Visits to Shuangjing have been few and far between this past year but I recently headed that way for the Australia Day event at pizza joint Bang! Bang! and used the trip to make my first stops at Main Street, Ashen and Vanda Room.
MAIN STREET has 69 bottled and six draft beers, a food menu that lists 120-plus items, seating at a black-topped bar or at tables set with cloth napkins and candles, and air hockey, pool and foosball tables out back. There is a lot going on here and it might take Main Street some time to sort itself out, though owner Jonathan Chiu seems determined to make that happen. Main Street has a different feel from other area spots like Bang Bang and Grinders and strikes me as closer in class to Iki Korean restaurant, though whether or not it can attain similar success with a Western food lineup is another issue. In any case, this is an interesting addition to Shuangjing’s scene and I’m looking forward to future visits.
I stopped by on a Sunday afternoon and had a mushroom-Swiss cheese burger. The toppings were fresh and the beef good, although the patty was overcooked and the mushrooms — beneath the burger in the photo — were a bit rubbery. With fine-tuning this burger will be a winner. And with sides of onion rings and fries, it offers decent value at rmb52. The food menu covers a lot of ground in a part of town where having good pizzas or sandwiches tends to be good enough. There are fourteen New York-style pizza options from rmb88, eleven pastas from rmb30, ten mussels choices, including Dijon mustard, curry coconut and blue cheese, from rmb80, thirty-four appetizers, from quesadillas to bacon-wrapped jalapeno shrimp to crab cakes, from rmb25, and, well, you get the idea. In terms of beverages, beer is the main focus and starts at rmb15 for Budweiser, Yanjing and Asahi, then rises to rmb25 (Corona, Kingfisher, Heineken), rmb33 (Moosehead, Saranac, Maredsous 6 or 8) and rmb43 (Chimay, Rochefort, Brooklyn), the draft options including Vedett and five kinds of Slow Boat. I think I need a mini menu so I can quickly order a drink and then take my time with the main menus.
After whooping it up with some beers at the bar and then enjoying a quiet candlelit dinner, you can kick your date’s ass at pool, foosball and/or air hockey. Main Street is bar, restaurant and games room, all in one. Add a few hotel rooms, a laundry outlet and a wine cellar and I would never need to leave.
Across the street, THE BRICK epitomizes the neighborhood bar and ranks with spots like The Irish Volunteer and 12sqm for me. The tight design, chilled vibe, good selection of beers and cocktails, option of ordering chuanr from across the street, etc all work. I had the happy hour Asahi at rmb20. By the way, signs in the bathroom say that if you poop in the toilet, you must pay a rmb100 fine. No indication if there is a fine for pooping on the floor. Just saying, people could try to get off on a technicality.
Cocktails at ASHEN, just down from The Brick, are mostly in the rmb40 to rmb50 range and there is also a substantial if pricey whiskey list. I ordered a dry gin martini and essentially got a chilled glass of Gordon’s gin with two olives. Far too rough and I didn’t finish it. True, it’s just one drink, so I plan to return and try a few more.
What did impress me about Ashen is its layout. Besides the bar and table seating downstairs, there is room for ten in this space at the back end of the second floor.
And there is this even bigger area, with access to a video screen, at the front end. The designer squeezed the maximum out of this venue.
BANG! BANG! was in the final stages of its Australia Day weekend but still had some helpings of its chicken parmagiana (rmb50 on this day, rmb70 regularly) plus free vegemite on toast. Tack on a VB and — on top of a visit to Two Guys and a Pie a few days earlier — I think I did my Down Under friends proud this year. There are a half-dozen spots along the strip out front of the Hopson complex but only Bang Bang and Iki seem to consistently draw crowds.
VANDA ROOM is new kid on the block, a few doors from the 7-ELEVEN that is closest to Bang! Bang! The first floor is a cafe while the basement is a bar — shown in the photo — that is also pretty much a cafe. You can order tea, coffee and beer, with big bottles of Erdinger at rmb25 on this night. The staff is still wet behind the ears but the owner manager says they are learning fast. He hails from Singapore, which helps explain a food menu with noodles from his homeland. There are also sandwiches, salads, pastas and snacks such chicken strips, pizza bread and chicken, pork and beef sausages.