The path to Skewers begins with Gongti mega-clubs. Clubbing leads to drinking. Drinking leads to dancing. Dancing leads to hunger. And hunger, if you wind up at Skewers, leads to suffering. It may not have quite the laundry list of repercussions that some paths of ill repute have, like, say, the path to the Dark Side, but the upscale chuan’r
restaurant down the road from Beijing’s domino row of nightlife emporiums certainly doesn’t buck the trend set by its neighbours.
But that’s the point. Skewers thrives off a local dependency. Hordes of drunken partygoers stumble out with teeth primed to gnash, in search of the nearest street stand serving barbecued meat. Skewers indulges this base desire, and certainly is trying to making a fat profit in the process. Why charge pocket change for lamb chunks on a stick when you could hide the grimy grill away in the kitchen of some tacky party-central real estate and charge seven times as much? It’s a painfully obvious business strategy. And that’s precisely what Skewers has done.
We first arrive at Skewers to find the place closed. It’s 1pm and, having not eaten breakfast, a chuan’r feast sounds like a reasonable way to satisfy our furious stomachs. But Skewers isn’t after the lunch crowd. The late opening hours correlate precisely with the time range of pre-party, mid-party and post-party gorges.
Returning the next day at 8pm, we proceed to order one of nearly everything. Our skewers roll in like a wave of meat, the stacks of tiny metal spears growing proportionally with our disappointment at the portions and flavour. The standard lamb skewers (15RMB) are merely double the size of their 2RMB street counterparts and look paltry compared to the 20RMB, protein-laden broadswords at temple fairs or Xinjiang restaurants. The meat here is higher quality than you’d get by the roadside, but is seasoned no better.
The same goes for everything on the menu, with notable exceptions being the juicy and tender lamb cutlet (32RMB) and the meaty and moreish gingko nuts (16RMB), although the latter is served in a heaping bed of salt that would make a slug implode so quickly it might tear a hole in the fabric of the universe. Ambience is fire-themed, save for the bathroom, which features distressingly sexual images – the women’s bathroom in particular – that feel stolen from the debaucheries of clubs across the street.
Skewers isn’t good sober food, you’d have to be on the verge of blacking out to even enjoy it drunk, and the prices will empty your wallet faster than a mugger, especially after a night of blisteringly expensive Tsingtaos at Babyface. Plastered or not, we wouldn’t touch Skewers with a ten-foot kebab pole.