Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Belgian beer in the daytime...

... is a very, very, very bad idea.

JK took me along to the Beijinger Restaurant Awards yesterday.

The only beer available was stupidly STRONG Chimay and Leffe. We both tried to be restrained in our consumption. We're still alive, so I suppose we were at least moderately successful in that.

But I haven't been that wrecked in a long time. And I didn't particularly enjoy it.

There is a reason why good beers have an alcohol content of 4% or 5%, not 8% or 9% or 10%.

Strangely, the award-winners do not seem to have been posted on The Beijinger's website yet. [Ah, here they are, finally. Just about impossible to find through the site's own search engine, but the results page has - after a while - made it up to second in the Google returns! Beijing food-blogger Shelley's selection - referred to me by The Weeble, thanks! - and Beijing Daze's picks from his past year of gourmandising make much more interesting reading.]

There were no surprises - well, apart from The Tree winning 'Best Pizza'.  WTF???  That's people who like the fact they can get a pizza at their favourite drinking hole voting, rather than people that really love pizza and have tried out several of the other options.  Blandly excellent Da Dong and the unaffordable-for-ordinary-mortals Maison Boulud won the two top prizes.  Modo and some Yunnan place whose name escapes me were the best newcomers.  It was nice to see a local favourite of mine - shortly to move into a new courtyard setting - Saveurs de Corée get the nod as the 'Best Korean' place.  Other than that, there was very little to divert our attention from the Belgian beer....


The Weeble said...

In general, those awards would seem to confirm my opinion of The Beijinger's know-nothing gringo readership. I suspect the main reason that so many of these places (Annie's? The Tree? Jinding Xuan? Muse? Ganges?) hang on to their titles year after year is that the voting public is comprised of fresh-off-the-boat expats who speak no Chinese, live in Anglophone bubbles, and rely on the previous year's awards to tell them where to eat.

Not that any of these places are actively bad -- but I don't think any of them has a fair claim to being the "best" of anything. (Except maybe for Maison Boulud and the other places you have to sell a kidney to afford; I wouldn't know.) I'm particularly irritated about The Tree: their 'za is decent enough, but Gung Ho was robbed, robbed. Better pizzas at lower prices, excellent salads, and they deliver.

The Weeble said...

One of my favorite Beijing bloggers, the food-focused "Haw Berries and Kumquats," posts her list of preferred Beijing restaurants. I'm going to have to check them out: most of them are new to me.

Froog said...

Cheers for that link, Weebs. I hadn't come across that blog before, but it seems to have lots of good stuff on there.

Froog said...

There is a certain amount of ossification in some categories, but I doubt if self-perpetuation comes from the prominence achieved through the awards themselves. While some of the choices might be eccentric (The Tree??!!) or based on rather limited experience, there's usually a good reason why these places become known and stay popular. Although, as Ms Hawberries observes, location may have as much to do with it as outright quality. The long-established expat enclaves around Sanlitun, Lido, and Chaoyang Park do seem to predominate.

I'd hope that's changing these days, though. The expat community is much larger, and much more diverse, than it was five years ago. While that's unfortunately tending to drive the foreign restaurants (even the burger places!) increasingly upmarket, we can hope that it might also lead to rather more experimentation, greater segmentation of the market, a break on the lock the habitual winners have enjoyed for so long.

The major problem with these awards is the lack of variety in the Chinese selections. But I suppose most people, like me, base their choices for Chinese eating on familiarity and convenience of location - we won't search obsessively for "the best Sichuan restaurant in town" if the one down the bottom of the road is OK. Identifying the best Indian or pizza joint, though, does seem like a doable challenge.

Froog said...

Interesting that you rate Gung Ho so highly. As a pizza fiend, your opinion on this must carry some weight.

I suspect its comparative newness may have counted against it - I think it made best runner-up.

Also, not sure how this category is defined, but... I gather their eat-in facilities are so limited as to be effectively non-existent, and this - if it doesn't disqualify them altogether - perhaps justifiably keeps them out of the top spot in a "restaurant awards".