travels with my barang-barang

Lime Crime

Posted in Beijing, Chopsticks by ejl on 8 May 2009

if you’re in sanlitun and decide to get munch at Bocata’s, i’d highly recommend the sandwiches and salads, but avoid the lime smoothie at all cost.

it’s basically lime smush. there weren’t any pips, but the little green leathery bits of skin were annoying. and they get between your teeth like nothing else can. they also made the drink taste slightly bitter.

or maybe i’m just being grouchy about it because what i REALLY wanted was a lime margarita. 

Dammit.

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After dark 04

Posted in After dark, Beijing, Chopsticks by ejl on 24 March 2009

Belated updates because I’d been having off-site meetings till stupid o’clock almost everyday last week. But fear not, the gruelling work schedule has not reduced by much my eating, drinking and the carrying on of other debauched activities in bonny Beijing.

The more interesting picks of last week:

St. Patrick’s Day
It was Paddy’s Day and I was stuck in a conference room till 9.30pm trying so hard not to poke that American lawyer’s eye out with a pencil stamped with the name of a state-owned enterprise. The moment I could leave, I was in a cab directing the driver home while negotiating three different phone calls to pinpoint a location for good ol’ fashioned Paddy’s Day drinking. The original plan was, of course, Paddy O’Sheas but reports came through of it being ‘heaving’ and ‘too crowded’ and ‘too much effort’. And so it was that I stopped at Luga’s Villa to meet up with a bunch of folks who’d had two hours of drinking on me, and did my best to catch up.

Somehow, at some point, we ended up at Chocolate and there for the first time I witnessed the dancing girls. DANCING GIRLS. Whee! And there was champagne. And silly drunken dancing! And tumbling into a cab at god-knows-what-time in the morning.

Suffice to say, the hangover was pretty bad the next day and I suffered greatly sitting back in that same conference room I’d left only 12 hours before trying to make sense of the negotiations around me. Thank god for painkillers and coffee. And Touche Eclat.

Thursday is not lao-wai-day
Having spent Wednesday evening still hungover and feeling sorry for myself, we decided to explore somewhere completely out of our drinking zone. We went to WuDaoKou (五道口). Which we now conclude is (1) way out in the sticks, (2) a very long and expensive taxi ride home and (3) not somewhere I’d want to be drunk on a weekday night.

We’d heard about Propaganda, and so we went in search of it. Found it, hung out in it, left shortly after. Strike 1 – overwhelming smell of salty popcorn. Strike 2 – strange dance floor layout. Strike 3 – patrons weren’t good looking enough to compensate for their lack of enthusiasm on the dance floor. We also stuck out as obviously being the only non-PRCs in the place who weren’t students.

So we headed to Bling in the Solana complex, although we didn’t really know where it was and had to be (mis)led there by a 老外who also didn’t really seem to know where he was going. We ended up there, in the end, after having to stop and ask some movers and then a security guard. The 老外 we’d followed was heading to Bling because his PRC girlfriend was performing a nunchuck dance – we watched in awe, it was extremely impressive. I also saw the tallest broadest Chinese guy in my life, with impeccable tailoring (he might have been the 老板 or the 经理?) – more impressive than the nunchuck-dance, I tell ya.

Other than that, the drinks were good but expensive. The crowd was pretty good-looking but also verging on the obnoxious. There were some other 老外around, but they were the sorts that I’d try to avoid at all costs and who were just behaving like sleazebags. The dancefloor was empty and the place was just seemed rather soulless, although the soullessness might just be a result of it being a pretty quiet night.

Etc.
Q Bar on Saturday evening. We stopped by after a hotpot dinner at Haidilao (海底捞) for a quick one-two, and seriously if you want a good caipirinha go to Q Bar. It’s even better than the one I had Lan Bar, with the right graininess of sugar and tartness of lime and actual cachaca instead of Bacardi. I’m sure the crowd was getting better too, but my friends were being lame and all crying off on account of ‘tiredness’ *rolls eyes* and so we left and went our separate ways. I managed to squeeze in two episodes of The Soprano’s before heading out again (to the raised eyebrows of my security guard) to SLT for more drinking.

Champagne brunch at the Westin Chaoyang on Sunday, again. They’ve upped their prices, so now it’s about RMB450 a head, which may or may not include whatever surcharges they decide to slap onto the bill. The level of service also seemed to have fallen off slightly, although no major complaints and still great food and lots of champagne. I might hold off on the Westin Chaoyang for a couple of weeks and try somewhere else just to get a broad overview of the brunch action in the Jing.

Pure Lotus

Posted in Beijing, Chopsticks by ejl on 27 February 2009

We went to Pure Lotus last night for dinner, and as much as people diss the vegetarian option, this place served up such fantastically prepared food that you wouldn’t miss the meat.

We started with a salad, dressed in tangy salty sesame oil scented dressing. Next came claypot aubergines, then hot plate mushrooms, soy-based cutlets, green veg with pine nuts, and quite a few other things that I’ve forgotten about already. We’d ordered so much.

We also had some interesting drinks. E had a kiwi mixed juice, and H and a grape and tomato mixed juice. I had something called Bohdi energising tonic (we’ll get to the names of these things soon enough). The kiwi thing was nice. The grape and tomato, not so nice. My energising tonic was actually a warm drink, and tasted like peanut soup – not my most successful order to date.

Dessert came in the form of a plateful of kumquats in a smouldering lake. A bowl in a bigger bowl of dry ice. Very effective, but slightly OTT.

Which brings us to the names of the dishes. They were named all sorts of esoteric, pseudo-sophisticated nonsense, which made for hilarious narration and quite a lot of giggling. “Milk of mount whatever”,  “I will accept whatever comes my way”,  etc.  If the food weren’t so good, we would’ve walked out quite quickly at the pompousness of it all.

Lucky for them.

All in all, the food was amazing and we ordered way too much as usual. But the total damage came up to RMB530 for 3 people, which is pretty reasonable considering the mountains of stuff we had. The only drawback to the place, i guess, would be the lack of alcohol served and the generally cheesy ‘spiritualist’ music they had playing. But I’m sure one could live with that when faced with veggie heaven.

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Bubblylicious

Posted in Beijing, Chopsticks by ejl on 24 February 2009

Sunday brunch at the Westin Chaoyang was decadent, to say the least.

Oysters, lobsters, scallops on the shell, prawns and crab. Sashimi, nigiri sushi, handrolls and soba noodles. Dim sum. Caviar and blinis. Char siu, siu yoke (roast belly pork) and peking duck rolls. Congee. Roast beef and all the trimmings. Wonton soup. Pasta. Pizza. Bacon and eggs. Waffles and pancakes. Dessert.

And that’s just a selection of what I ate and saw the rest of my table eat. I’m sure there was a whole section of food that we didn’t manage to get to. The food was fresh and well-prepared, and there was absolutely nothing that didn’t look deliciously scrumptious. If only I had starved myself in the two days running up to it.

All that food, washed down with copious amounts of Veuve Cliquot.

The service was attentive and efficient, without being intrusive. And we rarely managed to get halfway through our glasses before they got topped up again.

For RMB330, that was one helluva brunch.

And drinking from mid-day can only mean that the drinking continues after brunch and well into the wee hours. Another group of Sunday brunchers had the same idea as us, and we ended up having a pretty raucous time.

Next time, though, we should probably try and have our brunches to Saturdays instead, to save all of us the hangover hell on Monday.