You name it, I'll make it," is the proud boast of owner-manager
Patrick Liu, 29, when asked about the cocktail selection
at Woo Me Café, the latest addition to the northwest
university district neighborhood bar and restaurant
scene. A quick glance at the menu reveals there is already
a good selection of classics: Martini, Long Island Ice
Tea, Pia Colada, as well as plenty of naughty specialities
such as Slippery Nipple, Sex On the Beach and Blow Job.
The daily specials board includes a few non-alcoholic
options, and if you're still not satisfied with the
choices you can always challenge the bartender to live
up to his word.
What really commands attention, though,
is how much bang you get for your renminbi. Most cocktails
cost around RMB20, while large draught Yanjing is only
RMB5 per mug and Qingdao is only RMB10 a bottle. I must
admit I am a little skeptical, but Liu, a professional
barman with 10 years' experience in China and abroad,
takes all of five minutes to mix our orders - a potent
Kamikaze and a perfectly smooth Banana Mudslide - and
then reappears periodically with a kaleidoscopic array
of long and short drinks. Liu says his goal is to provide
quality and choice at rock-bottom prices.
"When I order a classic cocktail
in Sanlitun, they never know how to make it," he says.
"Bloody Marys come with no celery, or Worcestershire
I have to agree - I remember on one
occasion seeing soy sauce used as a substitute, with
predictably dire results.
The setting for all this is a small
bar-cum-restaurant not far from the Beijing Language
and Culture University. The decor is reminiscent of
a cheap Western coffee shop, clean but nothing out of
the ordinary. Nothing, that is, apart from the cocktail
bar at one end, complete with rows of spirit bottles
under subdued blue lights. A hodge-podge of modern and
French impressionist prints line the walls, and jazz
plays softly in the background. We arrive in the early
afternoon, a large group of Chinese are finishing lunch,
while students from nearby campuses sit alone or in
groups, reading and sipping flavored coffee (RMB3 per
cup). In the evenings the lights dim and the beer flows
until daylight rolls around again.
After sampling a few of the cocktails
we decide it's time to tackle the food menu, which consists
mainly of typical Chinese jiachangcai (home-style food),
as well as a selection of Xinjiang specialties (Muslim-influenced
cuisine from northwestern China). Prices are on a par
with budget Chinese restaurants: cold snacks and fried
noodles are around RMB5, while most hot dishes vary
from RMB10 to RMB20. We choose a Xinjiang pork dish,
xiaoshaozhurou' succulent strips of meat in a crisp
batter coating, garnished with fresh coriander. A sprinkling
of fennel seeds supplies a subtle, savory aftertaste.
Next comes a whole fish stewed with
peppers and vinegar, cujiaoyu, that peers reproachfully
from one end of the soup while we eat its tail from
the other. Most popular among our party is another Xinjiang
dish, intriguingly named yaqianrou (Toothpick Mutton).
This turns out to be a large plate piled high with mini
lamb kebabs, roasted to perfection and coated in a spicy
herb mixture. This is great as part of the meal, but
I suspect might be even better as finger food to munch
on with a round of cold beers.
Maybe Woo Me has something of an
identity crisis as it tries to choose between cocktail
bar, beer hall, coffee shop and restaurant. But it does
offer great choice and value. If you're already living
in the neighborhood, or just visiting, and can't decide
where to go, this might be just the place. You can even
claim a free Mao badge if you spend over RMB50.