the Gongti location only had a squatter will be happy with the toilet options (yes, there is a sitter).

As for food, he plans to keep his super-sized pies and add some pizza spin-offs to the menu. We’ll have to wait and see, he says. After watching The Case of the Ornery Oven, we went to Bellagio for a few beers and I asked him a few random questions.

What’s the purpose of throwing pizza dough in the air?

The purpose is to get the excess flour off the dough. Flour keeps the dough from sticking but you don’t want too much. If the flour burns in the oven, it can leave a sour taste.

Which Kro’s Nest does this new place resemble?

With the arcade and the shipping container design in the front, it’ll be like Beida. With the bar in the middle, it’ll be like Gongti. And in the back, we are creating our own grown-up version of who we’ve become.

What’s been the hardest part of opening this place?

Because it is more professional, there were more people involved. Having a designer, ripping the place down, doing the electricity, water, and everything else–I learned a lot. Next time I’ll know exactly what to do.

What’s your favorite pizza?

Bell pepper, onion, and pepperoni. And garlic. You need garlic everywhere, on the top and the bottom.

Why open in this part of town?

We just happened to find a really good place that fit our portfolio. We’re looking for the same clientele as the old Kro’s, a very diverse group. Pizza should bring people together–everyone gets a slice.

There has been a lot of talk about what happened at Kro’s, that you were ripped off, that you should have been smarter, and so on. How much do you care about that now?

I care about it because it took four or five years of my life. But for now the most important thing is to get Kro’s Nest back to the people and to worry about that other stuff later.

Who makes your favorite pizzas in Beijing?

Just because it’s different from mine, I’ll go with the Vineyard Café. I just think it is all around decent.

Is Kro’s Nest going to do delivery?

Probably six to eight months after we open but hopefully faster. We want to make sure everything we do is on target and what the customer wants.

-

I also asked Bauer about the location. At the Workers Stadium spot, for example, people could couple a visit to Kro’s with hitting the bars or doing some shopping in the area. He says the location near Ladies Street is good because of its proximity to a lot of residential development and the U.S. Embassy. Finally, he says he hates to put a date on the opening, because you never know what will happen, but hopes to be up and running by the end of the year.

(Follow me on Twitter at Beijing Boyce or on Facebook here.)

Beijing Halloween 2010: Plush Monkeys, Hipster Balls, & Hash House Harriers

Now, *those* are Halloween costumes: Kris Ryan and Chad Lager as Marge and Homer at the former Rickshaw

-

Every October I call Mike Wester, head of magazine The Beijinger, and ask, “Are you guys going to do a Halloween party?” Why? Because those parties were freaking fun, that’s why. (His answer is always “no”.) I attended three of them, two at Tango in 2004 and 2005 and one at Rui Fu in 2006, and they inspired one of my favorite posts, given it involves a plush monkey battling a human (see Tales of the Plush Monkey). While searching for that link, I came across my favorite Beijing Halloween party ad of all time: Show Me Your Pumpkin. And this post with some alternative ideas for Halloween theme parties.

Anyway, back to 2010. This year, the two big parties will again be Yen Fetish in 798 and Spooked by Acupuncture at Lan. If you seek fame, China Doll will give away RMB10000 in prizes for best costume while Bling will once again offer RMB5000 in cash. And Tun will have the drag queens that packed the house last year. Check this post at The Beijinger for a list of parties.

Some other options include this Halloween run by the Hash House Harriers,  two-for-one drinks all day Saturday and Sunday at Paddy O’Shea’s, and the Hipster’s Ball at Beer Mania: “DJ Damn It will play all your favorite indie anthems remixed to maximizedancibility. He’ll also play the shittiest top 40 stuff that you’re used to hearing in every club this side of Sanlitun, but remixed… NO VIP TABLES, NO CHIVAS MIXED WITH TEA, NO COVER CHARGE” (Saturday from 10 PM). <– THIS LATTER EVENT IS NOVEMBER 6.

That’s all for now. I apologize for the brevity but I’m off to The Butcher Steakhouse to pick up the meat dress for my Lady Gaga outfit…

Sips and bites: The wrap of Refresh, new Gung Ho pies, new Flamme deals

Paired with the longstanding Monday two-for-one burger deal at Blue Frog, the relatively new Tuesday two-for-one steak deal at Flamme gives Swire Sanlitun Village an early week one-two punch. Some good news: that steak deal will continue. And some bad news: the other Flamme deals will not. This includes the RMB50 all-you-can-drink Stella and Hoegaarden on Mondays, two-for-one lunch on Wednesdays, and RMB25 cocktails available only until the end of this month.

