Mug shot: Great Leap Brewing to start VIP registration on April 8

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If you want bigger pours of Great Leap beer in your own fancy mug, then you best get down to your favorite branch on April 8. States GLB’s Carl Setzer via the wonders of social media:

All three Great Leap Brewing locations will have sets of VIP mugs available for a membership fee…. Drink the most per location and rise to the level of Chairman, second best gets the Premier’s position. Read the details, mark your calendar and join the collective!”

Registration starts at 5 PM on April 8, with only 88 memberships available at each of the three GLB locations.

“We’ll be handing out tickets deli-style all day to reserve your place in line, but if you aren’t in line when you’re number is called, you’re back to the end of the line,” states GLB.

“For 300RMB, members get a personal 550ml GLB Collective glass mug behind the bar, bigger pours of every beer [550 ml instead of 440 ml], plus all the other cool stuff we don’t have space to mention here. Membership is valid for one year with a 100RMB yearly renewal. There are only 88 memberships per location available, and you must be in person to register. Full details available each location, ask your bartender.”

A Great Leap poster says one can register for all three locations for rmb750. Does one have to visit all three to do so? Or can one register for the trio at a single site? What if one only wants to register for two locations because one simply can’t find that hutong pub? Something for one to ponder over an Iron Buddha.

If you want to be part of the GLB brew crew, I suggest you book April 8 on your calendar. And if you want more info, use the dedicated address collective (at) greatleapbrewing.com.

Closing time: Wine bar Xiao Ju waves goodbye tonight

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Hutong wine bar Xiao Ju will hold its closing party tonight, with word the team plans to reopen a restaurant in a new space. In announcing the party, Xiao Ju also released a few statistics, namely, the venue has witnessed 12 successful marriage proposals, held 368 tastings and served 8563 bottles of wine. Tonight’s party is from 7:30 PM to 9 PM and will include live music, snacks and, of course, wine. There will also be discounts on takeaway bottles.

Xiao Ju is in Mao’er Hutong, about 100 meters off Nanluguoxiang.

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New venues: Yu Bar and Mexican Kitchen & Bar

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Yu Bar and Mexican Kitchen & Bar have opened in the former Cru Wine Bar space by the Sanlitun Youth Hostel.

The venues offer seating at the bar or in three narrow table-filled areas, with the decor dominated by wood and illuminated by the now-standard Edison lighting. One room has a row of beer fridges stocked with about 100 options, El Nido-style.

Mixed drinks start at rmb30 (rmb25 during happy hour) and there are a few nifty whiskies behind the bar, including a few Japanese single malts. As for beer, I grabbed a bottle of Asahi, a reasonable rmb15. That beer is also on tap, at rmb23 for 500 ml, along with several other options.

When I stopped on Wednesday around midnight, the sole table of patrons was engaged in the most raucous dice game I’ve seen in years, so I split after a quick beer and will return for another look soon.

And to try the food. The menu lists chips and salsa (rmb18). buttitos (from rmb45), and nachos and fajitas (from rmb50).

(Thanks to DW for the heads up.)

Brew chews: Jing-A might be adding delicious mini burgers

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A few weeks ago, I taste-tested some dishes the guys at Jing-A Taproom were messing with in the kitchen (see collage above). They included fish and chips (crispy batter, delicate flavors, nice) and beer can chicken with the feet attached (the meat was tender and juicy but I think the bad-ass look of the bird merited a funky dipping sauce or spicy rub). It was all good fun, although Jing-A already has some dependable options like the grilled cheese and the meat and cheese plate.

Anyway, I stopped in this week for Wednesday night chili, also a tasty option, and had a chance to try another experiment: the yet-to-be-named Jing-A mini burger. Now, this is something that should be on the menu. Tender juicy grilled patties topped with bacon, Yunnan water buffalo cheese, rocket, tomato and a tangy “secret sauce”. I temporarily abandoned my chili to mow down those two burgers. Word is the the recipe is being fine-tuned, and will include some funky pickles, which means even more potential for what is already a tasty snack.

