Few would argue that Modernista
have Gulou’s twin cash cows of hipsters and Eurotrash gripped firmly in their tapas-scented claws. Breaking that monopoly would require a priest, chicken blood and the ghost of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. So setting up a new hutong tapas bar a stone’s throw away might not seem wise. But Mas (meaning ‘more’) and its quartet of owners may well have more (‘mas’) than an ace up their respective sleeves.
First of all, Mas is slap-bang between Dongzhimen and Gulou, an area seriously lacking in serviceable bars – we’re talking a desert here; Daffy Duck slaking his thirst on fantasy booze mirages. Secondly, it’s got a niche: decent cocktails (40-55RMB), a pretty cheap house wine by the glass (30RMB) and precious little beer (Tiger 30RMB). Given its nearest rival is the chilly Siberian bear hug of White Nights and its ten varieties of Baltika, a pinch of ambition goes a long way.
A choice of five daiquiris (50-55RMB), the overly sweet ‘susu sour’ (45RMB) with ice ball (alas, not carved) and a fine caipirinha (40RMB) mark a cocktail menu that’s 30-plus strong. Daily happy hours (6-9pm), with 30RMB mojitos among others, and 10RMB Beijing Draught, should further entice. It’s no Q Bar or Apothecary
, but it beats the usual hutong overreachers. So far, so refreshing.
For food, its mostly tapas and some Cuban classics. The fist-sized fish tacos (50RMB) are creamy, rich and devilishly moreish. The pork tacos (50RMB) are just as mouth-moistening, and slightly heavier on the stomach. The pressed Cuban sandwich (45RMB) is sufficiently rustic: there’s a slight hint of mustard between the ham, pork and cheese.
By Gareth Clark