Yantai pub crawl: Druid’s, Captain Musical, Eleven, and more

-

I had a few free hours in Yantai last Thursday night so I did a walkabout on Chaoyang Street which is a) close to the hotel, b) close to the waterfront, c) in the old part of the city, and d) home to the most bars. Indeed I did find a few decent places to grab a drink.

Druid’s: This is an Irish bar with an Austrian owner named Mike. I liked the long snaking bar (made of three thick pieces of beech, he says), the sloped ceiling that leaves the more than a century old beams exposed, the pool table and dartboard, and the draft Guinness, Kilkenny, and Strongbow. Add a friendly staff, a cubby hole with a selection of books, and decent toilets, and this is a solid spot that rivals the Irish bars in Beijing. I had a pint of Guinness (RMB60).

Captain Musical Bar: This place is across the street and has an elaborate mural on its outside wall (see photo below). It made me think of pirates. Anyway, I found it fairly full but given I was in a contemplative mood I moved on to…

Havana: Apparently Druids owner Mike opened this space in 2001, then sold it and left Yantai, before returning several years ago. Anyway, the place is now owned by Daniel, who said he has been manning the bar for four years. This has a kind of local bar feel and I had a Tiger beer (RMB20) while getting the lowdown on Yantai from Daniel and his trustworthy assistant Rita.

Eleven: Daniel told me this place is considered to have some of the city’s best cocktails and even walked me there since it is hard to find for newcomers. Eleven is run by Kent, named after his girlfriend, and has a half-dozen seats at the bar — slightly bigger than the former Tryst in Beijing. Kent told me he  has worked in several Shanghai bars. He did a decent job on my Alfonso Special, though he had not heard of the drink, and on the Perfect Manhattan he recommended, and I was tempted to order a Dark and Stormy as he had Gosling’s rum. He said the Mojito is among his better drinks but he didn’t have all of the ingredients on this night. He also showed me some of his books and explained he is a fan of Ferran Adria of Spain’s El Bulli restaurant. The two drinks came to RMB60.

I had also hoped to visit a place called Alibaba, based on a recommendation from @riceagain on Twitter, but it turned out to be too far away. In any case, I enjoyed my short visit to Yantai and hope to be back again. I’ll be posting about some of the vineyards I visited on sibling blog Grape Wall of China.

My spin on the third annual pole-dancing contest at Zeta

Xiang Xiang (2nd), Mimi (1st), Sigrid (“Miss Pole-pular”), and Goldfish (3rd)

-

I woke up with a sore neck the morning after the third annual pole dancing contest last Saturday night at the Hilton Beijing. Not because I strained it while watching the dancers or because I foolishly tried the pole myself but because the careless driver of the taxi I took to the hotel rear-ended another car.  Dude, a  key skill needed for your job is to not hit what is front of you! Better work on that one. The lesson is that whether you are pole-dancing or driving in Beijing, it’s always safest to wear a seatbelt.

Anyway, every six months of so I get asked to participant in some event and this time it was to judge a pole dancing contest. Some might think it nothing but bubbles and giggles to sit near the stage with pen and paper in hand but I found otherwise. First, I guess I would have felt about as comfortable hanging out with the cast of Jersey Shore. (In fact, this event would have been a perfect place for J-WOWW and Snookie to make their Beijing debut.) Second, watching some of those lithe dancers made me first feel like I should get more exercise and then eventually reverse myself and decide it was hopeless. So many dancers; so many conflicting emotions.

But I did learn what it takes to win a pole-dancing contest:

  • Being able to climb the pole. A few contestants had trouble with this but I give them credit for at least trying. I’m sure it will go better next time.
  • Doing anything that involves hanging upside down and doing the splits, extending off the pole with no hands, or spinning around like a whirlpool of mad sensuality.
  • Wearing a sailor or school outfit, or something involving a pair of thigh-high black boots, as these all seemed to generate appreciation from the crowd.
  • Having rhythm while making eye contact with the crowd, which I take to be the pole dancing equivalent of patting your head while rubbing your tummy.
  • Not falling off the stage. The platform was quite small and one dancer did slip on the edge. Luckily, no serious injury.

