Bar Review: Enoteca Beijing

Wine drinkers of the capital rejoice, your home has arrived. I previously gushed about Enoteca's two Shanghai branches, particularly the Anfu Rd location, and so when I found out their would be a Beijing outpost a few months back, I was happy, now that its finally open, I'm overjoyed.

Enoteca's Shanghai branches are very hip wine bars (they call them lounges) with dark colors and lots of wood that would seem appropriate in any of the world's major cities. The Beijing branch keeps up the cool appearance with the use of wood throughout and also large windows that allow people watching and viewing the impressive sky screen at The Place. Unlike the Shanghai locations, the Beijing location has pairs of lounge chairs around the window as well as couches that gives it more of a coffee house/lounge feeling, then a row of tables that are (very) tightly packed together. There is a bar area and also high tables when it gets to be standing room only. There is also the "cellar"/boutique area, but unlike the Shanghai locations, it doesn't seem like its big enough for private parties. Much like the Shanghai locations, the music selection was an excellent mix of R&B, jazz, and electronic played at the right levels.

The main reason to come here is for the wine, page after page of choices under RMB200 BY THE BOTTLE, including a number of selections for under RMB100, and we aren't talking about swill, these are all quality wines, mostly New World, heavy on South American choices. Food choices are extremely limited, the menu offers a few tapas (RMB40-130), sandwiches (RMB40-50), and salads (RMB30-50) that are executed well, but portions are small and very pricey. This is a place to go to drink, stop in for a pre/post dinner glass or two of wine and maybe have a snack as you convince yourself to order that second bottle, but if you're coming here hungry, you will be disappointed.

Service was a problem, but the managers were on hand and hustling to smooth out any service mistakes. The lounge is currently undergoing its "soft opening", so hopefully this was first night (or first week) jitters and these problems can be ironed out when the doors swing open for real.

Some people won't like the closeness of things (definitely not a place for those who areclaustrophobic), but it goes with the communal, friendly feeling of wine bars the world over. I can imagine that on most weekend nights, this space will be entirely packed and very noisy (much like the Shanghai locations), but last night when the crowd was at a minimum, the atmosphere was great. It's a place to chill out with a glass of wine and chat with friends, there are no tvs, and music is meant to be ambient, nothing more. The location is perfect, close enough to major office buildings like Guomao and Fortune Plaza to the west so that it can attract the white collar crowd after a hard days work, but also close to the embassy district to the east. Expect a nightly crowd of lawyers, bankers, and businessmen to rub shoulders with diplomats and other wine lovers of the city.

Enoteca is sure to become an instant favorite and bring a touch of culture to our fair capital.

9. Enoteca (sorry, I'm getting desperate, and it does serve food, so its included in the 100 Days, 100 Restaurnts series)
Northern Tower, The Place, 9 Guanghua Lu

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