Back to good news: Flamme has replaced them with new deals, says manager Paul Mathew. Mondays now mean all-you-can drink draft and cocktails for RMB100 (and the drinks are above-average at this place) while Thursdays feature 250 grams of prime rib for RMB188. For other deals, see this flyer.

Finally, look for Flamme chef Jeffrey Powell to launch an extensive lunch menu. By extensive I mean more than two dozen items, including seven burger options: one of them, The Yeti, will pack a pound of Australian beef.

-

Gung Ho! plans to offer seasonal pizzas to the dozen or so pies already on the menu. I attended a taste test on Wednesday night and tried some of the candidates, including ones topped with Beijing duck, with chuanr, and with potato, pumpkin, and spinach, as well as a special seasoning that will be given to customers. I’ll provide an update when I hear the final decisions on the pizzas. And for those wondering about that idea of testing some recipes suggested in this blog’s recent Formula for Pie contest, it’s still in the works.

-

Saturday is the last day to take advantage of the RMB20 special at cafe Refresh! in the China View Building. That gets you a wrap, a sandwich, or a salad, plus a coffee or tea. I’ve tried about a dozen items so far and he is my, um, wrap.

Salads: The rocket in the organic salad was so fresh I skipped the dressing and ate my veggies naked. I wasn’t a fan of the dressing on the Caesar salad and don’t enjoy cold pasta so won’t be ordering the spiral pasta and pesto salad again, though the ingredients in both were good. The date salad, which includes feta cheese, pine nuts, and bacon, is a touch sweet and is an intriguing combination.

Wraps: I liked the Mexican wrap for its blend of salsa, chicken, and guacamole. I found the satay peanut sauce in the Thai and Indo wraps too strong, though I know other people who enjoyed them.

Sandwiches: I liked club (with chicken and bacon) and “mozzacado” (bacon, avocado, tomato, and mozzarella), found the Cajun chicken okay, and the Iberic a bit dry. The mango, prawn, red pepper, and pesto offers an interesting combination and texture.

Refresh offers booth and table seating, decent wireless, and friendly employees though they are loud at times and punching in orders seems to take a gazillion steps. You have the option of buying your food prepackaged or having it made on the spot–the latter can take much longer and such service ends at 8 PM.

Wine ‘dream team’ to visit Beijing: Writer James Suckling, Louise Roderer’s Michel Janneau, Torbreck’s Dave Powell

Wine distributor Links China is bringing what it calls a “dream team” to Beijing in November. The group includes former Wine Spectator senior editor James Suckling, who left the magazine this summer and will launch his own website, Michel Janneau of French winery Louis Roderer, which includes Cristal among its products, and Dave Powell of Australian winery Torbreck, who left his mark on the city’s wine scene last time around not only by sharing his wines but also by showing us this mark on his ass. The trio will sandwich a Beijing visit on November 9 and November 10 between stops in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Legation libations: Fig-infused Bourbon and other fall drinks at Maison Boulud

While Maison Boulud receives a good deal of praise as a restaurant, I have spent far more time in its bar. Ever since I tried the spicy Project 23 and refreshing Kentucky Iced Tea just over two years ago, I have enjoyed this place for its blend of history (it once served as the U.S. Embassy), ambiance (subdued and refined if a bit stale), service (generally good), and extras (you typically get a treat with your drink). The Legation Quarter is a trek but some nights I get in the mood to take a breather, “go tourist”, and drive past Tiananmen Square and other lit landmarks at night before retreating into the Legation Quarter to nurse a drink or two.

I recently visited to have lunch and meet new Maison Boulud GM Nicolas Socquet. I finally tried the burger, rich with foie gras, and truffles, and will be back for another soon. As for the drinks, I tried one of Boulud’s newest concoctions, a twist on the Manhattan: it includes 60 ml of Blanton’s Bourbon infused with figs, vanilla, and cinnamon, and 30 ml of Martini Rosso. The drink is pricey at RMB88 plus the dratted 15 percent service charge but that is a big pour and it’ll take the chill off. Even better, there is a buy two, get one free deal right now. (Print the coupon below and take it with you.)

By the way, I’ll also soon have a long overdue post on some tasty cocktails I had at The Fairmont.

For now, some more new cocktails from Maison Boulud:

  • Beijing Derby: Includes Bourbon, Champagne, and fresh fig; RMB98
  • Pear Side Car: Includes Xinjiang pear, Remy Martin Cognac, and fresh lime juice; RMB88
  • Fa Guo Qi Shi Wu: Includes Remy Martin Cognac, Champagne, fresh lime, and sugar; RMB88