Cuisine: Family-style/chuar

Area: Gulou

Anyone making a trip to Bed Bar for the best mojitos in town should definitely make Kaixin Lai part of the evening as well.

This little hole in the wall serves up chuar, spicy chicken wings, etc. – These are all good late-night snacks, but their xiangla tudousi, or “spice-fragrant potato silk,” might just be the best drunk food known to man.

I don’t believe that xiangla tudousi is on the menu, so you’ll just have to ask: xiānglà tǔdòu sī or 香辣土豆丝. But the waiters always know what you’re talking about, and when it comes, it’s worth the effort:

Xiangla tudousi is made of deep-fried julienned potatoes – shoestring fries – fried in chili-garlic oil. Tossed with cilantro and a little bit of sugar, it’s crunchy, spicy, sweet, salty – it hits every note, and craving, perfectly.

Another winner is yuxiang qiezi, 鱼香茄子 or fish-fragrant eggplant. Kaixin Lai’s version is, amazingly, not too greasy, and the sweet and sour notes are perfectly balanced. They use a lot of pickled chili to great effect, and it looks nice too:

Chuar is good here as well – but nothing different from the thousands of other chuar places around the city. Kaixin Lai’s main problem is consistency – not really surprising for a hole-in-the-wall type place. In five visits, the potatoes were slightly burned once, and another time the waiter forgot our order. Don’t be afraid to complain – you’ll usually get what you want. And Kaixin Lai is always good enough to keep me coming back.

Kaixin Lai Wing & Chuar Bar. 100 Jiugulou Dajie, at the intersection with Zhangwang Hutong. Gulou subway station exit B. Open every day, from before noon until around 2 a.m.

开心来翅吧棒骨馆。旧鼓楼大街100号 (旧鼓楼大街和张旺胡同。鼓楼地铁站出口B.)

Google Map

(FYI, to anyone who also loves late-night poutine, there’s another hole-in-the-wall called the Box serving poutine across the street.)