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Sips & bites: Fang, Ramo, Kenny’s Burgers, Pop-Up Beijing, Jing-A, Australian Natural & Migas

fang cocktail bar by xiao shuai of el nido in fangjia hutong beijing china.jpg

Cocktail bar Fang is a work in progress. Slated to open in two weeks.

FANG: Look for Xiao Shuai of El Nido fame to open a cocktail bar a few doors down from his beer-centric joint on Fangjia Hutong. He says the place is called ‘Fang’, after the hutong, should open in about two weeks, and will have more than 20 cocktails and a lot of good whisky options.

RAMO: Speaking of Fangjia, I finally got over there for the first time in a year and realized I need to eat more pizza at Ramo, where the pies are tasty and excellent value at rmb58. Even better, Ramo just started a buy one, get one pizza deal on Wednesdays from 6 PM to 10 PM. Friends tell me the burgers are also tasty.

POP-UP BEIJING: This slender venue between The Local and Jing-A Taproom is offering all-day happy hour prices on by-the-glass options through August 30. Get a generous 175 ml pour for rmb35 from noon to 10 PM daily. The lineup includes Gamay Rose, Viognier-Sauvignon, and Carignan-Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre, all French, plus Spanish bubbly–Pares Balta Cava–for rmb180 per bottle. (Pop-Up also has a ‘back-to-school sale,’ with 15 percent off everything, except artwork and prints.)

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KENNY’S BURGERS: I like mustard. I like ketchup. But I don’t like them mixed in a tiny saucer and presented as the sole condiment for my burger and fries, which is what I got at Kenny’s Burgers, in the former Let’s Seafood space in Nali Patio, when I finally visited for lunch last week.

If this were a house-made mustard and ketchup pairing, I could understand, but it seemed to be French’s and Heinz. Given the talents of the owner, why not a smoked ketchup, a spicier mustard, a wasabi mayo, or similar, in bigger portions? The sauce bar at the former Let’s Burger branch nearby was a big draw. A riff on that idea might work here.

Also, I can’t think of one occasion in 2015 where I added salt to my food. But I wanted more seasoning for both the fries and burger. Liven things up a bit, please!

Given these things are easy to adjust, I plan to return. The window seats are clever and the courtyard view is a nice break from the bustle of Beijing. And the basic burger, at rmb58 with fries, is reasonably good value for this part of town. Plus I want to try some other items on the menu!

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JING-A TAPROOM: This is a nice place to chill on a Sunday given the rmb10 discount on beers. I went yesterday to retry the “qu brew“, the beer Jing-A made using qu, the fermentation agent for baijiu. This 12-percent tipple was much easier to enjoy on a relaxing Sunday night than on the crazy Saturday when I first tried it. I also found it much better with two weeks of maturity, with a superior smell, taste and balance. Try it while it lasts! By the way, the grilled-cheese sandwich with tomato soup–and Traitor Zhou’s bacon option–remains awesome.

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AUSTRALIAN NATURAL: I recently talked to Ross Tan and Nick van Leeuwen, owners of this organic and biodynamic wine operation, about their portfolio, about selling in China, and about why “everybody loves the pig“. See this post on sibling blog Grape Wall of China.

If you’re seeking Australian Natural’s products via retail, try TRB Wine, Mali’s Wine Cellar and La Cava de Laoma, while Temple, Capital M, Jing-A and Pop-Up are among the restaurants and bars carrying the wines.

the hedonist shiraz image for australian natural post on grape wall of china

MIGAS: Finally, Nali Patio veteran Migas celebrated its fifth birthday last weekend. I’m not into the raucous rooftop parties–I tend toward more sedate surroundings–but I have long been a fan of the food at this place. Migas has maintained a high degree of excellence year in and year out, whether we are talking about lunch or dinner, or the more recently added brunches. When it comes to creativity, quality and cohones, I can’t think of a better place in our fair city. I’ll sign off with this collage of the first Saturday brunch at Migas in 2015.

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Two Guys II: Interview with Pie Master Matt Wong

Pics from Two Guys and a Pie

Until it closed last year, Two Guys and a Pie was a popular stop for party animals in search of late-night fodder, for regulars who enjoyed sitting on the deck and shooting the guff, and for hoarders stocking up on a week’s worth of victuals. Good news: the guys have reopened near the same spot, on the street behind Yashow Market, and I talked to pie master Matt Wong about what is on offer.

First things first: pies + drones = apartment window delivery. When does Two Guys Flies Pies launch?

Drone deliveries is a good idea but I want to take it up a notch. Lexus recently made a hoverboard. Once these become publicly available we plan to have Marty McFly deliver pies on these. [Then someone also needs to invent the Marty McPie — Ed.]