The Hilton Beijing did well to put a layer of respectability on the proceedings. The emcee not only gave background on pole dancing and the equipment used but also interviewed each contestant after her performance so we could learn how long she had been dancing, what inspired her to start, the best places to pick up bikini-style stewardess / sailor outfits, and how this sport boosts everything from confidence to immune systems. Unfortunately, those were pretty much the only times that the video-camera wielding guys in the first few rows didn’t have the record button pressed. I guess interviews don’t qualify as quality “time alone” material.

In any case, eleven contestants scaled, spun, and slid in an effort to take pole position. And in the end, dancer Mimi emerged as the winner, with Xiang Xiang and Goldfish in second and third, and Sigrid — who informed us she had four poles in her house in Beijing — taking the “Miss Pole-pular” crown decided by votes from the attendees.

(Photos: Hilton Beijing)

 

I woke up with a sore neck the morning after the pole dancing contest at Hilton Beijing last Saturday night. Not because I strained it while trying to watch the dancers or because I foolishly tried to spin on the pole myself but because the driver of the taxi I took to the hotel rear-ended another car. That’s one way to put a crick in a neck. The point is: whether you are pole-dancing or driving in Beijing, it’s always safest to wear a seatbelt.

Anyway, every six months of so I get asked to participant in some event and this time it was to judge the third annual pole dancing contest. Some might think it nothing but bubbles and giggles to sit near the stage with pen and paper in hand but I found otherwise. First, I’m not really a public person and would probably be about as comfortable hanging out with the gang on Jersey Shore. (In fact, this would have been a perfect place for J-WOWW and Snookie to make their Beijing debut.) Second, watching some of those lithe dancers made me first feel like I should get more exercise and then decide it was hopeless. So many dancers; so many conflicting emotions.

But I did learn what it takes to win a pole-dancing contest:

· Being able to climb the pole. A few contestants had trouble with this but I give them credit for at least trying. I’m sure it will go better next time.

· Doing anything that involves hanging off the pole with no hands, hanging upside down and doing the splits, or spinning around like a whirlpool of mad sensuality.

· Wearing a sailor, stewardess, or nurse-themed outfits, or something involving a pair of thigh-high black boots, as these all seemed to excite the men in the crowd.

· Having rhythm while making eye contact with the crowd. It is like that patting your head while rubbing your tummy trick. You either can do it or you can’t.

· Not falling off the stage: The platform was quite small and one dancer fell off and hurt her ankle. This is a dangerous sport.

The night also included a pole dancing performance by a group of transvestites, a beauty show with women in Chinese traditional garb, and a top hat dance on the bar at Zeta. A group of male pole dancers came out and hurtled themselves around the pole to the point I thought it would snap.

The Hilton Beijing also did its best to put a veneer of respectability on the proceedings. The emcee not only gave background on pole dancing and the equipment being used but also interviewed each contestant after her performance so we could learn how long they had been dancing, what inspired them, the best places to pick up stewardess / bikini outfits, and how this exercise boosted everything from confidence to immune systems. Unfortunately, these were pretty much the only times that some of the video-camera wielding lads in the first few rows didn’t press record. I guess the speeches didn’t qualify as “time alone” material.

 

 

 

· The emcee really tried to tone down the obvious ### of the event by explaining the dynamics of pole-dancing… Thus we learned from various contestants how long they had been pole dancing, the health benefits, etc. “Pole dancing isn’t just what you thought before!” she said to what I took to be a skeptical crowd.

· There was one guy directly behind me, leaning on my chair, and taking video, and I felt his breath on the back of my neck at least half the night. Gross.

· Guy gave contestant flowers…

· One contestant fell off the stage…

 

 

So long in Soho: Cafe Europa to close April 10

Word comes from Joseph and Li at Cafe Europa that this longstanding Jianwai Soho restaurant will close. In an email, they state that the landlord is seeking a 40 percent increase in rent, something not economically feasible in that location. The last day of business will be April 10. Cafe Europa has long held on in a tough spot, serving decent food and offering one of the city’s more interesting wine lists. Let’s hope the situation changes or, even better, than the owners find an even better spot to set up business. I first met my buddy ksquare at Cafe Europa and he says: “that place is too good for its location.” In the meantime, you have a few more weeks to drop in for a drink or meal.

