Beijing photos from this year and years past that remind of Christmas…
I recently went to the Christmas bazaar at Hilton Beijing, grabbed a spot on the third floor for a good view of the tree lighting in the lobby, and soon found myself standing beside Santa Claus as he prepared to ‘fly’ through the air.
Before I get to the Man in Red, I’ll repeat that I’m a fan of this hotel and its many events (see [Heart] the Hilton Beijing). This one was no exception, with a solar-powered tree and train, dozens of booths selling crafts, Miss World on hand, and proceeds to Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots organization. But for the sake of the kids — of all ages — I wish the Hilton would speed things up a bit. The lighting ceremony took nearly an hour, a long time for kids excited about Christmas to stand about. That’s my sole Grinch comment on an otherwise typically superb event.
Anyway, I was watching the ceremony from on high, a glass of wine in hand, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but Santa Claus a mere meter away. Some photos…
Some of my best wine memories are from the weekly Friday night tastings Frank Siegel once hosted at the former Sequoia Cafe just behind Opposite House. Siegel held everything from blind tastings to bring-your-own-bottle affairs, covered pretty much every country and style, and always had nibbles or even a barbecue for us. He closed the cafe about five years ago and the space has pretty much been empty since. Tonight I saw workers in there and it looks like this former gathering place for much of the wine scene — from the most experienced tasters to first-timers — will be an office. Sad.
I took the photo above of Salud in Sanlitun a few days ago. The facade has since been redone and the place now goes by the name The Disguised.
Here is a shot of the inside. The guys I saw there earlier tonight said it will open Wednesday. I haven’t been in this place for years, pretty much since bartender Jackson Bai left and then headed to Shanghai.
William Bolton a.k.a. Chef Billy has left The Pavillion about four months after that Workers Stadium West place finally reopened. Bolton joined the project ~18 months ago after the backers of Sim Sim restaurant took over. I only stopped in a few times but found few customers, though this place still has one of the best patios in town (see below). I’ll try to contact the owners to see if there are any changes coming. As for Bolton, he says it is business as usual at his best-known establishment, Chef Too.
Meanwhile, Brian McKenna is heading the kitchen at The Courtyard and posted this shot today. The card says, “Prepare yourself for an experience that pushes the limits of what’s possible with food.” Is that an edible envelope, by any chance? McKenna remains the subject of my longest ever restaurant review, for this meal during his days at Blu Lobster.
The new kitchen at Beer Mania, headed by former Le Petit Gourmand chef Fred, is doing a tasty brunch. The shot below shows the first course with sausage, bacon, egg, potato, vegetable stew (ratatouille), buns, fresh juice (four choices: the one in front is apple-starfruit) and coffee. The second course includes croissant, waffle, baked apple and jam. The brunch is regularly rmb88 but only rmb70 during December. It runs from 11 AM to 4 PM, which means you can merge it with the happy hour from 3 PM to 8 PM and get two-for-one draft beers as a digestif.
Finally, if you want a few posts re those former Sequoia tastings, check here:
- From Ljubljana with love: Beijing’s second Slovenian wine tasting
- Bubbly Beijing: Which one of these six wines sparkles?
- Sequoia showdown: Blind tasting of Chinese white, red wines
held contests and blind tastings, a
Lunch specials from rmb45. More than one hundred kinds of tequila. A deck that might well become a magnet for margarita fans this summer.
A massive and strangely erotic piñata of a burrito wrestling a taco.
Expect that and more when the third branch of Shanghai transplant Cantina Agave opens on the third floor of Sanlitun Village, close to Flamme and Union Bar and Grille.
Owner Raffe Ibrahamian, who works in the clothing industry in China and opened Cantina Agave in 2008 because he missed Southern California-style Mexican food, says he expects to open the Beijing branch around Chinese New Year with a menu that includes the same fare as in Shanghai plus some new additions:
- Ibrahamian says that he has over 140 kinds of tequila in stock in Shanghia and aims to provide Beijing imbibers with a good selection.
- In terms of drinks, there will be a focus on that old standby, the margarita, with four flavors leading the charge: classic, strawberry, mango and passion fruit.
- There will also be new cocktails created by Yao, head bartender at Shanghai bar The Alchemist.
- Lunch specials include a quesadilla, half-order of meat-topped nachos or tacos with a soft drink at rmb45, or with a margarita at rmb55.
