This venue has closed.
The Meatball Company may not have deviated from the evolutionary maxim of Beijing’s craft food outlets, but the recently opened sit-down space from this group of first-time restaurateurs has personality, style and balls to spare.
Not all crafty delivery services or pop-up concepts translate successfully into fully-fledged eateries. We have to admit, in spite of our enthusiasm for the launch of the Meatball Company’s delivery service in early 2015, we had our doubts. It was hard to imagine a restaurant devoted to what is essentially a component part rather than a meal in itself would amount to anything more than a novelty reserved for curious locals and nostalgic expats.
The space – a single, narrow deep-set room with whitewashed brick walls and diamond plate steel-topped tables – seats no more than a score. The close quarters give the place a sandwich shop vibe and it’s hard to imagine lingering over a meal perched high atop one of those spindly wooden stools. Thankfully, a bank of bay windows spills out to a couple of café tables and folding chairs for some al fresco relief.
Meatballs still come in pork, beef, chicken and veggie varieties but the addition of ‘hoagie’ rolls marks the arrival of the meatball sandwich (40RMB). We still recommend the pork balls; the nutty flavour of the minced meat stands up better than the beef, while the chicken and eggplant-based veggie balls err on the side of blandness.
The space has allowed for improvements in freshness and presentation across the board. The take-away containers have been ditched in place of mini cast iron skillets and the house sauces have come into their own. The tomato is well rounded, with subtle hints of garlic and basil that complement the natural sweetness of the red fruit, while the mushroom is luscious and creamy with an earthiness that goes down guilt free. When it comes to sides, don’t be a hero; stick with the classic pasta pomodoro (20RMB). The new ‘mac and cheese’ balls (25RMB) disappoint, the overly creamy filling lacks evidence of macaroni while the crunchy fried skin overwhelms any latent cheese flavour – but who goes to the Meatball Company for fried easy-mac?
Peroni beers come in the bottle (30RMB), soft drinks come in cans (15RMB), and their house-made seasonal sangria by the glass (35RMB) or the litre (120RMB). You’re able to order a cocktail from 4corners next door – a good thing too, as a glass of red wine would do a proper job washing down the superior orbs of succulent pork. For afters, the ‘sweet balls a la mode’ are a hot mess of chocolate richness (25RMB).
With an undeniable hipness that is sure to go over well with the Gulou crowd, The Meatball Company adds another level of depth to Beijing’s backstreet dining scene. Did we need a restaurant devoted to Italian meatballs? Probably not. Are we glad to have it? Definitely.