Sips & bites: Beer Mania, Pinotage, Duvel Moortgat, Trouble, Jing A

pinotage dark lager
Home brew coming to Pinotage in Sanlitun Soho.


Beer Mania is marking Belgian Beer Day on April 5 with a free keg of Chimay per hour from 9 PM to midnight. The kegs will alternate between Chimay Gold and Chimay Red. Expect music, games, and food and drink specials, too.

Look for South African restaurant and bar Pinotage to have its trio of home brews from the Shunyi branch available at the one in Sanlitun Soho within the next two weeks. Options include a wheat beer, a pale lager and a dark lager, with pricing at 元20 for 300 ml, 元30 for 500 ml and 元50 for a liter.

Joining the Great Leap April menu is Iron Buddha Blonde, infused with oolong tea from Fujian Province. Other additions include Silver Needle Wheat Ale, another tea-infused brew, and Ghost General Wheat IPA. Some good options as the weather warms up.

Duvel-Moortgat to will start distributing its 2014 Triple Hop beers soon. Every year, Duvel switches the third hop in the recipe, using Citra in 2012 and Sorache Ace in 2013. This time around the beer includes Mosaic hops and will be available in 330 ml bottles.

If you haven’t tried the Jing A lineup, blow into The Big Smoke on Mondays for “flight night“, when 元80 gets you samples of all six beers on tap.

Finally, Trouble Bar is now stocking beers by Dogfish Head, including 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPAs. This place has more than 100 beers, including three on tap, as well as dried herbs, infused salts and more.

Bottle, Boot & Cigar: Douglas Williams’ newest to offer Sazerac, shines and smokes

images from boot, bottle & cigar douglas williams beijing china (3)

Douglas Williams — known for his work at Apothecary, Peekaboo and Parlor — says a new venture called BBC or Bottle, Boot & Cigar is slated to soft open the week of April 15 to April 22. BBC is tucked between Frost and Commix Bar, and across from The Big Smoke, just off Xingfucun Middle Road. It will be easy to spot due to its two-meter by two-meter stainless steel hand-etched door.

Patrons can expect a lineup of quality spirits, including plenty of rye, with house bitters, spirit infusions and syrups and ginger beers, tonic waters and soda waters also for sale. Along with the beverages, BBC will stock cigars and, soon, offer both shaves and shines. Sounds like the ideal place to get a straight razor shave with some Bourbon straight up.images from boot, bottle & cigar douglas williams beijing china (4) images from boot, bottle & cigar douglas williams beijing china (2) images from boot, bottle & cigar douglas williams beijing china (1) images from boot, bottle & cigar douglas williams beijing china


Bagels, pork knuckles and Imperial Russia: Must Try Series with Julian Tavalin

julian tavalin of tavalin bagels beijing china


The tasty bagels at Tavalin have inspired a resurrection of the Must Tries Series, where I ask people in the Beijing food and beverage business for picks from their own menus and from other places about town. Julian Tavalin, part of the team behind Tavalin Bagels, reveals his favorite bagel, his top spots for pork knuckles, pizza and steak, and why he’d like to have Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as a customer.


You guys offer more than 10 kinds of bagels. What is the “must try” bagel on the menu?

Every bagel has at one point or another been my favorite, however the “everything bagel” has to be the one that I have loved the longest. Incidentally, this creates some confusion when people ask me “which is the best one” or “which one is the most popular” and I say “everything”—after which they usually roll their eyeballs in disgust thinking that I am taking the piss. I am not sure where the term “everything bagel” comes from, but when I was a kid it meant that the bagel had all the flavors they put on top. In our case it’s garlic, onion, sesame and sea salt. I enjoy it because I can never decide on one topping, so with this one you don’t miss out on any of them. The everything bagel is priced the same as the others at RMB10.

What is the “must try” topping?