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Hump Day Drinks: Okra, BBC Team Up for Cocktail Fun

BBC and Okra are joining forces on Wednesdays for cocktail fun. BBC’s Doug and Linch were at Okra last night doing some “hump day concoctions“, including a Taketsuru sour that includes “bamboo charcoal salt”. Given I hadn’t been to Okra in ages, I decided to check out the two-for-one signature cocktails during the happy hours, 6 PM to 8 PM, and recommend the Bloody Mary. I plan to return and try some of those BBC drinks.

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Bagels in Beijing: New Tavalin Shop Opening in a Few Days

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The new Tavalin Bagels shop, by staff from the old Tavalin Bagels shop, is slated to open in a few days. It’s across from the west side of Yashow Market, just around the corner from the old Tavalin bagel shop, which has been rented by Andy’s Craft Sausages and should also open soon. The shop only has space for a couple of people inside but is beside a patio that can handle up to a dozen seats. Look for a similar lineup of bagels, although let’s hope they up the production on the “everything” option, as those were perpetually sold out.

Snacking in Sanlitun: Mr Shi’s Dumplings Now Open

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Satisfied a late-afternoon hunger yesterday at the new Mr. Shi’s Dumplings in Sanlitun, thanks to a heads up from Sue Zhou. This place is on the same street as Nearby the Tree and just west of the old Two Guys and a Pie space. There are tons of options, fried or boiled, including lots with cheese. Look for an official opening party, possibly as soon as next Thursday.

Niche Vendors: Spaces at Chaoyang Park, Sanlitun South Available

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One of the best things about the food and drink scene in Beijing is the growing number of niche vendors who make everything from bacon to bagels, cupcakes to coffee, mala sausage to meatballs — lots of them were at the recent Jue Market.

Over the past few days, I have heard about a few available spaces that might fit some of these business.

One is Deli De Luxe, at Chaoyang Park, which is up for rent. This is a cozy space that seats about ten, has a decent kitchen for a place this size, and, for those businesses focused on delivery, is close to plenty of residential areas. Word is the rent is reasonable and there is about a year left on the lease, which would provide a nice amount of time to test-drive a business idea.

The other spaces are at the front of Nanjie, in Sanlitun South, increasingly the go-to area for those seeking Western comfort food. The owner at Nanjie is planning to create two spaces out front — about the size of the Tavalin bagels: see drawing below — that will be especially good at night when there is heavy foot traffic.

I don’t know all of the details on leases or rents, so if you’re interested, please contact the owners. If you don’t know the owners, let me know at beijingboyce (at) yahoo.com or ‘beijingboyce’ on weixin, and I’ll connect you.

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Bar trivia: What are the oldest establishments in Beijing?

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It’s a big year in Beijing bar history. Frank’s Place and The Mexican Wave, two bars often cited as kicking off the modern bar scene in Beijing, opened a quarter of a century ago. And several other places are marking fifteen years in business. That has me thinking about which Beijing bars have lasted longest in the same locale. (For instance, Frank’s Place is still open, but moved to Lido, while other veteran brands like Nashville, The Tree and Maggie’s have also changed spots.)

We’ve seen a number of veterans close in recent years, like Poacher’s, Nightman Disco and Power House. So who’s left and still doing business in the same location after, say, a dozen years? Here are ten bars that come to mind:

The Den: It’s not only still in business but also still busy after more than 15 years. This place might also have the longest-running happy hour deal in the city.

Charlie’s: Still open in the Jianguo Hotel, it predate Frank’s, and was apparently the first place in the city to have a fax machine. Of course, that was all the reason needed to hold business meetings there.

Suzie Wong: A well-designed mix of bar, club and rooftop, it once ranked among the city’s must-go places.

Centro: This Kerry Center bar still draws a crowd and has a good happy hour.

Jazz-Ya: This (just off) Sanlitun Bar Street venue is known for its Long Island Iced teas.

Passby Bar: A Nanluoguxiang original, it has been open for more than 15 years.

Lush: It’s either 11 or 12 years old.

