Sips & bites: Nobu on a budget, Time Out says STFU, plus City Weekend, Extreme Cuisine Challenge

Extreme cuisine: from this... to that (supawatch.com)

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Sushi for the masses: While it is the hottest table in town, pricey Japanese restaurant Nobu knows the fleeting nature of fame in Beijing and hopes to diversify its customer base with some deals for those on a budget. No date has been set but a source says Nobu will start a “Sushi Plus” lunch special for RMB28, with bottomless Nescafe at RMB8, and a weekly BYOT event whereby customers bring their own tuna and have it cut and served for a RMB10 “slice-age” fee. Dinner will remain as expensive as ever though the cost-conscious can opt for the “sniffer special” that allows them to smell a dish for one-tenth of what it would cost to eat it. (See below for price details.)

You call it rude, we call it art: Some considered it bad manners when dining editor Lillian Chou of Time Out yelled “shut the f*ck up” at guests during the magazine’s restaurant awards party last week. Seems it might have been carefully orchestrated “performance art” to make a bigger point. One source theorizes that the outburst, slow proceedings, and poor management were all meant to demonstrate the type of experience that would have gotten a restaurant a single star ranking in the magazine.

In the meantime, dining editor Sienna Parulis-Cook of City Weekend, which will hold its awards party next month, still has time to get her sailor language up to speed (hint: “Gosh!” doesn’t count). But GM Mike Wester of The Beijinger, which held its party last week, is out of luck and no doubt laments that he opted for an eight-minute expletive-free soliloquy on his magazine’s voting processzzzzzzzzz.

Speaking of City Weekend, some other quick notes:

  • Even though Bling and All-Star are closed, don’t expect that to stop them from cleaning up at the magazine’s annual bars and clubs awards given that the winners for 2012 were decided more than a year ago (see this story). Word is that the magazine’s next issue will include a feature on how All-Star still has the city’s best burger “in theory”.
  • Look for editors Lee Mack and Blake Stone-Banks, each known for his closet full of track suits, to launch their own fashion line. Options will include “The City Slicker” for travel about town, “The Weekender” for wear at home, “The Shake and Blake” with extra big pockets for holding large cumbersome objects like stacks of envelopes, and “The Swinger“, which comes complete with a Lee Mack-inspired kai dang ku feature for the clubber too busy dancing to hit the toilets. We’ll take Mack’s word that he personally tests each outfit.
  • Apologies for my post of one year ago when I reported on “rumors that [City Weekend] plans to cut costs for the magazine, known for its ‘reader-powered’ tag line, by outsourcing it to three dozen spider monkeys using refurbished Commodore 64s in an unheated room in northern Shanxi.” It turns I had some details about the so-called monkey-powered’ campaign wrong. Now the rumor is that the room is in southern Shanxi, the computers are Amiga 500s, and each monkey is kept warm with demo models of “The Swinger” track suits.
  • Finally, I don’t get personal very often but I resent that City Weekend has again, here on its website, suggested I have some kind of burger fetish. This ongoing campaign is no doubt driven by my rejection of Mack’s offer that “you be the patty and me and Blake will be the bun”. Move on, Lee, move on.

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Foaming at the mouth? Look for a dozen Michelin-star chefs to descend upon Beijing in June for the city’s first Extreme Cuisine Challenge. The menus are yet to be finalized but an inside source has provided details of potential dishes that food fans in our fair city might get to try:

  • An entire herd of pigs reduced to a tablespoon of foam in order that diners can taste a “pork explosion.” (Rumor is the chefs had originally planned to use a panda but found it too “gamey”.)
  • A martini that not only includes gin but also its container: the bottle, screw top and label will be pulverized into a fine powder that is used to infuse the vodka and “create a holistic consumption experience.” The cocktail will be garnished with three olives of the kind commonly bought in a convenience shop to “contrast the everyday and mundane with the unique and insane.”
  • A drink called Still Cola with Citrus Twist. Explains the source: “The carbonation of the cola shall be removed via exposure to air for six hours at room temperature, defined as 18 degrees Celsius, with acidity provided by inclusion of a one inch wedge of lemon.” Intriguing.
  • A ten-kilogram piece of marble sourced from Jiangsu Province and slow-cooked for thirty days until it becomes soft enough to be sprinkled with truffle oil and eaten “as is.” This particular dish is playfully called Rocks in Your Stomach, Not in Your Head.

