We were fairly smitten with the first Cedar’s when it opened its doors in summer 2012, just west of Yashow Market. Its aims are noble: good eats that don’t break the bank. A shwarma wrap for 20RMB is enough to pad our stomach for a night out in Sanlitun and all the alcohol that comes with it. And now, just down the road, you can get the pita and
the liquor at the same spot. So is it a winning combo?
Here’s the short answer: hell no. The space, vacated by fallen wine bar Real Vino, across the street from the Gongti West nightclub Offensive Line – that isn’t even an American football reference – is appallingly decorated. Picture frames all hang topsy turvy, looking as if no one’s gotten around to straightening them after a particularly violent earthquake. Flags of the world dangle above the bar, in the sort of way that suggests a Paddy O’Shea’s type international sports joint, but things take a turn for the urban upstairs, where there’s hardly a stretch of wall that hasn’t been covered in spray-paint. Nothing says ‘hip’ like a bit of graffiti, right? Most jarring of all is the music, a seamless mix blending West Coast hip-hop and what sounds like kiddie cover band Kidz Bop. It’s only bad for a little while before it’s absolutely hilarious, especially when it’s playing through for the second time during your visit.
Maybe it’s the environs influencing our taste buds, but the shwarma (35RMB) has gone downhill. The meat is grisly. Falafel (35RMB) is done loads better at Biteapitta. Hummus (25RMB) is moreish, but the light olive oil tastes cheap. On to the cocktails (all 40RMB): the snowball is an utter waste of Advocaat, the ‘chocolate screaming’ screams ‘artificial’ and the mojito just barely receives a passing grade. However, half way through smoking our huge bowl of watermelon shisha (80RMB) – about 20 or 30 minutes in – the bartender sent over frozen strawberry margaritas (40RMB) on the house, which, we concede, were actually kind of delicious. For all its faults, an hour spent enjoying the hookah, hummus and margaritas at Cedar’s is a better hour than you’ll spend almost anywhere else on the street. But that’s no glowing recommendation.