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Sips & bites: Ocean Grounds opens near Gongti, plus XL, Heaven, Pak Pak & more

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Coffee fanatics will be happy to know Ocean Grounds opened today in the Hi Long Building at the corner of Xindong Road and Workers Stadium North. The ground floor venue is at the building’s north end and will serve as a cafe from 8:30 AM to 6 PM before transitioning to a bar until 1 AM. There will be four permanent coffee-themed cocktails on the menu as well as seasonal specialties, classic drinks and more, says Jim Lee. Look for the food menu to include offerings by Tavalin Bagels and Andy’s Craft Sausages.

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XL, a new bar by a team that includes Jane Cui of Nearby the Tree fame, is now open in the building due north of Heaven Supermarket. (You will find it on the ground floor in the corridor between that building and the one behind it.) The design is a work in progress at this airy venue that includes bar and table seating and an open kitchen. Expect mixed drinks from rmb35, wine from rmb40, including a decent Malbec, and numerous beer options. In terms of food, Cui says the guys behind the Temple burger gave her advice on the patties and she is also serving Andy’s Craft Sausages.

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Speaking of Heaven Supermarket, check out the fancy new facade that has been added as this beer haven expands to absorb most of the former James Joyce space.

Amy Li and Jonathan Ansfield, best known in dining circles for Vietnamese restaurant Susu, plan to open a sibling to their Thai joint Pak Pak in the Daimler Building. The new restaurant will take over the former car showroom in The Office Park. Li and Ansfield just returned from a week of taste-testing in Thailand so perhaps we’ll find some new items on the menu.

Also of note:

  • Signs for a Blue Frog have been up for some time in The Office Park.
  • Union Bar & Grille has reopened in Sanlitun Village South.
  • Pudao Wines has the spotlight on rose this month, including labels from France, Spain, Italy and Lebanon.

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Sips & bites: Temple, XL, Paddy O’Shea’s, Ocean Grounds

Perennial restaurant of the year candidate Temple will soon have additional space in which diners can meditate over their meals. The building directly behind the restaurant is undergoing renovations to add seating for an extra 30 to 40 patrons. This room will be ideal for going-away parities, birthday bashes, wedding receptions, graduation dinners, baby showers, buck and does, interventions, and the like. Look for it to be available by late October. Oh, and if you want to see how Temple defines “three-course lunch“, see the collage below.

Jane Cui, part of The Tree family for a decade and at Nearby the Tree for the past seven years, is branching out with her own bar called XL (at least I think that’s the name). It is in the Jianlang building on Xindong Road, due north of Heaven Supermarket, and you can expect beer, sausage and more. I’ll pop by soon and get more details.

Paddy O’Shea’s gets more international by the day. It is now the Irish Bar in a Chinese city with a French manager sponsoring — the new part — a (mostly) Canadian hockey team. Throw in Indian food from the restaurant upstairs and a diverse clientele, including some fun-loving Colombians, and you basically have a mini harmonious society. Anyway, the bar is now sponsoring the hockey team The Oilers and just added Coopers and a dozen ciders to the menu, says manager Paul Rochon.

Finally, Ocean Grounds will soft open its new venue in the Shimao Gongsan complex on Xindong Road on September 12, says Jim Lee. OG will service two crowds: coffee lovers from 8:30 AM to 6 PM and cocktail fans from 7 PM to 1 AM. Look for a grand opening on October 15.

 Here’s that “three-course” lunch at Temple….

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Sips & bites: Cuju, Saltspring, Feast, Trouble, The Schoolhouse, Mao Mao Chong

Cuju is slated to reopen on Friday as Cuju Moroccan Bistrot and Rummery after three weeks of renovations. As is obvious, the venue will still serve Moroccan food, although now on a nightly basis, and will still serve rum, although with a refined lineup. As for sports, these will be shown “on a limited basis“. Oh, and expect the walls to be blue. Cuju already has some events on the slate, including a Moroccan food-Great Leap beer pairing next Tuesday (rmb250, RSVP essential, cujubeijing (at) gmail.com to book) and the kickoff of the NFL season next Friday.

Saltspring, formerly Salt, in Lido is undergoing renovations, although it remains open for business as usual. The deck at the back is now double in size. A new facade, and potentially a small deck, is being added at the front. And the first-floor entrance is also getting a makeover.

Chef Andrew Ahn of Korean restaurant Ssam will team up with Rob Cunningham at Feast this Friday for a “Carnivore’s Club Dinner“. The four-course meal includes ox tongue with pear and white kimchi, ox tripe and kimchi soup, ox tail braised in soy sauce and served with chestnut, gingko and more, and sweet potato mousse cake. Cost: rmb228. RSVP: 8414-9820 or feast@east-beijing.com.

