A decidedly champagne-free edition of On the Radar this week. Three new neighborhood spots looking to get added to your rotation. The newest one from local beer guru Jackie, Jackie's Beer Nest 2, a north Jing'an doner kebab spot called Grill and Chill, and the new Bavarian schnitzel and beer spot on Haifang Lu Zeitgeist.
Jackie's Beer Nest 2
What It Is: Picking up from last week, here's another sequel venue to a well-respected bar: Jackie's Beer Nest 2 is now open in the basement of Hamburg House on the edge of Old Town, around the corner from the southern Bund area and Xintiandi.
It's been a bit of a winding road for Jackie, Shanghai's most idealistic craft beer hero. First emerging on the scene in 2008 (right in the midst of the Shanghai wine bar craze, incidentally), he opened the eponymous Beer Nest on Zhaozhou Lu. The hole-in-the-wall venue is still around today, although he himself says it could close any day now due to ongoing rezoning in the area. Across from him, a 100-year-old farmer's market was just cleared out last week. He gives the original Nest a year, tops. A few years back, Jackie opened another one for about five minutes in Pudong, shuttering that one because he and his wife found it too stressful and tiring operating two shops.
Now, he's landed a big ole space (and a partnership that's enabled him to operate rent-free) with / at Hamburg House. His mission is the same -- to communicate a Chinese identity in the medium of craft beer and to educate a local audience to appreciate said identity -- but now he's going all-in on it, full throttle with this larger space, beer garden, and this state-of-the-art 100-taps system.
So. The beer. As of this writing, Jackie estimated 50 taps to be up and running within the next three days, with all 100 taps going within a few weeks. He's looking to do the majority of it in Chinese labels, with imported beer from small operations -- from breweries with no more than 10 to 20 people -- imported from abroad. In particular, Kiwi craft beer brand Epic will be well represented. Jackie has a partnership going with them, which also dovetails into his activities with the Shanghai Homebrewer's Association.
Pints of everything will be one price: 60rmb. Hey, that makes life easy.
He's looking to do workshops, tasting and training sessions, and his own beer festival on the premises later this year. Maybe October. Between the beer garden and the basement bar, he can fit in 150-200 people or so. He's even growing his own hops. He's a man with a plan.
Food. Is all dirt cheap classic Shanghainese street food. And -- well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised -- but it's really, really good.
Fried wonton with olive oil 25rmb
Fried pork chop 25rmb
Seriously, don't skip on the bar snacks. Really tasty. Although this last one, the burger with the fries on top recalls a certain specialty burger from a certain Beijing-based craft brewery called Slow Boat. It doesn't compare. I'd stick to the strictly Shanghainese stuff.
Pirate burger 50rmb
First Impressions: You'd be hard pressed to find a more passionate guy about China's craft beer potential than Jackie. His enthusiasm and idealism is infectious. You want him to succeed. He's punk as fuck. At a time when Shanghai's craft beer seems increasingly consolidated into fewer hands -- hands of non-Chinese origin, at that -- his presence and mandate is all the more necessary in Shanghai. He's attempting to create a platform for local and national brewers to be featured alongside their international counterparts, thereby exhibiting to his drinking audience the quality and character of homegrown beer. And, conversely, of craft beer in general.
I asked him if he's going to pour Goose Island. He just scoffed and rolled his eyes.
Cheers to you, David versus Goliath. Drink the rich.
The place is no frills -- it definitely looks like it's the basement of a German restaurant for-real -- but if you're interested in Shanghai craft beer, Jackie is the person to know. Give it a week or two for him to get his taps flowing.
Grill & Chill
What It Is: A small, slightly haphazard kebab shop facing onto Changping Lu, Grill & Chill has a simple idea; 'bab shop. You like 'bab? You got 'bab.
The space does immediately remind you of a slightly upper-scale kebab shop. Basically that means no grease coating the walls yet or permanent stains on the floor, and with the front window open, it feels pleasantly airy and bright. And, crucially, you can see everything that's going on around the 'bab-machine. This place is definitely going for the street-front kebab shop; expect people with beer in one hand and wrap in the other.
