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.