Sips & bites: Salud turns 10, plus Fu Gu, Windy City, Al Bar, Blacklist & more

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I posted earlier about new bars Anchor and Bungalow. Here are a few more notes on places recently visited during an unusually active few days for me.

Salud celebrated its tenth birthday on Saturday night with plenty of booze, The Beijing Beatles and Nico Pellissier in the house. I haven’t been a regular since back in the day when Nanluoguxiang was a much quieter place and live music and infused rums were a novelty in those parts. But I have many fond memories of Salud and will never forget the emotional atmosphere when a packed house watched Li Ning fly across The Bird’s Nest and light the torch during the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.

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During the walk from Bungalow to Salud, I made a quick visit to Mao Mao Chong to say hi to bartender / owner Eric Liu. Good to see the place bustling with customers and fun to try the refreshing strawberry tequila.

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BBC marked its first anniversary on Sunday with free drinks and a Nepal earthquake relief fundraiser that raised more than rmb8000. See this interview I did with co-owner Doug Williams. It’s always fun to try new products and on Sunday it meant this tasty Melbourne gin.

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A place called Fu Gu Luxurious American Club opened in the base of Workers Stadium on Friday night with lots of fancy cars, spotlights and security guards. Somehow I didn’t get an invitation and thus could but watch from a distance. I am now considering opening a competing Luxurious Canadian Club that features ice wine baths, truffle- and gold flake-topped poutine, and a butler dressed as a Mountie for every guest.

dustin merrett rack of ribs windy city beijing china

The portions at Windy City will, um, blow you away. Order the ribs above and you might want to consider getting one of the courtyard rooms that go for rmb300 per night. Windy City is a short walk from Yongtaizhuang subway stop, north of Olympic Green, on line eight. It’s a bit of a hike for many but it also offers the chance to “get away” and chill beside the lotus pond, mow down in the spacious restaurant and sink your toes in some grass. I’ll have more on this place and the menu by Dustin Merrett soon.

A few other items:

  • Al Bar: Another coffee option in the Gongti-Sanlitun corridor. This cafe in the Italian Cultural Centre, in the Hailong Building, has espresso at rmb12, Cappuccino at rmb15, salads from rmb30, panini from rmb40 and lots more. More soon on this cafe and on a recent wine tasting by CruItaly.
  • Blacklist: A team that includes veteran nightlife promoter Mu Yu will soon officially open this new party venue. More to come.
  • The Local: Three-kuai Buffalo wings on Wednesdays. Good.
  • Jing-A: Rmb30 chili on Wednesdays. Five-alarm stuff on my last visit, which I like, since it’s nothing an extra beer can’t help put out. Must try the sliders next.
  • Fubar: I caught The Beijing Beatles here on Friday. It would be great to get some more draft beer options here for the summer.
  • George’s Bar just a few doors down is still one of my favorite places to get a Negroni (rmb60) or martini (rmb70) and chill at the bar. Look for this place to add summer seating out front.

Finally, World Baijiu Day is coming along nicely with nine venues in seven cities participating, including Capital Spirits, Jing-A and The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu in Beijing. For more details, and a fancy world map of all the venues, go here.

 

Sports ahoy! Anchor bar opens due north of Gongti

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Anchor has opened just around the corner from that alley packed with BBC, Big Smoke, Corner Melt and Frost off Xingfucun Middle Road, due north of Workers Stadium. It’s still a bit rough around the edges but two visits revealed that this former dumpling shop is already drawing a steady flow of curious imbibers.

Anchor has three rooms, including the main area with the bar and two spaces to the side where people can relax with a drink and catch a game. About 20 people were on hand Sunday night for the Arsenal-Manchester United match.

Drink options include five draft beers (Carlsberg at rmb15, Guinness at rmb50, Delirium Tremens, etc), house wine (rmb30) and cocktails (from rmb45). Whiskies start at rmb50 for Laphroaig 10. I had a Negroni and, if that drink is any indication, they pour heavy here.

I was told the food menu should be available in a week or so. If this place can pull off “hot buttered English muffins with crisp bacon, two poached eggs, spinach and Hollandaise sauce” for the rmb42 listed, I’ll be showing up.

 

The team is a bit green, and super keen, so expect lots of questions about whether or not you like the bar and what might be improved.

Tikipedia: Phillip Tory at Bungalow is a drink-making maniac

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I wrote last week about how, depending on whose opinion you accept, Bungalow might have the best cocktails in the universe. I finally made it to this hutong tiki bar last Saturday to try them.

Bungalow won’t win any awards for decor unless a bunch of dry grass, old fishing rope and knickknacks are the new definition of fashion. But this place easily makes up for it with drinks and with the five or six high tables outside around which to guzzle them.

On this night, owner / bartender Phillip Tory had Evan Williams Old-Fashioneds on special for rmb30. (No typo, thirty kuai.) These concoctions — with three dashes of bitters and a spray of citrus oil — were bursting with flavor. And while a bar focused on tiki drinks makes one think of rum, the American whisky list impresses, with 20 options, including Bulleit at rmb30, Buffalo Trace at rmb35, Maker’s Mark at rmb40.

As for those rum drinks, expect about two dozen choices, including Mai Tais, Pina Coladas and Niu Nius. Tory can provide a wealth of info about mixology for those who want to stimulate both their minds and their taste buds.

I didn’t try any of his tiki drinks because Bungalow, which has about a half-dozen square meters of customer space, had drawn upwards of 50 patrons on this pleasant night and turned Tory into a cocktail-making maniac. He guessed he’d already made 100-plus drinks at that point–and even more the night before–and still had a dozen post-it notes worth of orders to fill. But the many inebriated patrons around me testified that the drinks were indeed tasty.

