The past couple weeks have seen lots of welcome activity on the "restaurants near my house" front. Pretty sweet. Real exciting times, my friends, real exciting times.
Here's four new options to stave off life-ending starvation in the Gulou/Beixinqiao area.
Assuming a big, two-floor space on Dongsi Bei, just a few doors down from Panda Brewpub HQ, a new Xinjiang place called Jiang Hu Wei Dao is now open for your impaled meats needs. Decor is sort of... hip, I guess? Graffiti in restaurants is a hip thing, right? It's also got those Edison bulb lanterns too so that pretty much seals it. The food is a quality-minded presentation of classic, home-style Xinjiang. Classy Xinjiang. Kind of feels like the scion from a wealthy Xinjiang family is translating his or her culinary upbringing and background into a next generation-China emphasis on style and popular design.
This person also digs clocks.
At any rate, Jiang Hu Wei Dao is getting some love on dianping.com, particularly for the modern look of the place (one reviewer claims they've never seen a Xinjiang place "so clean" -- oof) but also because the food is pretty decent.
And yes, the food is really quite decent. Thumbs up. Take the classics from the menu at your local Xinjiang place and amp up the ingredients quality and overall complexity and you've got an idea at what you'd be in for at Jiang Hu Wei Dao.
The restaurant specialty on the first page of the menu is, of course, the roasted lamb scorpion and it's a litany of meat-on-skewer options after that. They've got the bases covered, and quality-wise, from what we sampled, it's definitely a cut above your average restaurant on the corner.
On the other hand, I think for a lot of people, the love of Xinjiang dining is in the straightforward manner in which it's enjoyed -- sitting on tiny-ass stools, blasting BBQ, beer, and loud, drunken conversations while bones and sticks rain to the ground. This is not that. This is something else.
Still, food's good enough to keep it in the mental Rolodex for out-of-country guests who've maybe read one too many articles about "cat meat", and want to sample Xinjiang cuisine in a safe looking environment. It's good. It's worth further attention.
Jiang Hu Wei Dao is at 26 Dongsi Bei Dajie, just 30 seconds from Beixinqiao Subway Station.
"Furnace * Chicken Suutak's" is the cocktail bar Furnace plus Korean-style fried chicken restaurant Chicken Suutak's operating out of it. Furnace opened just about a year ago on Gulou Dong Dajie, and although it wasn't a bad looking place, it looks like they're rethinking the whole "arty concrete cocktail bar" thing, probably because Cafe Zarah is just a few doors away and they've got that specific style absolutely perfected. Can't mess with Cafe Zarah. Damn, that place looks slick these days.
So now Furnace is a cocktail bar with a big cartoon chicken on the wall. Mkay. Chicken Suutak's comes to us in Gulou from their venue out in Wangjing, which deal in some pretty fine chicken.
Korean-style Fried Chicken: it's like a thing. For a good reason.
We got some side dishes but the less said about those the better. You'd only be going for the chicken. Don't mess up and get the side dishes like I did. Amateur hour. Just get the chicken.
This is the entry-level. Super crunchy, KFC-on-acid style fried chicken. A plate like this is 45rmb. You can re-up to 80rmb for a bigger deal.
It's really decadent, heavy, filthy fried chicken. Delicious. It's like a really great KFC sort of thing but it also makes you think, "Jeez, I'm a real citizen of the world, look at me, enjoying this Korean fried chicken, I should blog this." Pretty self-gratifying. They give you a honey mustard dipping sauce with that guy as well.
Straying away from the "Fried Chicken" option, you've also go the "Chili sauce" chicken and the "Soy-Sauce" chicken. Go with the soy-sauce. Really good. This is a 45rmb serving of the "boneless" option. Just a catcher's mitt of deep fried goodness.
Korean-style Fried Chicken: it's like a thing.
So yeah it's great to have this option in Gulou. Suutak's. Pretty great. It's heavy, heavy delicious chicken. Only issue is the dining environment in this cocktail bar Furnace / Korean fried chicken hybrid. It's a bit bizarre. Plus...
...okay, so check this out: the restaurant stereo is playing. And it's like Top 40 club banger bullshit. Boom, boom, boom. Like Katy Perry or whatever. Fine, whatever. BUT then also on top of that they had the flat-screen TV on behind the bar, cranked up to full volume. And that was looping official World Cup Shakira music videos from 2007. On full blast. Both of those going at the same time. On full blast.
Both of these obnoxious things going on at the exact same time and no one really gives a shit or even notices the pure cacophony happening here. Pretty aggravating.
It was like trying to eat fried chicken with my head jammed in a taxi cab driver's glove box while he leisurely toured around the 5th Ring Road for an hour or so, and then just for good measure I had a Sony Erickson cellphone from 2002 jammed up my ass, like fuck, man.
What I'm saying is get the delivery. They're open from 10:30am to 11pm. The number is 138 1119 8115. Just get a big order of the Soy-sauce fried chicken and you're good.
Furnace * Chicken Suutak's is at 98-2 Gulou Dongdajie.
Dude, what's the deal with Shakira? Who sings songs about soccer? Like... Soccer?
So there's a new Italian place on Yonghegong Dajie in between Cafe de la Poste (AKA Cafe de la Muerte) and Beixinqiao subway station, and it's got a real mouthful of a name: Trattoria Bocca Della Verita. Sounds like the most talented and beautiful person in a high school talent competition, right? Looks-wise, it's about as home-style Italian Trattoria as you can get. It's almost like they popped it out of a box off of Taobao like "Italian Restaurant Starter Kit" and set it up with the Italian version of one of those Ikea wrenches.
That's not meant to be belittling. It's really nice and homey. In very much the archetypal Italian restaurant kind of way. Food is mid-range, tilting towards a loftier aims with a big fat menu. It's separated into traditional antipasto, primo, secondo, pasta courses, with an ambitious range encompassing meats, seafoods, vegetarian, and pasta variations. And then a whole bunch of pizza.
We went for a bacon pasta dish and a salmon main course and it was... uneven. Both dishes disappointing. The pasta sauce was heavy and tart, without much depth or personality and the salmon wasn't cooked properly. Bummer. Sad face.
But the service was excellent. Like the best service I've ever had in Beijing. Chef came over to talk, the owner came over to check on me, and you could really feel that they were caring about what they were doing, and dumping their soul into this place. Lovely people. Gotta root for them.
So I'm definitely not writing them off this early into it, after just one experience. They've got some great soul. I'll go back and check out their pizza game.
This is the big one. New sushi place right on Gulou Dong Dajie, right next to the entrance of Baochao Hutong. They've got a Samurai suit in the window. Check it.
Pretty neat right?
I've only had one meal there but it was great. Really excellent sushi. Loved it. Going to have to go back and give it a proper review, bashing everything on the menu. But if you want to get in early, I really recommend going to check it out. It's strange and wonderful. Bring your wallet. Seriously expensive. Like 400rmb per person, just for food, and that's not even getting in to their high-end sake.
To be continued...
Yin Sushi is at 219 Gulou Dong Dajie.