Tucked in the back of Shuangjing's Dongbo Street, just past mainstays The Brick and Lily's American Diner, is a new café and restaurant that has humble but unique aspirations for the neighborhood: Susan's Bar.
Wisely – given the ongoing effects that the coronavirus is wreaking on Beijing's F&B scene – proprietor and manager Susan Su has rented a preexisting bar space, coopting it by day to create a succinct menu of hearty Italian favorites.
The food is by far the main draw and was inspired by a recent trip Su took to Italy, where she devoured as much foccacia, lasagna, caprese salad, and pasta that the country's notoriously proud cuocos could throw at her. All of these items are reproduced here in mouthwateringly authentic variations using 100 percent Italian-imported ingredients. Likewise, Su commissioned an Italian chef to oversee the menu and recipes.
The housemade focaccia sandwiches (RMB 58) – stuffed with either grilled chicken, roast beef, salami, or smoked salmon – are a particular standout. The bread's edges are rendered brown and crunchy from the baking pan while the middle remains airy and light. Pickles, tomato, and rocket, as well as a slathering of olive oil, pesto, and a slab of melted gouda cheese make each mouthful worth savoring.
The lasagna (RMB 68) is equally as filling, thanks to layer upon layer of fresh pasta, bolognese, cheese sauce, and a piquant tomato sauce, all topped off with basil pesto and grated parmesan.
As with every Italian venue worth its salt, Susan's menu is rounded out with various coffees (RMB 16 for an espresso to RMB 30 for a hazelnut latte) as well as Birra Moretti (RMB 30) and premixed Laiba cocktails. They also have an all-day happy hour deal in which any focaccia sandwich comes with a free coffee (see the poster below for more details).
Overall, Susan's staff are warm and inviting, and what the design may lack in rustic Italian charm, it more than makes up for with a solid menu encompassing some of the best value-for-money Italian food throughout Beijing. With any luck, neighborhood restrictions will ease up soon and diners will be able to break in the front-facing terrace in proper aperitivo fashion.
Tue-Sun, midday-7pm. 1/F, 0104, Courtyard 3, 9 Dongbo Street, Chaoyang District (185 1195 1747)
Photos: Uni You