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Second shots | A (kind of) new baijiu bar called En Vein opens in Beijing

En Vein Baijiu Bar Beijing China.jpg

I heard a baijiu bar opened in Sanlitun Soho, close to my apartment, so I moseyed over last night and found it in the same space that housed, well, another baijiu bar, Oriental Lounge, for several years before it closed about six months ago.

I’m not sure why I’ve missed this place twice. The first time I went was last year after I wrote about the opening of baijiu bar Capital Spirits and a friend curtly said a place with such booze existed in my neighborhood. Thanks Mariano! This time, I got the tip from someone in… Canada. There you have it, someone on the other side of the planet is much more up-to-date on my local scene.

The new digs are nice if conservative: expect Chinese sliding windows (hanging from the ceiling), a long bar with seating for a half-dozen, comfy low chairs for about twenty, and subdued colors–lots of grays and browns.

The menus are the old Oriental Lounge ones and list several dozen baijius, including the type of aroma, the alcohol level, and other details. There are 21 cocktails listed, although the accompanying photos could use some work. I enjoyed the Long Island variation, which includes three baijius and works well with lemon and the decidedly non-Chinese mixer Coke. I also remember having some good plum infusions here a year back. Not sure if those are still around but will check next time.

I only had time to stop for an hour or so but the design, the friendly barman, the reasonably diverse lineup of baijius, the decent prices (pours start at rmb30, with or without ice, while cocktails begin at rmb40) and a location in the heart of Sanlitun make it attractive. There are also lots of snacks–the kitchen is upstairs–from rmb12 though, again, the photos could use a redo.

Given the baijiu focus, this place might do well to add two or three flights and to translate some of its material into English, but it is off to a good start and hopefully will mature with age.

You can find En Vein in Sanlitun Soho in the building on the northwest corner. It’s on the first floor. Go around to the back and enter from outside.

Sips & bites: Gung Ho deals, Cuju ‘Black Tot’ day, Capital Spirits’ birthday, Q martinis

gung ho smoked pork and new zealand lamb rob cunningham pizza plus brooklyn lager beijing china.jpg

Gung Ho wraps up its fifth anniversary month of madness on August 8. The buy one, get one special on pizza combined, from 7 PM to 10 PM, with a similar deal on drinks is pretty sweet. For example, get a large smoked pork pizza (my favorite: see above) and a large New Zealand lamb-topped pizza (designed by Rob Cunningham of East) plus four pints of Brooklyn Lager for rmb220. That’s food coma-inducing value.

By the way, Gung Ho will join next Saturday’s World Baijiu Day by making “baijiu pizzas” a.k.a. drunken shrimp pies. A brilliant idea. More details on baijiu events in Beijing and nearly 20 other cities at this link.

Rum bar Cuju hosts its Black Tot day on Friday to celebrate the “last consignment” of this famous rum. Arrr, mateys! That’s British navy talk. Or is it pirate talk? Same thing, I guess. It’s rmb250 for 25 ml, a small price for a piece of history. About 20 pours available, so ye best get there early.

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This Sunday, baijiu bar Capital Spirits celebrates one year of explaining the difference between strong and sauce aromas and other spirit-ual stuff. Get free baijiu flights and cocktails from 8 PM to 11 PM.

And Q bar is back in business, with George Zhou returning martini prices to his First Cafe days of a decade ago: rmb50. You’ll find Q now, as before, atop the Eastern Inn in Sanlitun South.

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Windy City Ballroom | Dustin’s Bustin’ Out the Deals

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Windy City Ballroom is off the beaten path for many people but given how bad traffic gets downtown, the time needed to get to this retreat by subway–plus a ten-minute walk from the station–isn’t really that long (see map below). And the stress-reducing effects of the lotus pond, the grass and spacious restaurant–plus humongous portions of American-style food–is worth it. (There are even courtyard rooms for rent for those who want to stay overnight.)