So, I stuck with my Old Fashioned and a beer — the fridge has a bunch of options, with a Belgian bent — and will return next time on a school night.

Bungalow is at 82 Dongsijiutaio Hutong, just behind exit C at the Zhangzishonglu subway stop. It’s open daily from 6 PM to midnight.

BBC1: Doug Williams on Bottle, Boot & Cigar’s first birthday

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Bottle, Boot & Cigar–BBC–celebrated its first birthday on Sunday with free drinks and a Nepal earthquake relief fundraiser that raised over rmb8500. I asked Doug Williams, one of the co-owners, about the first year of business.

When you guys opened, did you expect to make as big a splash as you did?

With the space being small, we opened it to be a takeaway bottle shop and office, so while great cocktails were a focus we were not sure if the space would allow it.

What spirit have customers ordered a lot more than you expected?

We tend to go through a lot of gin and whiskey, with aged rum and tequila rounding out the top four. The clientele that visit are savvy in general and know a good amount about spirits and cocktails. Whether it is the expat crowd or local Chinese, they appreciate our selection and care we place in every cocktail.

When it comes to vermouth, most bars have one or maybe two or three. You guys have — well, what is the highest number you have had and which would you rank as “must try”?

At one point I think it was 26. We are down to a manageable 16. During the summer, any of the Bianco-style vermouths are beautiful, Mancino makes a really beautiful one. Also Cocchi Americano is great this time of year with crushed ice and soda water.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having an incredibly heavy cast iron front door?

Our 600-kilogram door is not going anywhere anytime soon and, since it is also our sign, that is a good thing. We have a couple bartenders of the female persuasion, who are not fans of opening and closing it.

What are three craziest drink orders you guys have received over the past year?

Samogon, which is a Russian-style moonshine. When I pulled out a bottle I think it surprised them.

Another person refused to believe the ice was real as it was too clear and too perfect. Not really an order but interesting as it is hand cut from ice blocks and I am not sure what fake ice looks like.

We get requests for all the usual things, Long Islands, and so on. Linch has a house coke syrup he has put together. Customers think it is crazy but they taste it and absolutely love it.

Sips & bites: Beijing’s best cocktails, plus The Bar at Migas, Bottega, The Den & more

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The city’s best cocktails are at Bungalow Tiki and Cocktail Bar. So says Julian Tavalin, former Beijing bagel whiz kid and now budding drinks aficionado.

I’ve been pushed by Tavalin via weixin for a week to visit Bungalow. He’s adamant:

  • “You must really go when you get a minute. I don’t care much for cocktails in general but [owner] Phil [Tory] makes me a believer.”
  • “I wouldn’t tell you to go if the cocktails weren’t amazing. They’ve got everybody at work all excited.”
  • “Go to Phil’s man. I’m not just telling you because he’s a friend. I’m telling you because he really makes some amazing cocktails and you’ll be impressed.”
  • “I would suggest when you go, don’t order off the menu. Just sit at the bar and talk with him. He will do one of those ‘Are you in the mood for…?’ [conversations] and then make a really cool drink.
  • “[Phil] made me all kinds of drinks that were awesome. He wipes flavors into the glass and all this weird shit and loves every moment of it. I’m thinking ‘Is this really necessary?’, then I taste it and I’m like ‘Wow, maybe it was’.”
  • “He’s like a safari guide through the land of cocktails.”
  • “Here’s something my other friend sent to me today. ‘I’m very proud of Phil Tory. I’d given up on cocktails in this city. When I saw Woody Allen at the Carlyle Hotel, I had the best cocktails I’d ever tasted. There is nothing like them, I swear it, though they’ll cost you 25 U.S. before tips. Phil’s are the only ones that equal this. And he really cares. I have huge respect for this.”
  • “I stand by my word it’s the best cocktail I’ve had in Beijing. It’s the cocktail that got me off the fence and into the cocktail camp.”

Sounds like Tavalin has gone freaky for tiki. At this rate, I expect to find a drink to soon be named after him — The Tavy Grog? Anyway, I was unable to get to Bungalow–or anywhere else for that matter–during the past week due to other obligations but will check it out soon. Find it at 82 Dongsijiutiao, behind Zhangzihonglu subway stop, exit C (see this map). It’s open daily from 6 PM to midnigh

Traitor Zhou’s should finally be opening and selling cured meat, doughnuts, cream cheese, bagels, condiments and more in the next few weeks. Renovations on the Nali Patio shop, in the former Migas lab space, are underway and will be siblin to outlets in 1949: The Hidden City and 789 Art District.

Speaking of Migas, look for The Bar to double as an eatery over the summer months, with a special focus on ceviche. In the restaurant proper, the back area that seats about two dozen people will soon be converted into a private room.

Enoterra has a 50 percent off deal on wine by the glass from 4 PM to 8 PM daily, including weekends. There are about a dozen options: try the Portuguese red. The rooftop is being renovated and will open soon.

Speaking of happy hours, both the Sanlitun and Lido outlets of Gung Ho have a daily buy one, get one deal from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM.

And Bottega, in the same alley as Alameda, has half-price calzone and Stella draft on Mondays.

The Den has added a huge burger to its pub grub options. This whopper costs rmb158 and, I’m told, will feed five or six people. I’m still partial to the chicken Cordon Bleu and the nasi gareng.

Finally, notable birthdays last weekend included rum-focused bar Mas, which marked three years in business just off Ghost Street, and Orchid Hotel in Baochao Hutong, which celebrated four years.