Shunyi may have the biggest homes
and the best schools, but one thing
the area has never been famous
for is quality dining options.
Charcoal, the craft brew taproom
and barbecue joint that cool dads
and young parents have been
waiting for. It’s not every day you
hear about a new concept out in the
sticks, so we packed an overnight
bag and headed out to the country to
see for ourselves.
Situated above a BMW motorcycle
dealership and crowned with a
golden marquee, the space itself is
lofty and decked out in dark stained
hardwood, blackened steel and
exposed brick. We’ve seen this
before, at every taproom, ever, but
an abundance of natural light and
regalia from local brewers Arrow
Factory Brewing help Charcoal carve
out its own identity.
The long bar and high tables that
greet you at the entrance spill out
over a huge terrace, sure to be a
promising summer haunt for locals.
Set in the centre of the dining room,
huge tanks and snaking pipes make
Charcoal’s intentions clear. Ever
eager to get down to business, we
order a round of pints and set to it.
The menu focuses on American
barbecue, supplemented by a host
of traditional pub grub. We start
with a plate of their brisket nachos
(68RMB) and an order of corn dogs
(45RMB). The small mountain of
chopped brisket, shredded lettuce
and cheese goes down well with the light corn chips, but we would have
appreciated more effective layering
of the toppings. The tender beef and
stringy cheese quickly vanished
leaving only a sad pile of bare
chips. The corn dogs are equally
mammoth, but fresh from the fryer,
with a golden crunch that yields to
soft cornmeal and juicy hot dog –
truly juvenile and delicious.
Next we tuck into the pulled pork
sandwich (58RMB). Joined on the
plate by sliced pickles, coleslaw and
thick-cut sweet potato fries, this is
the real highlight of our meal. The pork is well cooked and left dry to
allow you to do your own saucing.
The fries, however, are far too sweet;
the addition of what can only be
the house dry rub is too much. The
coleslaw is also too watery for our
tastes, more like cooked sauerkraut
than a crunchy mix of raw cabbage.
The signature steak (178RMB for
250g) fairs only slightly better, but
the rib-eye is tragically overcooked for
medium rare – a waste of good beef.
The overall atmosphere is warm,
with the refined boisterousness of
a rich man’s basement hangout. With well-priced Arrow Factory
brews (25-45RMB), it’s easy to see
things getting a bit rowdy. There is
no question Charcoal is a worthy
addition to the Shunyi dining scene,
but with the growing number of craft
brew and barbecue joints in town, we
don’t see city dwellers making the
trip any time soon.