Here we go again.
Instead of one of those types on an all expenses paid ego trip (the type that gets a two-second spot in a TV commercial and adds “professional actor” to the CV) and/or dedicated to doing pretty much anything to get ahead as fast as possible (the type that would literally kiss someone’s ass and even ask if the kissee wanted it close-mouthed or French) and/or on a mission to be seen as ultra-hip (the type that raises the useless info ante by patronizingly saying the tea you like is nothing compared to such-and-such a blend harvested during the third phase of the moon cycle by the eight vegan virgin daughters of the owner and scented with the tears of a unicorn that lives only on that plantation) and/or, well, this could go on for a long time.
Instead of one of those types, yet again I know someone who is devoid of BS – in this case, The Rauch Potato (TRP) – preparing to make The Grand Exit. Anyway, we recently visited about a dozen spots over two nights in what could be considered a warm up for an official going away party. Here are some notes from a tour that saw me ask everyone “What up?”, instead of “What’s up?”, because grammar is so mainstream.
Yugong Yishan: Only a handful of acts inspire me to get me off my ass and catch a show. Two of them – Black Cat Bone and DH and the Hellcats – were playing. (Note: TRP and I had no problem getting here from Workers Stadium after the Guoan game. There were quite a few empty cabs.). About Yuong Yishan:
- The toilets reek. You don’t need to ask where they are because you can smell them from twenty-five feet away. Please save the “this is China” comments because they didn’t stink this bad when the place was Rui Fu, air fresheners are not expensive, and it’s not like this is some hole in the wall where beer is rmb10. In fact…
- A bottle of Tsingtao, the cheapest brew, is rmb25. (A friend says water is the same price.) Three beers and entry to the show (rmb80) top rmb150. How about a tiny percentage of the revenue going to a Fragrant Toilet Fund?
- I stood at the top of the first level. DH sounded muddy but Black Cat Bone sounded clean. What gives? A guy who plays in No Name Trio told me it is harder to mix sound for swing than blues. There you go. Anyway, good show(s), though Black Cat Bone dominated DH when the bands played together and the DH guitarist’s instrument is ridiculously big.
- I saw a guy that looked like Jean-Claude Van Damme. (“Wham, bam, thank you, van Damme!”) (And no, it wasn’t Black Cat Bone’s Jaime Welton.)
Mao Mao Chong: This place was winding down but we managed to get some Bloody Maos – get extra spicy ones for extra sinus clearing. TRP also gobbled down a sausage roll and praised the accompanying relish. Sounds like a perfect permanent item for the menu!
12SQM: We got the last two bottles of Coopers Pale Ale in the fridge. We also met new managers Mike and Lauren, who is also the nightlife editor at City Weekend — I wonder how that will be handled. So, after four years, Joseph Kornides and Li Mei have shifted their focus to other projects. (By the way, I dropped in a second time and Mike told me no major changes are planned for 12SQM for the time being.)
Salud: As busy as usual so we moved on to find something more relaxed.
Reef Bar: The rock music drifting down the street drew us in on a relatively quiet street (I believe it was before 2 AM at this point). The staff might want to check with their alcohol distributor because our whiskey shots were lightweights even though we witnessed them being poured from the bottle. Or maybe there is a new Jameson’s Light we don’t know about.
Amilal: Closed. (Where have all the hipsters gone?)
The Box: Closed. (Long time passing)
Jianghu: Just closed. (Long time ago)
That meant a triple closure whammy, just when we required one last beverage to wash away the taste of those Reef Bar shots, but TRP saved the situation by suggesting El Nido. Superb call.
We had a few good beers (TRP gave the BrewDog Punk IPA a thumb up while I went with current favorite Red Seal Pale Ale.) Even better, we shared the bar with owner Xiao Shuai and two members of bluegrass band Randy Andy Stable, Randy and Parker, the latter getting out his mandolin and all us singing along to “Marianne.” Parker also played “Sunday Morning Coming Down“, appropriate given the time, and Randy, with an incredible feat of recollection, dug deep and – sometimes word for word, sometimes syllable by syllable – pieced the lyrics together. Finally, Parker told us about a food court in Flushing, New York, that has “awesome” Chinese food and “even fish balls“. Sounded like time to go. Owner Xiao Shuai kindly comped us beer so we reinvested the money in a Bourbon shot, then said goodbye and stumbled out “to meet the day”.
1F: One of my favorite bar managers is Jack Zhou because he keeps his cool, remains polite, and listens to what customers have to say. This is an important part of why 1F has been a success since opening some 15 months ago. So it is shocking to hear a group of customers got out of control last week and one clubbed Zhou from behind. He is OK but it just goes to show that even in a place such has 1F, which I rank among the safest in Sanlitun, things can get out of hand.
Bar Blu: Does anyone consider bottled Tsingtao at rmb25 — regular price rmb30 — as a “special”. And a glass filled with ice and topped from an already-open two-liter bottle of Coke is rmb20 is, well, words fail me. We went for the We Live in Beijing “Feel Good Party” and to catch house band Solidaz one last time. I had fun but I would be more inclined to return if the prices better reflected the product. Then again, the event featured a buffet at rmb50 — regular price: rmb68 — and was great value for those who enjoy quantity. The best parts: the baked potato and the pumpkin pie.
Revolution: This bar is tightly arranged, can seat 30 to 40, and was pretty much full by the time we left. TRP described it as “cute”. We tried the Revolution cocktail (rmb40), available with gin or vodka, and found it refreshing. I see myself going here more often — and grabbing some bibimbap — when the weather gets colder.
Heaven Supermarket: A big plain rectangular room with fluorescent lighting, short tables and a few dozen stools might not sound like much but this place continues to impress for having more than 100 beers (both chilled and room temperature), low prices (example: Brooklyn Lager at rmb20), an eclectic clientele (from chefs to teachers to journalists to IT types, covering dozens of nationalities, spanning five decades) and – an item some restaurants in nearby Sanlitun Village lack – a toilet. We had long conversations with a group of people about televised dating shows, catering companies, and Middle Eastern food, and shorter ones on whether or not to have another beer.