Tavalin Bagels used to be in my tiny Sanlitun apartment when we first started. As silly as it might sound I hadn’t actually tried everything on the menu three weeks in. At the time we were only a three-day-a-week delivery service and one day very early on we ended up producing an extra rosemary and garlic cream cheese by accident. I remember discovering it in the fridge and feeling like I should eat some of it so it didn’t go and because I hadn’t tried it yet. I ate the entire 250-gram tub that evening on stale bagels. Since then it’s been my favorite. It’s rmb25 per tub or rmb10 to add it to a bagel.

What are three “must try” foods or drinks you’ve had at other places in Beijing?

Every so often I seek out the pork knuckle (schwinehaxe) at the Paulaner Brauhaus at the Kempinski. It was the first place I’d ever had the Bavarian dish, and it rarely disappoints.

To satisfy a pizza craving I’ll usually go to the Kro’s Nest. Their pizza reminds me most of the pizza that I grew up with, the toppings are generous and I feel like I’m getting what I paid for.

And recently I’ve been treating myself to steaks at O’Steak if I feel I deserve it. I can’t tell if their service is appalling or if I just happen to be in a lousy mood every time I go in there but either way I really enjoy their 220-gram steak with black pepper sauce and ANY other sauce on the menu. They also have rmb10 pastis there, which I know is not for everybody but I love the stuff and would pay double for it in a heartbeat.

Bonus question: If you could have anyone famous stop by the bagel shop, who would you choose and why? 

If the person can be an historical figure it would have to be Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii at the moment. This guy was commissioned by Czar Nicholas II to take color photographs of imperial Russia in the early 1900s and I came across an article about the photos on last week. I loved the photos so much I wanted to see more, and luckily the Library of Congress bought the entire collection in the 1940s and has it on their website for public viewing and use so you can see the entire 2000-plus photo collection (see this link).

Strangely enough I saw my mom had posted about the same guy on Facebook just today—neither of us knew the other had seen the same article. If you’d asked me two weeks ago which famous person I’d like to see at the bagel shop I’m sure it wouldn’t be so obscure, however I have some specific questions I’d like to ask the photographer as I’ve really enjoyed looking at his photos over the past week and can’t stop thinking about him—incidentally some of them I’d seen before and had no idea they were from the same photographer.

He invented a breakthrough way of photographing color, where he would take three photos of the same thing, while holding three color lenses (red, green, blue) in front of his camera. Then he’d take the black and white negatives and project them through the same colored filters. When the images were lined up they created a really amazing color effect (see here). Anyway, I’d like to ask him about the different kind of people he encountered in Imperial Russia and why he decided to leave for Western Europe after the Bolshevik Revolution even though they offered him a professorship, and a few more questions about his subject matter.

On a less pretentious note I’d also like to meet Leonardo DiCaprio for what it’s worth. I just saw The Wolf of Wall Street and I thought he was really good in it. I’ve been enjoying his movies recently, and it’s been a pleasure to literally watch him grow up on the screen. From my perspective he started as a cheesy teen heartthrob and has become a great actor. Little known fact: he moved out of his mom’s house just a couple months before Titanic was released. Crazy stuff.

See also:

Tavalin’s rec? Everything bagel with rosemary cream cheese.


Sips & bites: McKenna’s big chocolate surprise, Modo’s tightrope walk, City Weekend’s new campaign

terra cotta
Imagine this guy is six-feet-tall, made of chocolate and hiding a chef.


Chef Brian McKenna has revitalized former top restaurant The Courtyard in just over a year and no menu item has received more accolades than the terracotta warrior-shaped chocolates he serves for dessert. McKenna had an even bigger surprise for a recent bachelorette party at the restaurant when his staff rolled out a life-sized chocolate warrior.

Guests went from surprised to ecstatic as they converged on the treat in a sweet frenzy. But it ended abruptly — and an inch of chocolate — when they found a giggling McKenna underneath.

