new york sandwich sanlitun soho beijing china

New York Sandwich: Big mugs of coffee for rmb12 in Sanlitun Soho

new york sandwich sanlitun soho beijing chinaThere aren’t a lot of places in the Sanlitun-Gongit zone where you can get a big mug of coffee for rmb12. Recently opened New York Sandwich in Sanlitun Soho ranks among them. NYS is set in a corner on the west side, just down from the Bank of China and across from Indian restaurant Khajuraho. It comes with a main seating area and two smaller ones, one with two seats and one with four.

The prices of the food fit that of the coffee: sandwiches start at rmb18, panini at rmb22 and hot dogs at rmb15. Something called a “double cheese chicken dog” will cost you rmb20.

As for drinks, smoothies are rmb20, tea is rmb15 and there is a small beer selection. Those seeking other nonalcoholic beverages can get a Kavalan Malz for rmb18 (see photo below).

I have yet to try the food but will soon return to do so, especially given the friendly service and the prices.

(Note: I’m not sure if this place is called New York Sandwich, Cafe New York Sandwich, or Cafe New York — which would fit well the Cafe Sydney in Sanlitun Soho — so I went with what was on the coffee mug. There is also an outlet in Jianwai Soho.)

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Owl’s well that ends well: Hooters reopens in Beijing

hooters beijing reopening 2013 china 1It feels like yesterday* that Hooters opened in Beijing and launched a million predictable boob jokes (see here my post from 2007). Now, after several months of renovations, the bird is back as this China View restaurant and bar reopened today. Don’t expect major changes — the service area has been reduced, the seating space increased — since the main reason behind the renovation was an upgrade of the original construction, which apparently left much to be desired.

The main menu, including the chicken wings, is unchanged and new dishes will soon be added. Happy hour is buy one, get one from 4 PM to 7 PM, Monday to Friday. And Champagne lovers can still choose between Moët Chandon and Dom Perignon. Or grab China’s Champagne of beers — Tsingtao — for far less.

I’ve never been a regular at Hooters but when I have visited it has struck me — despite the nudge, nudge, wink, wink jokes about the waitresses and their outfits / dances — that alongside Americans getting a taste of home, the clientele has mostly been groups celebrating birthdays, families eating dinner, or even, from appearances, people on double dates. The place doesn’t seem to hold the same meaning for people from China as for some foreigners. Then again, for all the titillation associated with Hooters, you could argue that the skin-tight highly-slit qipaos on staff at some of the city’s hotels and restaurants are more revealing.

Also, if you are wondering why some staff members wear white and some black, I’m told the latter have been recognized for their service skills and dancing prowess. The equivalent a Hooters black belt, I guess.

* Not really. It actually feels like six years ago.

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China View coffee: Cava opening this week

cava coffee china view workers stadium west beijing chinaEarlier this week, I griped re coffee scarcity in the China View complex, but last night I spotted a place on the verge of opening. The newest branch of Cava Coffee is just down from Drei Kronen 1308 and includes a first-floor bar with a few seats and a second floor that can hold several dozen patrons.

The coffee isn’t cheap, starting at rmb30, but if you need a place to park and work, this will do. I tend toward Moment Cafe in Sanlitun Soho (B1) and have twice been to the new Zap, but there are times when someone is coming to this area and I want an easy-to-find place –“the building with Hooters” usually works.

Cava also has food. Pasta and sandwiches start at rmb38 and there are also soups and pizzas and a small but decent beer selection.

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agua beijing jordi valles pork belly in reduced chicken stock

The Life Aguatic II: Tuna cannelloni, portobello salad, pork belly and more

The last time I stopped by Agua to try dishes with chef Jordi Valles, it involved blow-torched fish, blooming tendons and black truffle ice cream (see The Life Aguatic). This time around, he slow-cooked it down a notch. Like last time, I’m a guinea pig, not a food expert, and these are just my opinions. (Also, look for Fez, the rooftop bar above Agua, to soon reopen for Spring.)