With its kitchen expansion finished, look for Trouble Bar to literally get cheesy. Ryan Johnston says grilled cheese and other fromage-centric food will soon be added to the menu for the venue’s beer lovers. Twelve-cheese lasagna? Cheddar-stuffed bacon skins? Nachos topped with a medley of cheeses? We’ll see. But it looks like the makings of a grilled cheese tour are shaping up given that the new Corner Melt location is a short walk away off Xingfucun Middle Road.

The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu will celebrate its eight birthday this Sunday. Stop by between 11 AM and 6 PM for a free scoop of homemade ice cream while it lasts. For more on The Schoolhouse, click here.

And speaking of birthdays, hutong bar Mao Mao Chong turned five last week. Here’s a snippet from a post I wrote way back when:

This new bar impressed us due to the art created by one of the owners, friendliness of the managers, creativity behind the cocktails, and prices… There is an intriguing winter menu with cool sounding drinks such as French Toast — Advocaat, rum, warm milk, cinnamon, and honey — at RMB30 to RMB35, and a regular cocktail list with creative concoctions such as Feng Shui — oolong-tea infused vodka, lychee liqueur, sake, lime, and sugar cane stick (this might be even better with slightly less liqueur).

Mao Mao Chong features its own infused vodkas, among other DIY items, with flavors such as ginger, lemongrass, and rooibos, a plant grown in South Africa and apparently a member of the legume family — Mr Hao described that one as “smooth and with a subtle tea-like flavor.” We were told to expect pizza on the menu the next time we visited.

The place did, indeed, have pizza the next time I visited. And five years later, it remains a great place for cocktails.

Brewtopia: Heaven is a (bigger) place on Earth

With a portfolio of 100-plus brews and relatively low prices, Heaven Supermarket has arguably provided more value-per-bottle than any other beer joint in this city over the past few years. Everyone from mid-afternoon imbibers to those getting wrecked in the wee hours of the morning has enjoyed the attractive blend of options and prices on offer at Heaven. Of course, such a situation has also meant a fair of very drunk people, the kind who do very drunk things, like a guy I saw simultaneously stumbling toward the toilets and — if the spreading wet spot in the front of his jeans were any indication — emptying his bladder. Even so, we shouldn’t allow the actions of one bad apple to spoil the barrel of beer, because for every guy who pees his pants there are at least five who don’t.

Anyway, patrons of Heaven will soon find a more spacious beer bar. The venue is taking over three-quarters of the neighboring space that recently held Irish bar James Joyce and will nearly double in size. The only part of the building that won’t be Heaven is the northwest corner, which is home to a new tailor shop. That should come in handy for those in need of a change of pants.

By the way, if The James Joyce opens elsewhere, shouldn’t it be called The Re-Joyce?

... and in with the new.

Sips & bites: Union, Cappuccino, Pinotage, 1F, Fiesta, Fubar, Le Quai and Groovy Schiller’s

Some items accumulated from being out and about the past week…

Renovations are nearly done at Union Bar & Grille and the place is slated to reopen the first weekend of September. Much of the venue remains the same, including that excellent three-sided bar, with the major change being expanded seating at the back. That area will be equipped with several TVs featuring sports, funny photos and, if it is business as usual, one of the biggest music video collections in the city Lipps Inc., anyone?). Manager Amy Huang says patrons can also expect some new food items on the menu.

Also:

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Beijing nightlife veteran Cappuccino has returned to its roots, moving back to its former spot at the north end of Sanlitun bar street. It takes over the bottom floor of Royal Smushi House and offers a two-for-one deal on bottled beer, starting at rmb25, from 10 AM to 5:30 PM. I’ll pay a visit soon to check out the food menu. 
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One floor up, Pinotage has completed its move from Sanlitun Soho. The daily wine happy hour continues — rmb15 per glass, 5 to 7 PM weekdays, with eight options — and word is home brew from the suburban branch of Pinotage will soon be available.
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It’s bye-bye for veteran Bar Blu as 1F has taken over both that spot and the one below — it housed Le Petit Gourmand for ages but has since since a revolving door of owners.  
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I’m not sure how long the sign has been up for Fiesta Tex-Mex on Xindong Road but this would mean another option in a strip with several new venues, including Lily’s American Diner and Bubble Bar further north.
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It looks like Fubar is taking its drinks a few notches up the fancy scale if what I saw last week is any indication.
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Across the street, former secluded restaurant Le Quai continues to go through lengthy renovations. Word is this place will reopen as a massive cafe.
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Finally, I made a long overdue stop at Groovy Schiller’s, a spot that epitomizes a local . Lots of patrons outside and in, a friendly staff, a fun lineup of music videos, hockey replays after 10 PM, and sausages. Good times!