Performance art!” he shouted as a woman “tsk tsk-ed” him. “Its the modern-day equivalent of jumping out of a birthday cake. Except it was me. Under eighty kilos of chocolate. Chocolate is my armor!”

One women called the move “cutting edge” but was surprised to find her piece of chocolate “earthy, even a bit funky“. Ever mysterious, McKenna simply said, “Maybe that wasn’t completely chocolate”.

After being forced to remove the second floor of Modo last year on orders from property management at Swire Sanlitun Village, the owners of this restaurant-turned-deli face a new challenge: getting rid of the first floor. New and stricter fire safety rules mean Alex Molina and Daniel Urdaneta will have to reinvent their space for the second time in just over a year.

Undaunted, the pair plan to hang chairs and tables from the ceiling on chains. Customers will be maneuvered from the door to their seats via a system of wires and pulleys. And the staff will take and deliver orders while riding unicycles along a series of tightropes. Urdaneta is pondering the use of catapults to get dishes to tables.

“It’s complicated, but we can make it work,” says Molina. “But if they order us to remove the ceiling, then we plan to go jet-pack.”

Not bar or restaurant news but nonetheless intriguing: City Weekend is putting a spin on its well-known “reader-powered” marketing strategy by introducing a charity program it calls “breeder-powered“, according to an inside source. (In case you think that source is a certain editor who recently left the magazine and maybe no longer cares what she says, it’s not. Really. Okay, it probably isn’t.).

“Many expatriates in Beijing take their sperm banks back home for granted,” says the source. “But here in Beijing, they remain a luxury, particularly among migrant workers. We plan to change that.”

Along with fundraisers to help build a brand-spanking new facility, City Weekend will support the project with free bilingual ads, company-branded rubber gloves and deposit cups, and ‘stimulating’ literature, including a selection of the magazine’s hottest ‘Fashionista’ spreads. Said the source, “I’m from Vermont so I’m perfectly positioned to know what excites migrant workers.”

The campaign should be welcomed given such workers already hold City Weekend in high esteem for conveniently leaving stacks of magazines citywide that can be easily hauled to nearby recycling centers and converted to much-needed spending money.

The charity campaign is just one of many organized by City Weekend, including the Feeder-Powered Canned Food Project, the Bleeder-Powered Blood Donation Drive and the Kneader-Powered Charity Bake Sale.

And in case you haven’t guessed — and if you haven’t, I hope it’s because you’ve been guzzling baijiu — this is an April Fools’ Day post. Kudos to McKenna, Molina and Urdaneta for their perseverance and success over the past year.

Previous April Fool posts:

See the April Fool’s posts at sibling blog Grape Wall of China here.

Head of the glass: 元15 wine happy hour at Pinotage

rmb15 south africa wine by the glass deal at pinotage restaurand and wine bar beijing china

The Sanlitun Soho branch of Pinotage is offering good value for wine drinkers, with eight South African options available at 元15 per glass. The deal runs 5 PM to 7 PM, Monday to Friday.

Expect more changes in coming weeks, with the weekend brunch shifting from a la carte to buffet and the addition of three home brews — two lagers and a wheat — being made at the Shunyi location. Also, lunch fans can get two courses at rmb88 or three courses at rmb108, including cappuccino, beer or juice. The options include five starters, five mains and four desserts — word is the ostrich burger is popular.

The four reds and four whites covered by the happy hour deal:

  • Zidela Sauvignon Blanc
  • Simonsvlei Sauvignon Blanc
  • Simonsvlei Chardonnay
  • Boland Chenin-Sauvignon Blanc
  • Zidela Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Zidela Shiraz
  • Simonsvlei Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Simonsvlei Shiraz

Pinotage also has dozens of other options from among the wines it imports or stocks from other distributors. And if seek a post-work snack, one option is the boerewors, a farmer’s sausage done in a roll “hot dog style”.

A Somewhat Steady China Hand on the Local Bar Scene