I tried to be blasé about writing this post, but there's just no way to hide the cheese doodles... Shaun White came to Beijing last weeked and we, the Choz and I, were called upon to show him and his band a good time! YESSSS. I remember being a snowboard-loving teen, watching Shaun catapult across the TV screen during the Vancouver Winter Olympics, in sheer amazement. In real life he's pretty soft spoken, very funny and when free from an enveloping cocoon of snow gear, he's a slighter, slimmer figure than I'd expected (the guys at the snowboard shop in Sanlitun SOHO couldn't believe it; "but his legs are so slim, how'd they get his board up in the air?!").
Last weekend was the annual Air + Style snowboarding event, held at the Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium -- in which an enormous snowboarding slope magically appears in the center of the stadium and pro snowboarders compete to ride it for the longest airtime and sickest tricks. Shaun no longer competes, but even better -- he runs the show and also performs onstage with his band, Bad Things.
We nailed down three food experiences they must "do": Jiumen Xiaochi ("Nine Doors Snacks") for Beijing-style street food served up stall-by-stall (except indoors, clean and not scary); Dali Courtyard for delicious Yunnan cuisine in a quiet courtyard setting with an easy, no-order, "bring it on" set menu; and our favorite yakitori den, Tori Tei, a beloved local fixture.
Instead of rattling on about it, I'll post some moments [NOTE: photos coming soon. 12:30am now and so tired] which I hope capture the hilarity of the evening (sadly, I do not have a photo of Shaun's proudest China purchase: a screeching bright, light-blue furry sweater with a giant cat's face on the front, eyes gleaming madly like the Cheshire Cat). I'll also post more information about the three restaurants, all of which the boys of Bad Things loved and which I'd recommend to anyone visiting Beijing looking for a down-to-earth, local and delicious experience.
Address: 1 Xiaoyu Hutong, Houhai (Xicheng district) // 西城区后海孝友胡同1号
Opening hours: Daily 10:00 - 22:00 (cash only) // Tel: +86 10 6402 6868
"Named after the nine major gateways of the old walled city, Jiumen Xiaochi was originally located in Qianmen, before being selected as a national flagship tourist spot and subsequently relocated to Houhai’s narrow hutongs. Designed like a hawkers street, diners purchase traditional Beijing eats with a pre-paid meal card (minimum RMB 50, any leftover credit is refundable). Walk up and down the stalls to see chefs live at work, pulling noodles, chopping vegetables and filling dumplings. Most of the chefs are descendants of imperial chefs." (Review by The Beijinger)
Address: 67 Xiaojingchang Hutong, Gulou Dongdajie (Dongcheng district) // 东城区鼓楼东大街小经厂胡同67号
Opening hours: 12:30 - 14:00 and 18:00 - 21:30 daily // Tel: +86 10 8404 1430
Yunnan cuisine is served here in a relaxed, prix-fixe style which lets you sit back and talk over potent bamboo liquor while the food comes at you hard and fast. This regional cuisine comes from the border of China and Vietnam, so you'll get nipped and buzzed by herbs and spices uncommon in other Chinese cuisines. Jared loved the simple-looking lettuce salad that packed a huge lemongrass-y punch; he also enjoyed the "noodles or rice" interlude, 'cause, I also thought, "Choose Your Own Adventure!!" (except no skipping a few pages ahead). The mixed mushrooms with herbs and "Yunnan halloumi" of seared, squidgy goat's cheese made our tongues sprout wings.
Address: 8 Xinyuanli Zhongjie (Chaoyang district). Tip: it's much easier to take a cab up to the northern bend of Xindong Lu where you'll see a gated entry to "Xinyuan Xi Li Community" and enter there // 朝阳区新源里中街8号（北新东路，新原西里区）
Opening hours: 17:30 - 1:00 daily // Tel: +86 10 6461 4513
Choz's old haunt, this joint has a special place in his heart not just for its oversized sake bottles on offer but as the favored annual birthday venue for about 8 years running. Why? Maybe it's the cozy atmosphere of a little wooden shack and long communal table down the middle, always ensuring a healthy dose of rowdy revelry (the sake helps too); the sprightly head waitress, who's always been there but mysteriously never ages; the incredible yakitori, skewers upon skewers of yummy, charcoal-y and insanely juicy chicken parts; maybe you should just go there, now.