agua beijing jordi valles porcini mushroom carpaccio
Porcini carpaccio: The base is shaved porcini mushrooms that were first slowly cooked in oil, herbs and garlic. This is topped with eggplant puree, aragula roots, dollops of pine nut sauce and a balsamic drizzle. Valles stresses the texture, though it is hard to describe, with ‘al dente’ coming to mind. While I tend to find balsamic heavy, the flavors are fun and this tastes like a dish made after foraging in the forest. (Eggplants grow in forests, right? Somewhere surely.) The pine nut is concentrated, the aragula roots have some kick, there is also a lingering black pepper sensation. I’d love to see those ingredients stuffed into a mushroom cap.
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Tuna Cannelloni: Thinly-sliced cucumber doubles as pasta and holds in onion, tomato, cucumber, raw tuna and more. Side by side with tomato compote topped with tuna flakes. The idea: combine two tuna textures. You can segment the cannelloni into sushi-sized pieces and top it with the compote. And add some flakes, otherwise the cucumber flavor and smell are dominant (at least that’s what I found).
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Portobello salad: The mushrooms are slow-cooked in oil vinegar and herbs and then thinly sliced and placed atop a button mushroom puree. This is paired with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, Iberico ham and pesto sauce. Those top shrooms are flavorsome, the bottom ones more subtle. The ham is awesome.
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Put your ear close to that ham and you can hear it aging.
agua beijing jordi valles pork belly in reduced chicken stock
Pork belly: You probably guessed, based on previous dishes, that this was slow-cooked. With spinach, mustard sprouts, artichokes and reduced chicken ‘juice’. Warning: chicken juice is highly concentrated. Glue-y. Savory. Add three drops of water and it might reconstitute as a chicken. And as far as I know, Agua has a “no pets” rule. You definitely want that juice with something else. Like the pork belly, which is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and delicious in your mouth.
agua beijing jordi valles five textures of Valrhona chocolate
Chocolate textures: Made with Valrhona chocolate from France, you got your crunchy, crispy, soft, smooth and more on one plate. Crumbly. Is that a texture. It’s what you get from the little chunks at the base. That dark round one is a peanut truffle. It’s good.

My favorite dishes: the porcini carpaccio and slow-cooked pork belly. My least favorite: the portobello salad, given I’m not a big pesto fan and I found the dish served too cold. The tuna cannelloni falls somewhere in the middle, although I found it a bit messy: it might be fun to have this sushi-style, with a handful of individual cucumber-wrapped pieces. Anyway, these are thoughtful dishes made with quality ingredients, so try some — pork belly! chicken juice! — and judge for yourself.

By the way, a few other things to note re Agua:

  • The rooftop — Fez — should open around the end of the month, says manager Richard Pirsch.
  • Agua has set lunch menus, with two courses at rmb85 and three courses at rmb99.
  • Weekend brunch is from noon to 3 PM and includes five tapas, a main (example: oxtail and Parmesan risotto) and a dessert for rmb198. Upgrades are available: For example, you can add a cheese plate for rmb50.
  • No corkage on Sundays or Mondays. Up to six people per table, one bottle per person. Might be time to break out that 1992 Great Wall…

no corkage at agua bejiing on sundays and mondays

mustard sprouts,

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Mowing down at Migas: Is this the best lunch deal in Beijing?

I know I recently wrote a post about why I think Migas and its head chef Aitor Olabegoya rank among the city’s best. But a few days later I went for lunch with a friend and ate this:

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Homemade bread with pumpkin soup shot.
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Chorizo and chick peas topped with a fried egg.
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Roasted pork loin with potatoes and something akin to barbecue sauce.
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Coconut ice cream and fruits (the crepe in back is a separate dessert).

This is a hearty meal, and a delicious one, from the simplicity of the bread to the combined texture of egg, sausage and chick peas to the matching of the tangy sauce and pork loin. The kicker: It costs rmb85 — or rmb70 without dessert. I realize there are set meals and buffets around town for less but when you take into account the quality of the ingredients, the flavor and presentation, the choices (see this post for the items from the last lunch) and the atmosphere, I think Migas is hard to beat.

By the way, my friend is a vegetarian and had the Catalan ‘pizza’. That was pretty good, too…

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