Let's imagine it's nearly one in the morning and you just left an opening party for a new pupuseria managed by a couple of Danes a friend of a friend knows (I'm guessing), but you're still famished. If you're alone, whatever 7-11 rice triangles left on the shelf or the delicious self loathing of Mickey D's will usually suffice. But if you're with a group, you're probably getting chuanr.
Chuanr is late night, full of regrets, drunk food. That's it's essence. You've got to have a couple drinks in you to tear at some old mutton gristle and stab your chopsticks into a onion-y Xinjiang salad. It's rarely a decision made by sober, clear-eyed individuals. Which is why White Tiger Village, right on rapidly gentrifying Xiang'er Hutong, is such an intriguing proposition.
Still in soft opening, the space is fancier than we deserve. Seriously, the interior design is totally bitchin', with a gorgeous, sexy little terrace, large open kitchen and communal wooden dining table set up inside. Furniture and lighting are Design Within Reach catalog via Taobao, which is to say really tastefully done. There's a Plastered 8 mural on the wall and Jing A on tap (40rmb), so it's also got some community cred. Service is faultless. We noticed the owner was making stops to every table on a fairly busy night to make sure food was bused quickly and correctly.
Speaking of food, the menu is short and sweet, but a bit jumbled. You're looking at soups and salads, as well as skewers, cold dishes, and stews. Seems they're going for Dongbei-style hearty, unpretentious fare, but with a severe deficit of starches.
Started with cold dishes. The seafood salad (拌海鲜蔬菜 - 30rmb) had squid with young bamboo in a bright red sauce comprised mostly, I'm assuming, of store-bought Korean hot pepper paste. Jinzhou Dry Tofu (锦州干豆腐拌菜 - 20rmb) uses creamy, fresh tofu “skin” tossed with cumin seed and coriander. Both had simple, bright flavors and were texturally appealing. Yum.
Chuanr. Well... how do I put this? We were not blown away. Meh. Nothing reinvented here. The shrimp with butter and garlic (黄油蒜味烤虾 - 12rmb) was passable, although I really couldn't taste butter or garlic and the price is high for just one skewered shrimp. The lamb skewer (烤羊肉串儿 - 6rmb) and spicy chicken wing (锦州烤鸡翅 - 12rmb) were both indistinguishable from most chuanr joints, simply a little more expensive I'm assuming because of the nice ambiance.
Luckily, the grandma-approved beef stew (40rmb) is winter weather satisfying, and delicious, although it's on it's hands and knees begging to be paired with rice that, inexplicably, is unavailable.
The Take-Away: So, plan a visit to White Tiger Village? They've got some kinks to iron out, especially with the grill and overly basic menu, but it's a great space for a date or an after-dinner drink. They also have an ambitious wine list, although I imagine all nuances would be lost in-between all those lashings of cumin and chili. The whole Beijing soft opening forgiveness policy should make this place nice to visit again in a few weeks once they've upped their barbecue game. Enjoy Autumn before it gets too cold for outdoor seating, because that terrace is simply too sexy to forget.
Oh hi guy!
White Tiger Village is at 84 Xiang Er Hutong.