At the moment, the shop's still in the developmental phase despite being open for about two weeks or so. They've only got beef doner available, in wrap, panini and platter options for 58rmb, 62rmb and 78rmb. Later on they'll be bringing in more meat options. Sides are potatoe wedges, onion rings and pom tapas. Similarly, the dips are limited to hummus, baba ganoush and haydari (38rmb each). Two lunch options available too; 48rmb for a wrap with a soft drink and 62 for a platter with the same.
There's not that much more to say beyond that yet, except that everything seems to be a bit in flux. Portion sizes, serving time, even prices seem to change a bit week to week.
First Impressions: I might catch some flak for making a decision on it "before it's ready," but it's been open two weeks and and people's experiences have been mixed. Mine was such. I'll say I was happy to taste some decent doner again. Once the novelty of that taste wore off though, for a 78rmb platter, I was left hoping for more, juicier meat. I feel like the wrap should be a bit more than what tasted and looked like a supermarket tortilla. Their yogurt sauce was pretty good, though.
So it's not there yet. Definitely not there yet. I hope it will be. Give it a try in like a month, if only because that street-corner bab-shop doner flavor's actually pretty hard to come by here. Just prepare yourself for varying degrees of disappointment.
What It Is: The result of a couple of German dudes and a roughly 5-day window to convert Bubbly Nation into a Bavarian "pub," Zeitgeist is basically that. They serve beer. They serve German food. They've got shelves of beer steins. They don't have lederhosen or Alpine hats hanging on the walls.
First off, nice interior. Mix of low and high tables, a terrace looking into the back courtyard where there was a Christmas Market last year, a tall bar. They've got the dark wood tables and chairs but they haven't tried to make it look like it's a ski lodge or anything. This deserves mentioning because "German restaurant in China" tends to cause nervous twitches in actual Germans. It looks like a real place, guys.
The beer selection's small but set to slowly expand. Franziskaner helped in the set-up (their name is stenciled into the tables), so their Wheat Beer Naturtrub and Dunkel are going for 55rmb per bottle and there're plans to have them on tap soon too. There's also a Braunfelser Schloss 1868 (35rmb for 0.5l) and a Brander Urstoff Lager (45rmb for 0.5l). Naturally there's Goose (55rmb), praise be the Goose, and a smattering of cocktails, wines, spritzers, etc. Solid array of g 'n' ts, too; Monkey 47 for 95rmb.
Chef Markus is keeping the food homey, German and down-to-earth. Although there's a lunch menu with a burger and a fajita, the always-available "real" menu is dominated by names you can't pronounce without structural support to your epiglotis. You've got your Weiner Schnitzel mit Pommes und Gemischtem Salat (88rmb), Schweinsbraten mit Dunkelbiersauce, Blaukraut oder Sauerkraut und Semmelknodel (108rmb) and Curry Wurst mit Pommes (78rmb). That's a schntizel, a roast pork and a curry wurst. There's goulash and such as appetizers, kaiserschmarrn and more for desert, and a couple sharing platters and some bites & snacks available for all-day binges. Such as the Bayrische Fleischpflanzerl mit Dunkelbiersauce und Kartoffelpuree (65rmb). They've threatened to introduce a pork knuckle in short order, as well as trout. In other words, yup, pretty German.
First Impressions: I don't know if I spelled any of those names correctly, but that was a damn good Schnitzel, and their potato salad was awesome. That Schloss 1868 was a terrific discovery, never had it before but really enjoyed it. At 35rmb for .5l and the kind of southern German cooking that makes me want to say "chortle," "quaff," and "prost" instead of "laugh," "drink," and "cheers," this would probably end up being my go-to drinking establishment if I lived closer. Would probably get me one of those steins with my name on it to sit over the bar.
This, too, could be yours.
They're in soft open, but they've already got an all-you-cant-eat Schnitzel night and a Wednesday BBQ in the works, apart from that pork knuckle and trout incoming I mentioned. Give them a couple weeks to really get into the swing of things. Solid-looking place with a lot of promise for the Teutonophiles in Shanghai.