- There will also be new dishes, including seafood soup, with seven items from the briny depths, and avocado-topped fries.
Cantina Agave will be able to seat 50 inside beneath its high ceiling, and another 80 outside on the second floor patio, which will include a small bar. Look for banks of windows on the east side, funky lighting, tequila flights and more to be added by the time this place opens.
(Hat tip to P. Gucci)
A snack shop called Mr Bing just opened in Hong Kong and several of my friends from Beijing are outraged the place is (apparently) selling jianbing — described above as “Beijing street crepes” — for rmb48. The company’s website lists no menu or prices at the moment.
I could see a jianbing costing rmb48 if it were made from fresh organic ingredients in a venue with a top-notch decor in a high-rent district.
But that wouldn’t be — as the website puts it — an “authentic” Beijing “street” crepe, which in my experience is usually made on a corner using batter reminiscent of watery concrete (in the right light), mystery meat (that may or may not contain meat), greens that look like they went through a paper-shredder, and other items that, when combined, are very tasty. And that only costs a few kuai.
The ones in Hong Kong? It looks like Mr Bing is making something authentic in this Youtube video, although the husband and wife team at my local put far more care into production. And this photo shows that the digs are far from five-star. Thus, at this point, it looks like Hong Kong is getting somewhat authentic jianbing at rather inauthentic prices.* If any of my Hong Kong friends stop in at this place, please let me know what you think.
* Then again, I paid rmb40 the other night for a modestly sized lamb pie topped with a scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy.
Imbibers in Beijing can enjoy yet another tipple from the country that gave us vegemite, Air Supply and a car called the Zeta (see below). Bundaberg, the rum that many of my Down Under friends love to drink with Coke, is now available here in over proof form. Just in case Bundy and Coke fans want even more of a booze kick with their sugar and caffeine rush.
The distributor is Moline, which handles brands such as The London No. 1 Gin and 10 Cane Rum. I wonder if the distributor will follow it up with Bundaberg Royal Liqueur? See many more Bundaberg products here.
(Hat tip to Gerber)
Zach Lewison has been quietly working working away in catering for more than a year after kitchen stints at Union Bar & Grille, Parkside and Kro’s Nest but says he plans a return to the public spotlight early next year as co-owner of a new burger joint.
Lewison says the place will feature 15 kinds of burgers, including beef, pork, chicken, fish, veggie and — here’s hoping — donkey options. There will also be sides, including sweet potato fries.
Don’t expect a massive restaurant, as we’re talking 100 square meters at most. But expect it in close proximity to Hilton Beijing, Kro’s Nest and Home Plate BBQ, giving diners in that are yet another option.
Look for Great Leap Brewery to expand from its isolated Doujiao Hutong venue to the much more bustling Workers Stadium area in the spring. Owners Carl Setzer and Liu Fang plan to open their second venue just north of Workers Gymnasium by early April in the former Japanese restaurant Len Len space on Xinzhong Street. Some details as provided by Great Leap:
- The new Great Leap will measure more than 500 square meters and have a brewing capacity of a whopping 33,000 liters of beer per month, equal to nearly 100,000 standard bottles.
- The venue will have space for more than 300 customers, including 175 seated.
- There will be 15 beer taps with selections from Great Leap as well as “a variety of craft beverages, which include barrel aged beer, craft soda, ginger ale, carbonated plum juice and more”.
- Veteran brew master Tobias Palmer, who has worked in several countries and at Hopfenstube in Beijing, has joined as head of brewing operations.
- The menu will include Chinese and Western bar food by Kin Hong, described as “the culinary brain behind Susu and The Taco Bar.”
“Great Leap has been painfully patient about expanding into a second retail location because Beijing deserves to have an option for craft beer that is considered a trend setter for quality, variety and service,” said Setzer in a statement.
“We spent 12 months researching and looking for a home for our flagship store and the result has been, not only a great location that will be able to service over 300 customers, but also a team that will be able to continue Great Leap’s development in cutting edge beer styles, quality control, brand and marketing design, as well as architecture and engineering.”
Great Leap is opening in an area that has seen a good number of establishments pop up in the past year or so, including Frost, The Big Smoke, Back Alley Bistrot, Starfish, Switch, Red House Pizza and Cru Wine Bar. I had guessed they were going to set up in Sanlitun South — either in the former Tun space or in the back of Banana Leaf, just across from Nanjie. — but this is also an excellent location.