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Hot Tables: El Barrio, Royal Stacks, Pachapapi and more

The best Beijing restaurants and bars on our radar this week

Hot damn, Hot Tables is back. And the tables are hotter than ever. Our round-up of the city’s latest (and greatest) food and drink news in bite-sized chunks covers new openings, new menus, new dishes, hell, new reasons to live and breathe. A sprinkling of closings, too, because this is Beijing. Anyhow, here’s what’s on our radar this week – keep an eye out for full reviews in the coming weeks.

El Barrio

In a seeming bid for global domination, the F&B pros behind Italian institution Bottega have turned their attentions towards Mexican cuisine, joining the ranks of other Beijing favourites, such as Q Mex, Taco Bar and Palms LA

Still in soft opening, the menu currently features South American classics such as chicken chicharron (48RMB), nachos (68RMB), soft tacos (58-118RMB), fajitas (128RMB) and large sharing plates of wagyu beef, chicken mole and lamb birria (128-298RMB). Particular standouts include the ceviche tostadas (88RMB) and wagyu beef tacos, while the extensive drinks menu includes cocktails, wine and beer – take advantage of the last few weeks of Beijing's autumn weather by sipping margaritas and frozen batidas on its expansive outdoor terrace.

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81 Sanlitun Bei Lu (Sanlitun, --select--)

Chunli Chifan Gongsi (Sanlitun)

The sibling of similarly-titled-yet-completely-dissimilar joints Chunli Coffee and Chunli Chifan Gongsi, this Sanlitun Bar Street nook, unlike its Cantonese counterpart in Gongti, serves up full-fledged Taiwanese guabao (38RMB) – a much-needed and surprisingly rare find here in Beijing. Come for the ode-worthy pork belly bao (complete with requisite ultra-crispy crackling), stay for the deliciously sleazy fried chicken (32RMB) and stir-fried noodle hot dog (38RMB).

That being said, if guabao doesn't exactly light your fire, then check out the OG Chunli branch near Workers' Stadium. A cult-favourite with hip locals, this late-night joint serves up an array of tasty Cantonese street food classics. Just be prepared to wade through a sea of KOLs posing for photos in its grittily chic, Instagram-friendly confines.

Finally, rounding out Beijing's holy Chunli trinity is its aforementioned coffee spin-off, Chunli Coffee. Forget third-wave coffee, we've now entered an era where coffee served in a glass flask can be ordered and picked up from an actual hole in the wall, courtesy of a disembodied voice. With the going rate for a cold mocha currently 48RMB, we may have entered coffee's darkest timeline – but hey, at least the flasks look pretty cool. 

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33 Sanlitun Lu (Sanlitun, --select--)

Royal Stacks

Self-described as 'Australia's top burger chain', this Beijing newcomer burst onto the scene in late September with a fairly solid degree of fanfare – giving out 1,000 free burgers is a surefire way to generate buzz in your new subjects, it turns out.

The jury's still out on whether these burgers are actually true blue Aussie burgers, or whether Royal Stacks is actually Australia's – or Melbourne's – best burger chain (surely Grill'd, with its 125 branches nationwide, is more ubiquitous, the Aussies on our team would argue), but Royal Stacks certainly makes a welcome addition to Shilipu's burger-barren neighbourhood. 

All your standard fast food favourites can be found here, including a creative lineup of burgers (32-68RRMB), shakes (35-42RMB), ice cream, fries and loaded potato gems (19-45RMB) – don't miss their Tim Tam-loaded ice cream (24RMB) for an iconic taste of Down Under. For those wanting something a bit more exciting than your standard soft drink, they also offer beer and wine which, disappointingly, is not served in a box – sorry Aussies.

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Shilipu (Chaoyang, --select--)


Having lived a life of pop-ups and temporary permanence, the Beijing ambassador of Peruvian cuisine Pachakutiq has now returned in the bold form of Pachapapi, at Xinyuanli's ever more throbbing, emerging epicentre of the city's restaurant scene, Jinshang. Its stylish and sizeable new spot – alongside titans Bottega and Q Mex, plus newly landed heavyweight brewers Boxing Cat – should bring it a healthy dose of stability and a reliable flow of diners, but, most importantly, its revamped menu seems promising.

We tried out a few of the ceviches (from 98RMB), some excellent salads, sushi rolls (from 58RMB) and legit Peruvian mains that largely hit the standard that excited in the Pachakutiq days. Generous portion sizes, too, and this spot looks set to become a strong pick for a group feastin'. We'll be back for seconds soon.

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20 Xinyuanli Xi (Chaoyang, --select--)

Zhang Mama (Gulou)

Finally, in terrific news for spice lovers, the Jiaodaokou branch of Sichuan restaurant Zhang Mama reopened earlier this week, having previously seemed to be facing its end. It's lost its second storey and thus half its capacity, so if you loved the chaotic romance of queueing and squeezing onto a table at its former hutong location, then you’re gonna love this new look. 

If you prefer a calmer and more spacious experience, then even more good news – they also recently opened a mammoth branch just north of Guloudajie subway station, where the food hits the same spicy heights as its smaller joints, and stays true to itself at the same exceptional price point. In the apt words of the quite aptly named Spice Girls, Mama, we love you.

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100 Ande Lu (Gulou, Dongcheng)

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