A fourteen-room French do-it-yourself pizza and hotpot restaurant near Beixinqiao.
When I heard that description, it did not inspire confidence. It not only seemed like an incongruous combination of nationality, cuisine and location but also gave me visions of a long shadowy hallway that branched off into tiny rooms full of loud sweaty smoking pizza- and hotpot-guzzling diners. Wearing berets.
Fourteen, the restaurant in question, is nothing like that. First, the two guys running it — JB and Antoine — are Swiss. (Noted!) Second, they see do-it-yourself pizza and hotpot as a good way to get people together to make food and have fun. Third, the venue is a two-story hotel converted to restaurant, with a spacious atrium, a tree growing in the middle, and private rooms on both floors. No dark hallways, not a beret in sight.
Anyway, a friend who knows these guys invited me to hang out and taste-test the food last night. It was fun to try the six dipping sauces (see photos below), make a mini pizza with a choice of a dozen ingredients (again, see the photos), and praise (“Nice pizza design!”), make fun of (“Barbecue sauce and fries on a pizza? Go sit in the corner.”) or shoot the guff with everyone while occasionally leaning back in the comfy chairs for breaks (naps) in the privacy of our own room.
There is still fine-tuning to do at Fourteen. There are plans to change the pizza dough (I found it brittle) and items for the maple syrup hot pot, to open a rooftop dining area, and to generally get the place shipshape during the “soft opening” phase. But the idea is good, the venue interesting and we had lots of fun.
Fourteen is close to Beixinqiao subway station. You can find in the alley —
Beixinsantiao Jiaodaokou Bei San Tiao — across from Cafe de la Poste, about50 meters up and on the left. Look for a pair of red doors and the (small) number 14 on the wall. It is open daily from 11 AM to 11 PM.
A second-floor view of the “lobby”, which includes a bar and a piano. JB has added some of his own creations to the drinks list, including a black tea mojito and an oolong negroni. I have yet to try these.
The second floor: One benefit of converting hotel rooms into dining rooms is that each comes with its own toilet.
Space for eight: Room size varies from a capacity of two seats up to two dozen. And most of those seats tend to be comfy enough for leaning back for a break / nap.
A room for two. Or possibly four.
Salad, plus helpings for the pizzas and hotpot. Hotpot dipping sauces included garlic, Thousand Island, barbecue, wasabi mayo, “lao gan ma” mayo (my favorite) and curry. The fries were good with the dips, too.
A half-made pizza. The rmb128 pizza set has a half-dozen mini crusts, tomato sauce, cheese, and ingredients that range from mushrooms to capers to pepperoni, as well as salad and a large bowl of fries.
Slide the pizza in and wait about seven to ten minutes. Look for these guys to experiment with the dough to perfect the consistency.
I left mine in a bit too long.
Customers skewer chicken and shrimp, dip them in egg yolk, roll them in bread and then slide them into the hot pot.
The rmb168 hot pot options — which also come with salad and fries — include oil, white wine (half wine, half chicken stock), red wine (half wine, half beef stock) and….
… maple syrup. A mix of syrup and cream, not as sticky or thick as I expected. Look for the watermelon to take a leave and petit madelaine and bananas in future lineups. There’s also a Toblerone hotpot. And as someone said last night, how about a Reese’s peanut butter cups hotpot?
Sodas are rmb10, while beer starts at rmb15 and wine at rmb198 per bottle. We guzzled this Jean Babou sparkling wine most of the night, then finished with Liefmans Cuvee Brut cherry beer and Maredsous. We never made it to the American Merlot I brought, which means a return visit is in order.