Vic’s: Part of the Worker Stadium club scene for ages…

Mix: Ditto.

The Bell Bar: It’s not open to the public but it gets a nod for this British Embassy bar gets a nod for decades of serving drinks.

More to come!

Note: I know I’ve covered this topic before, but I have yet to move all my archives from the old server to this new one. I’ll post links to those old posts once I get that done.

Migas Saturday Brunch: Best Dining Experience of 2015

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If a test run of the “el asador” Saturday brunch at Migas last weekend is any indication, this restaurant / bar / rooftop has another winner on its hands.

Migas excels at everything from being the city’s best rooftop party organizers to offering unparalleled business lunch creativity and value. The Saturday brunch that kicks of tomorrow is a superb fusion of those event and culinary skills.

The typical brunch experience of wandering around food stations to the rhythm of anesthetizing elevator music is tweaked here. Migas has food stations, and I’ll get to them shortly, but it ups the tempo by circulating food carts that allow table-side delivery of roast chicken, sausages links, lamb chops, gin tonics, and more.

On top of this, the music is upbeat, with plenty of funk and some old school rap. This all creates an excellent vibe: the rumble of conversations, the circulation of carts loaded with tasty victuals, the beats that had people moving in their seats. Well done. After all, this is not a Sunday brunch, when people are in the mode of recovery, but a Saturday one, when they are just starting on the long road to it.

Back to the food carts. This chicken ranks among the best in Beijing. It’s prepared in two steps, first in a conventional oven, then a Josper one, a grill-oven hybrid. Many of my Chinese friends eschew chicken breast because it is too dry, but the bird here is succulent, the meat tender against the crispy skin. Get the chicken.

There are two choices of sausage, cut off huge coils, and they are also good. The spicy one was a bit dry but will tickle your taste buds. The other one was moist, savory and had excellent texture. I’d say this is the best sausage I’ve had all year.

The pork, prawn and shallot roll is a hearty dish with crackly skin over a layer of fat bursting with flavor (think ultimate pork rinds). My dining partner gave the lamb chops top marks among the meat dishes while the beef, well, I could barely sit upright at that point — too much tortilla! (see below) — but had one bite and found the meat tender and with a pleasant wood smoke aroma.

Next, the food stations. Migas had the following:

  • Soup: Two varieties during the test run, pumpkin and potato.
  • Salad: Mixed greens with about two dozen toppings / sides, like dill pickles, cucumbers, blue cheese, seasoned chick peas, mixed nuts, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Bread: With a thick crust and a crumb packed with rich grain and seed aromas and flavors. (It reminds me of the hearty breads at farmers markets in Canada.)
  • Tortilla: A highlight of the brunch, with five options, including one with codfish and — chef Aitor Olebagoya said it was uniquely Basque — one with tuna and aged ham. It’d be easy to eat a slice of each and have no room for anything else.

There were a few desserts, although I didn’t make it to them. And small trays of salts and homemade mustard, including a delicious beetroot-apple one. And we washed it all down with Codorniu Mediterranea Cava, a perfectly fine bubbly.

That’s a superb meal. Yes, some might quibble with a few things. The meat was only available partway through brunch, after people had tackled the soups, salads, breads and tortillas, and some might want it earlier. The free-flow alcohol is limited to Cava – perhaps Estrella Damm beer would also be a nice option? And those who like hotel brunches because they can down plate after plate of cheese and sashimi will not find them here.

But that test run revealed a brunch that in both design and quality is a winner. And it was made even better with the Migas recipe for a tantalizing atmosphere: the funk music, the circulating carts, the murmur of humanity in those arty-industrial digs, and the team’s ability to be both laid-back in their casual denim outfits and enthusiastic, from the head chef — who taught diners how to squirt wine from a bota bag into their mouths — to the man at the soup station who, when I mentioned the freshness of everything, grinned and said that’s how they do things.

Saturday brunch at Migas (5208-6061) is from noon to 3 PM. Food is rmb210. Free-flow Cava is rmb138.