Stick and I went exploring down the Russian street between the Ritan Park Jenny Lou’s and The Place. It’s at the eastern end of Ritan Bei Lu, where it meets Dongdaqiao Lu. The last time I was at The Place, it was all done up for Christmas. I thought it was fairy-light overload then, but the Chinese New Year decorations this week put those wimpy lil’ Christmas lights in their place.
(By the way, I’m not using The Place as a clever euphemism, like when I say “Some Guy” but I really mean Eric, and you know I mean Eric, otherwise I wouldn’t say it with such capitalization and emphasis. But this place is actually called The Place.)
(Not my own pic, from Jan & Felix’s Beijing photo page)
We found a cool Russian restaurant, the name on the outside is Time Bar. The English name on the business card is Mirage Bar and Restaurant, the Russian name is Russian Restaurant, and the Chinese name is Squiggly-Cross Line-Dash-Hyphen West Swirly-Dash Bar. I think reading 2 characters out of 5 is doing well.
I love going to foreign restuarants in Beijing. It’s a trip to see how worlds collide, I love reading the descriptions of the dishes for non-natives and I love seeing what parts of Western cultures make it to China, and which don’t. Chicken Kiev with yangzhou rice? Why not? It also keeps me from that tragic separation from Western food when I start to dream about cheese sandwiches.
The menu had English, Russian and Chinese (and pictures!), although our waiter didn’t speak English. It’s fine because “I want this one” and “2 beers, please!” are in my Chinese vocab. We heard the waitstaff speaking Russian at other tables, though. We were seated at a comfortable green-leather booth, raised up a few steps and separated by a railing from the cellphone-chatting crowd in the center of the room. Our table had a Tiffany-style ceiling lamp and old-fashioned sepia photos on the wall. There was a bit of tinsel wrapped around, oh, everything that wasn’t a customer, but I think that’s for Lunar New Year and not an everyday occurance. The food was good, and arrived quickly, and the beer was cold.
There is one thing about half-Western dining that troubles me. I don’t mind a resonant Fuwuyuan! at Muslim noodles, but I have trouble yelling for more beer when I have linen tablecloths and pretty china in front of me.
As we were finishing our dinner, a scowling waitress brought candles in red glasses. The main lights were dimmed and the TVs, which had been playing dueling episodes of Cyrillic-subtitled MTV, were silenced. After a short introduction in Russian, a saxaphonist began to play. Sometimes our wanderings work out just right, and we stumble into a new place to find a good dinner and nice music.
Later, we stopped in a coffee shop at The Place for lattes.
“Would you like these for here or to go?” the barista asked.
“For here,” Stick said.
“You can’t have them here, we’re closing.”