By Jim Boyce | Red Rose will reopen soon just north of Workers Stadium but the name is about the only thing left. The roast mutton, belly dancers and lively bands of this former Xinjiang restaurant have been traded for Western comfort food, craft beer and a bar / lounge vibe. Goodbye snakes—who’s had the pleasure of dancing on stage with one of those?—and hello steaks—with wagyu from Australia leading the way at a place several friends told me should be described as a “gastropub”. Okay then.
I arrived late for a taste test last night and missed some dishes from a menu that includes pub grub items like nachos, poutine and mac ‘n’ cheese. But I did try some homemade pastrami that suggests it might well become the go-to sandwich.
Of items tried, a top one was the mac ‘n’ cheese, a rich creamy mix of three cheeses (rmb68). Rose’s Chop Chop salad (rmb48 / rmb72) had more than a dozen items, including kale, cranberries, cauliflower, cheddar and crispy wonton, and loads of flavor and texture. And, as a Canadian, I can say nothing bad about deep-fried cheese curds.
Our group went nuts for the bone-in rib eye, with mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, sweet corn, and three condiments. This slab was cut table-side to reveal delectable slices from nearly rare to medium, with the latter most flavorful (around rmb1,100).
Then there were the drinks. The Old Fashioned comes in a smoke-filled flask and is poured into an ice ball-filled glass, with aromas wafting. Fun. Rich. One was enough.
The martini was fine, the Manhattan dry, and many cocktails are garnished with a flower sprig that ups the aromatic intensity. Frankly, I really liked the unplanned house shots we tried at the end, with rum, port and bitters.
I’m not sure of drink prices or the wine list. As for beer, that is a month to six weeks away. The plan is a pilsener, lager, pale ale, IPA and stout, made by a German brew master.
I was told Red Rose will ultimately seat 150 and aims to soft-open in a few weeks. While the food game looks good, the decor and theme seem a work in progress. The dining area seating is comfy while that at the bar is not. The bar itself is smack center and topped with bright light boxes. And the far wall has a sober mural tribute to workers. Meanwhile, Alfie, the lovable pug of the owner, a first-time restaurateur, is also part of theme.
It feels a bit disjointed but two weeks can be an eternity in the bar scene. Adding the brewing equipment should fill things out; finding a clever use for the light boxes could be a big plus; weaving things tighter will raise the odds of everything coming up roses.
If you were a fan of the former Red Rose, this place will come as a shock. (The days when people flocked to places like Red Rose and Afanti feels like another China, no?) But once everything is up and running, many of those who follow the Beijing craft beer and comfort food scenes will want to give it a try.
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