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Hot Tables: Rooftop domes, robots, oodles of noodles and more

The latest on Beijing's restaurants and bars

Hot Tables is our round-up of the city's latest (and greatest) food and drink news in bite-sized chunks, covering new openings, new menus, new dishes – hell, new reasons to live and breathe. Sometimes a sprinkling of closures, too, because this is Beijing. Anyhow, here's what's on our radar this week.
Destroy all human interaction

Destroy all human interaction

This restaurant is automatic. It's systematic. It's Haidilao-matic. The hotpot chain loved for its all-round hospitable service and noodle-spinning staff has made headlines recently with the launch of its first automated 'smart restaurant', over at World City in the CBD. No more 'fuwuyuuuaaaan' shouting here, as orders are placed on iPads, while in the kitchen, robotic arms process your order, before robot waiters whizz to your table-side to deliver your items; they still need a human accomplice to put the dishes on the table and, for now, the machines can only work for four hours before running out of battery – a bit like that colleague of yours. This is probably where the robot takeover begins, though. They're coming for your job next.

Under the dome

Under the dome

There's been a cloud hanging over our city this week – a pollution cloud, that is, and one that was previously threatening to put a damper on everyone's pre-Christmas fall festivities. Good news, then, that the enterprising folks at French patisserie Tienstiens have set up a bunch of blow-up, geodesic domes on their Sanlitun rooftop to protect you from Beijing's chilly, PM2.5 air.

To be frank, these domes won’t actually be doing much to protect you from pollution, but they’re super cosy – and dare we say it, hygge – making them perfect for taking plenty of Insta shots (we suspect that’s their main purpose), or curling up and slurping back some hot wine (our main purpose). They've even supplied blankets, letting you comfortably hibernate under the guise of being social.

Pho-nomenal noodles

Pho-nomenal noodles

Having already mastered the art of making stellar banh mi, sandwich-slingers Rollbox have turned their culinary abilities towards Vietnam's other pride and joy, pho. Currently only dishing up one type of pho (beef, in this case), Rollbox's noodle soup (68RMB) contains all the classic fixings of a combination beef pho, including meatballs, tendon, tripe plus all the requisite garnishes of sprouts, Vietnamese mint and lime. Generously portioned and hearty, it's just what the doctor ordered this winter.

Oodles of noodles

While we’re on the topic of national pride-inducing noodle soups, iconic Taiwanese noodle chain Chef Hung (洪师父) has finally made its way across the pond, opening two chains in the capital, the most recent in the past week. Specialising in Taiwanese beef noodle soup, Chef Hung’s nabbed the top award at the Taipei International Beef Noodle Competition (which is apparently an actual thing) three years in a row.

Classic beef noodle soup starts at 39RMB and goes up to 45RMB with the addition of tendon and tripe (don’t knock it – the meat’s braised until tender and is a classic inclusion in Taiwanese beef noodle soup). If soup’s not your thing, then there’s also braised pork rice (30RMB), stewed chicken leg rice (35RMB), plus sides of pig's ears (16RMB) and stewed tripe (28RMB).

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7 Sanfeng Hutong (Chaoyang, Chaoyang)
Botany returns

Botany returns

After an abruptly unexpected closure – is there any other kind of Beijing closure? – last month, former apartment bar Botany is back, having made the long trek from Yoolee Plaza's second floor to its first floor, next to Yunnan restaurant In and Out. Fans of Botany's unique, ingredient-driven cocktails will be relieved to know that the menu remains unchanged, and still features a full gamut of big-boy scotches, whiskies and bourbons. What has changed, however, is its swanky new digs, complete with a soaring ceiling and comfortable array of mismatched furniture. The best bit of décor though? Botany's resident furry good boi (find him above), sitting ready and waiting for all the cuddles.

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