Saturday started with a wine lunch near the Summer Palace that lasted so long it matured into a wine dinner in Wudaokou. Even better, the random bottles brought covered six continents – South American (Chile), North American (United States), Asia (China), Africa (South Africa), Europe (France), and Australia. Plus, I had my first Lebanese wine. Good times! And more than enough reason to head out to celebrate. A brief wrap-up on the night that followed:
Room 101: Despite the rain, the closing party drew a sizable crowd, at least that’s the scene I found at 11 PM. The DJ dropped some funky tunes, the owners hustled behind the bar, and everyone raised a few final glasses. It is slated to be back in November with a new name, a restaurant upstairs, and a bar / café downstairs.
Maggie’s: Someone at Room 101 asked if this Ritan Park hot spot had reopened, so we scrounged up a copy of the Russian-language Yabao Ru magazine, found the Maggie’s listing, called the number, heard the guy who answered say “open”, and headed off. Alack and alas, we found the door shut tighter than a clam.
Swing: This is the only spot I visit on the Sanlitun North strip and things are touch and go at that. Even forgetting the incredibly annoying “lady bar” tout outside, the 40-kuai Gin Tonics lack punch and there is a lone toilet, a squatter, which means a constant lineup. Also, on this night I ended up losing an argument with the bartender about whether I had been shortchanged, though we later received free tequila shooters. Fair enough.
This place draws a big crowd, and numerous regulars, and a big reason is the house band in residence for more than a year. The two singers and guitarist do use preprogrammed music, notably drums, but also display personality and humor as they play sing-along standards – think John Cougar – that keep the vast majority of patrons happy. They did an interesting a capella version of Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Mind and covered a Korean and a Chinese song. (I learned that fellow beverage research scholar Ping Pong not only can sing, but also is willing to brave the limelight at Swing and jump on to the stage. Who knew!?)
The Rickshaw: We found ourselves on the street, in the chill and rain, seeking comfort food. Hello medium wings! The first to smart my tongue in months, they hit the spot before we hit the road.