-

See also:

Re-Loop: Shuangjing venue sees food, drink upgrade

The Loop (map) is one of those places with the potential to be everything from the hottest hidden spot in town to just another player in the background. I am hoping for the latter and am happy at how the stars are aligning. I like the design: the orange bricks, cement floors and wood trim that to me say Beijing, the tight arrangement of bar, booths, table seating and open space, and the mix of videos beamed on the wall and the music of BB Deng. It has great potential as an event space. But The Loop has thus far faced some issues in terms of food and drink. This is where good things are happening.

The eats: Previously inconsistent and at times poor, the food has seen a major upgrade since Weiley Lu joined the team. Known best for his work at Lugar and e.a.t., Lu has put together a small but good menu he says will gradually expand. I tried the steak yesterday: a perfectly cooked 200-gram cut with vegetables and herb rice for RMB58. That’s hard to beat and Lu says he aims to offer Sanlitun quality at a price that allows people to take a taxi from there to The Loop and back – and still come out ahead. (By the way, you can switch the rice for mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes.) I also tried the tasty fried pork cube with balsamic and fresh mint (RMB36 for six pieces) that Lu says is a riff on Nobu. The rest of the menu includes pastas from RMB28, snacks such as fried potato wedges, fried jalapenos, and chicken wings from RMB24, and mains such as salmon steak at RMB58. It looks like the food issue is solved.

The drinks: Those Lafite- and Latour-looking wines were an issue because at least for me they raised concerns about the legitimacy of the booze. Lu is now putting together a wine list that — given the candidates I have seen — should offer both quality and value. Even better, as he did at Lugar, Lu is getting creative with the drinks.  There are fifteen house cocktails, each named after a movie, including Roman Holiday, Norwegian Wood and Desperado. The intriguing If You Are the One combines Maotai, Triple Sec, and citrus, and rivals The Jing Fling at Mao Mao Chong as the best cocktail made with Chinese spirits. Mixed drinks are RMB30 and include a ~50ml pour while the beer list covers six bottle options, including Tsingtao (RMB15), Hoegaarden (RMB30), and Dead Guy Ale (RMB45). Look for Lu to also put together a strong collection of rums and Bourbons.

The Loop is not the easiest place to find, and it does feel a bit cold and could benefit from an outgoing staff member of two, but the food and drink upgrade, the good service I experienced yesterday, and the relaxed vibe and excellent music bode well, and I could see this spot becoming one of my favorites.

http://www.beijingboyce.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/loop-baiziwan-beijing-china.jpg

Zhuang opens, plus 4 other updates from The Shuangjing Strip

-

The Shuangjing Strip that includes Lily’s American Diner, The Brick, and Grinders has a new bar as Zhuang opened today. Run by a trio of women, Zhuang will open from 5 PM to 3 AM daily, says co-owner Annie Ma. The place includes a bar that looks a bit like the one at The Brick, table seating, a loft, and some funny photos and captions on the walls. As for beverages, look for soft drinks and juices from RMB20, bottled Tsingtao at RMB20, Hoegaarden and Beijing draft, and cocktails and shooters, including something called the Zhuang Hammer.

Also in the area…

The Brick: Has started to hold pool contests every Sunday from 8 PM on its newly re-covered table. The entry fee is RMB15, with the winner getting cash and all participants getting free shots.

Lily’s American Diner: Will expand its menu in the middle of next month with the new items including four kinds of pasta, Sloppy Joe’s, and fish and chips. As usual, food will be available in the restaurant or by delivery.

Grinders: Is expanding its kitchen and should return to serving food sometime next week. This place also now has delivery vehicles.

The Loop: As mentioned, Weiley Lu (formerly of Lugar and e.a.t.) is now on board and the food has already significantly improved. I had a perfectly cooked steak with veggies and rice today for RMB58. Good deal. Expect a major upgrade of the wine list soon. And kudos for the excellent music played during the day, no doubt due to one of the co-owners, BB Deng.

Pool fans: The Brick is holding its first contest tonight, from 8 PM, on its newly re-covered table. RMB15 entry. Cash prizes. Free shots for participants.
Pool fans: The Brick is holding its first contest tonight, from 8 PM, on its newly re-covered table. RMB15 entry. Cash prizes. Free shots for participants.