What can we expect at the new place?

It’s pretty much the same as before. Pies, sausage rolls and Aussie beers, with the addition of chilled Thai coconuts–gotta keep the drinking crowd hydrated!

We’re planning to decorate it a bit more with an Australian feel. In future we hope to run themed nights and try different foods for one-off occasions.

The street also has Mr Shi’s Dumplings, Tiger Mama and a ramen joint that opened up in the last year, which we hope makes it a go-to destination for foodies and the late night crowd.

It’s my first time to your pie shop. What should I order?

First timers to the shop should go with the beef pie and the zheige neige [mashed potatoes, mushy pies and gravy] on the side and wash it down with a Coopers pale ale. I’d advise them to try a bit with just the tomato sauce first and then with the filling. People then decide their preference for life.

Prior to having their first bite, they should ask our staff to take a photo of them to go up on the Wall of Pie Virgins. Also, if they follow our WeChat (pieshopbeijing) they will receive a free topping on their pies each time!

I’ll name a few people and you tell me what pie you would serve them. Let’s start with a fellow Australian: Sir Les Patterson.

You can tell he loves a pie or two. I’m thinking two beef, mushroom and Guinness pies with the ‘zheige neige‘. Plus an extra six frozen ones to go for breakfast the next day.

How about Jennifer Lawrence?

My kind of girl. She doesn’t believe in diets and likes fries and so we don’t have to hold back with her. She probably hasn’t had an Aussie pie before, so I would start her off on a regular beef with tomato sauce. For dessert I’d give her the Biggs Apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a taste of home. I’d then take her to Jian Club–the archery bar–and see if her skills are really as good as Katniss’.

And Jack Ma?

Given he’s from Hangzhou and a highly successful businessman, he probably enjoys a good seafood meal. Even though we haven’t made it before, I’m thinking a Canadian lobster pie with a Cajun sauce would work a treat for him.

Remember that amazing idea I had for something called the Pie-li Minogue? Why hasn’t that become reality?

If you can think of a suitable filling to do it justice then we will make it! We’re planning to introduce guest pies, where anyone can submit a pie filling idea and the winners get their pies made. And aside from bragging rights, they will collect some pie loot for their trouble.

If Matt Wong had to eat one kind of pie for the rest of his life, which pie would Matt Wong eat, and why?

If I could eat one pie for the rest of my life it would have to be a shepherd’s pie. It’s got beef and a nice crusty potato top. There’s never a bad time to have hearty comfort food, right?

Note: Two Guys is open Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5 PM to 11 PM and Friday and Saturday from 5 PM to 3 AM.

Pics from Two Guys and a Pie 2

Sips & Bites: Brian McKenna, Two Guys and a Pie, Paddy O’Shea’s, Migas & Traitor Zhou’s

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Brian McKenna, known for his work at The Courtyard, ROOM and Blu Lobster, says his gastro pub will open in just over two weeks. This new venture is in the former Molly Malone’s space on Jinbao Street and measures more than 1000 square meters, with a patio out front and a garden in back, says McKenna. The beverage lineup will include beer from Arrow Factory and there plans to eventually brew onsite.

Two Guys and a Pie has returned (nearly) to its old haunt. The new shop is nestled between Mr. Shi’s Dumplings and Tiger Mama, close to Yashow Market. Along with pies, the menu includes thick-cut chips and chilled coconuts, says Matt Wong. (Open on Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday and Sunday from 5 PM to 11 PM and on Friday and Saturday from 5 PM to 3 AM.)

If you’re into Premier League fantasy football and looking to compete, check out the group run by Paddy O’Shea’s. Last year’s league had 80-plus teams and Paddy’s Paul Rochon predicts even more this time. The top four performers each week get prizes, including booze and gift certificates. CHEERS and Nong Chao are among this year’s sponsors. Want to participate? Go to this Premier League page to register or login, pick your team, and join Paddy O’League using code 222989-119081.

Traitor Zhou’s is holding its First Annual Ugly Tomato Festival to provide “different kinds of ugly, organic and extremely tasty tomatoes to eleven restaurants and bars in town.” The venues will use the tomatoes during August and September in either some of their regular dishes or ones created specifically for the festival. Participating venues include BBC, Chi, Fiume, Jing-A, Migas, Mosto, Nobu, Okra, Taco Bar, TRB and Velvet Verde.

And The Bar at Migas will launch a new food initiative this week, with a particular focus on ceviche. Driven by an interest in South American food by the Spanish management and a chef with three years of experience in Peru, La Cevichería at Migas officially opens on Friday at 7 PM.

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

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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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