But what is sure to get the most attention are plans to reduce ten patrons to one-tenth their original size through a long process of slow cooking, extended sauna sessions, and dozens of rinse, wash, and spin cycles. Each patron ultimately will require only a fraction of the space and food he/she normally needs and thus underscore the need to intelligently use the planet’s resources. Patrons will pay RMB80000 for the week-long experience and be expected to provide their own tiny chairs for the closing dinner.

And if you didn’t already realize it by now, all of this is an APRIL FOOL’S JOKE.

One-two punch? Chateau Lafite knockoff “LaFight” blends French, Chinese themes

A wine that packs some punch?

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When it comes to wine in China, Bordeaux brand Chateau Lafite has long been the heavyweight champion of not only the rich, famous and well-connected but also of the country’s many knock-off artists. They know that by aping the label and simply changing a letter or two of the name, they can piggyback on the success of Lafite.

Now one local producer, I.P. Hu, aims to deliver a one-two punch to hundreds of competitors by merging two legends: French wine and Chinese martial arts. He calls the wine “Chateau LaFight” and hopes it is a winner.

“I want my customers to have the best of France and China,” Hu said at his shop in Lido. “That is why the label reminds them the legends of Lafite and kung fu. Our motto is: powerful French wine, powerful Chinese people.”

Hu offers several grades of wine that he bases on the martial arts system and denotes by colored belts on the necks of the bottles. A white belt contains imported bulk wine from Bulgaria, while a blue belt and black belt contain imported bulk wine from Chile and Australia respectively.

Although Hu is considering a platinum belt, the highest level at the moment is the red belt, since that color is considered lucky in China. It contains imported bulk wine from France and costs him “nearly one euro per liter”, says Hu. It also retails for RMB888, as Hu also says 8 is a lucky number. Thus the label includes a border of 8s and the vintage is permanently set at 1888.

The name LaFight was not an automatic choice, says Hu. Take the ‘brown belt‘ wine: it was especially aromatic and could be smelled more than 100 feet away. In fact, one critic described it as like a ‘durian fist in a stinky tofu glove’. Thus, Hu’s marketing team considered calling it LaFart and LaFeet. But both names were deemed to lack class and in the end LaFight prevailed.

And as you probably know, THIS IS AN APRIL FOOL’S DAY JOKE.

(Hat tip to ET for the design work.)

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Previous April Fool’s Day posts:

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The RMB27998 Question: Chateau Junding vs France, Flamme, and Silver Heights

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The price tag is no mirage. This bottle of wine from Chateau Junding in Shandong Province does indeed list for RMB27998. I am told the price is due to rarity: this is one of only five thousand bottles created for the opening of the winery a few years ago. From its architecture to its well-sculpted grounds to its nursery, Chateau Junding is an impressive operation and I will soon write several posts about it, but I am not prepared — or able — to pay that much money for a bottle of six-year-old Chinese wine. Here is what else I might spend it on instead:

  • 25 bottles of Dom Perignon (RMB1100) at Flamme during the restaurant’s half-price happy hour, daily from 3 PM to 7:30 PM, until the end of April. Alternatively, I might go for 62 bottles of Ridge (RMB450 each).
  • 117 bottles of Silver HeightsFamily Reserve” wine from Ningxia, which ranks among the best Chinese wines I have tried, is made from local grapes, and has a production of less than 5000 bottles.
  • 321 bottles of Black Wing Shiraz 2006, which won as best red wine in the 2010 Grape Wall Challenge.
  • Two round-trip economy class tickets from Beijing to Paris for RMB14,000, with the flight arriving early afternoon and leaving early the next afternoon, thus leaving me and a friend a full day and night and RMB14000 to spend on food and drink. Or one round-trip business class ticket — requires stop in Moscow, but who cares — and RMB10,000 of spending money.
  • 1120 cocktails at Mao Mao Chong during the RMB25 Wednesday night special. For the loner, that’s 10 drinks per week for more than two years. For the social, you could hold a whole bunch of parties.
  • 27998 drinks during the former monthly Fubar RMB1 drinks party. Luckily for them, that party is no longer held or it would take more than 1000 bottles of spirits to fill the order.
  • One appetizer at Nobu. (Just kidding.)

The typical person who buys that bottle from Chateau Junding no doubt has a lot of money, wants to impress a guest, and/or is paying homage to the winery and its owners.  But I don’t qualify on any of those other fronts so I would likely find a more creative way to spend that cash. Any other ideas?

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