It seems Sanlitun has a near-insatiable demand for spots where well-dressed bartenders sell classic cocktails for rmb60 and up.
The most recent, Miles, opened Wednesday night in the former Friend Bar / Heaven Supermarket space. This is the newest of four nearby venues that involve Xiao Ming, known for Revolution, Ming Bar and Hidden House and to longer-term bar-goers for his stints at places such as Fubar and Tun.
Given his background, it’s no surprise Miles features classic cocktails, dim lighting, clean-cut staff and a neat industrial look. Miles has no fewer than eight security cameras: watch out thieves.
The thirty or so cocktails on the menu start at rmb60, with rmb15 off through August 6. The cocktail quality is about par for the course, with the Manhattan being the best of three tried and the Aviation in need of repairs. Given the growing number of cocktail bar in this area, one defining feature will be service: bartender Yann did a good job making his first-ever Alfonso Special based simply on a description of the ingredients.
It’ll be interesting to see if Miles can attract a new cocktail-drinking clientele and avoid siphoning patrons from its sibling venues.
A bit older is Maltail, across from 1F in Tongli Studio. The menu here is more ambitious, with some 200 whiskies on a well-organized list that covers Scotland and includes nods to far-flung spots such as Japan, Australia, Sweden and Canada. (Let’s hope future editions of the menu get a spell-check.)
Whiskey pours start at rmb40 for 12-year-old single malts from Caol Ila, Tomatin, Glen Elgin and Macallan. There are about 20 Bourbon options priced from rmb40 to rmb60. And wine starts at rmb40 per glass, with a bottle costing rmb280, which means stick with glasses.
Like most of its siblings, this place has a long bar, warm lighting, a well-dressed staff and the usual knickknacks meant to evoke the feeling of a high-class joint. Four groups of customers were relaxing at the bar. I imagine some traffic will come from those seeking proximity to the heart of Sanlitun although it carries a price: the sound of the bass beat from Mash next door didn’t mesh particularly well with the Ella Fitzgerarld playlist.
I ordered a gin martini (rmb50). Whereas most bars make it in front of the customer, and indicate which alcohols are being used, my drink came out of nowhere and was simply plunked down in front of me after a fairly long wait. I didn’t find it particularly balanced. The staff did seem a bit preoccupied — possibly a bit overwhelmed? — so I’ll return and try another cocktail soon.
Finally, I popped into Minoodle, a new snack spot just down from Two Guys and a Pie. I had high hopes for this place given the hand-written menus and cozy patio. The food didn’t live up to them. The argula salad was heavy on dressing, the noodles in the Taiwan-style dish were too soft, and the drumsticks — I believe the recipe said they were “mama’s recipe” — were mama huhu. The food paled in contrast to a late-night dining place like Ping Wa and, given a price tag of rmb75, was more expensive. I arrived quite late, and perhaps caught the staff off guard, so hopefully the food tends to be better as it would be good to have more options in this area.