This is a long way of noting that Windy City has a nice long list of daily specials for the hungry and thirsty. Here’s a lowdown, with full details on the poster below:

  • Monday: The pizzas double in size, but the price remains the same, thus apparently defying physics.
  • Tuesday: A rack of American spare ribs is rmb358. I saw someone attempt to eat this dish and fail. It looked like it came out of a woolly mammoth. Or double as a stage for The Beijing Beatles.
  • Wednesday: Cheesy tuna melt with coleslaw and spuds for rmb48. I have not had this dish but it looks like a heckuva deal. Plus, cheese.
  • Thursday: Two-for-one burgers. These are also pretty big, not so much so they have their own gravitational fields, but you definitely don’t want to fall on you by accident. Get the pair and I expect you’ll be asking for a doggie bag.
  • Friday: Two berry daiquiris or pina coladas for rmb50. Also, roast chicken with sides for rmb178.
  • Saturday: Get a kilo–that’s about two pounds–of Buffalo or BBQ wings for rmb75.
  • Sunday: A 400-gram steak with sides for rmb338. I saw a handful of people wolf these down. That’s a lot of steak, but if it’s done well, it goes down fast.

As for the nachos (see photo above), the deal is… wait, there is no deal on nachos!

There are also options for happy hour and for weekend brunch: I haven’t tried the latter yet but hope to soon. Get full details below.

Finally, Windy City will also be participating in World Baijiu Day. Chef Dustin Merrett will make deep-fried baijiu as well as a baijiu-inspired cocktail called Chasing the Dragon. I’ll be posting updates on this at the World Baijiu Day site.

windy city ballroom specials dustin merrett beijing china

windy city ballroom map beijing china

Event | Grower’s Champagne and Peruvian snacks in Beijing tonight

seina growers champagne and buena onda pisco and ceviche beijing china

Grower’s Champagne seller Seina will team up with Peruvian pop-up bar Buena Onda tonight. Get a bottle of Grand Cru Champagne at rmb299–if you live in Beijing, and like bubbly, you will know this is an incredibly low price–and pair it with Peruvian eats. For rmb100, you can get salmon tartare and three dips, and there is other food as well. See the poster for details.

Also, I just posted an interview on sibling blog Grape Wall of China with Charles Simon of Seina. He gives his takes on the grower’s Champagne market in China, plus tips on storing bubbly and recommendations for Chinese foods that pair with Champagne.

Charles and Edouard Simon of Seina.

Charles and Edouard Simon of Seina.

The new Q: George Zhou brings back the rooftop and bar at Eastern Inn

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George Zhou was among the first people I met after my move to Beijing in 2004 and I saw him go from honing his mixology skills at tiny bar First Cafe to opening, with Echo Sun and Ralph Ziegenhorn, the spacious Q Bar atop the Eastern Inn just two years later in 2006. It was a quick success story. The partners later split, George left to open George’s in Workers Stadium, and Q eventually closed. Now Zhou has reclaimed the Q space and will “soft open” it tonight.

This blog has always focused on stand-alone bars, on entrepreneurs who put it on the line day in and day out, who come up with creative ways to make their marks, and who often face massive financial headaches in doing so. That’s what makes the story of the new Q so intriguing, because surviving in the Beijing bar business is not easy, but for someone to do it for more than a decade and retain the desire to succeed is admirable.

It’s also impressive how fast Q has come together. A week ago, the paint was still drying, the floors were yet to go down and the furniture was on its way from south China. Now the new Q is pretty much ready to go. Yes, there will be some fine-tuning: there is new staff training to do, finalization of the cocktail menu and ensuring the process of getting from the hotel lobby to the bar is smooth.

But the addition of a quiet rooftop, a 40-foot bar inside and rmb50 martinis to the scene–not to mention touches like a 100 Mbps wifi connection and USB ports embedded in the bar–is welcome. I’ll do a review of this place in a few weeks, when it’s fully on its feet. In the meantime, I plan to simply chill out at the new Q and have a martini or two.

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