This self-billed “art lab/bar/performing arts space” is in constant flux, from the rotating art exhibits and video installations to an ever-evolving menu. Come for the endearing quirks; no two chairs are the same, and the space is peppered with tchotchkes handmade by the staff. The eclectic decor pays homage to the building’s history – figure out which wall is a vestige of a Daoist temple and which that of an old tofu shop. Heightening the ever-so-alternative vibe, there’s a pet squirrel usually perched atop a bartender’s shoulder or snuggled in a patron’s lap. Ask the refreshingly unpretentious staff about their selection of rare imported whiskies and hard-to-find Mongolian vodka. For a burst of tangy sweetness, try Zajia’s Chinese liquor, homemade with fresh ingredients from Yunnan. There are two options – mugua jiu (木瓜酒) and meizi jiu (梅子酒) – infused with papaya and plum respectively. If you love la dolce vita, indulge in the Italian house wine or a zesty limoncello nightcap, all selected by Zajia’s creative director, Ambra Corinti. As you cozy up in a nook, sit amidst candles on the hutong steps or sprawl out in the open loft space, you can snack on over ten flavors of handmade, bite-sized dumplings. On any given night, you might walk into an informal Italian wine tasting, spontaneous jam session, international performance art piece, or improv show. Whatever type of experimental it is, it’s welcome at Zajia.
- Nanluoguxiang / Gulou Dongdajie 南锣鼓巷鼓楼东大街
- Hong En Daoist Temple (behind Bell Tower, next to Dia market and Contempio bar), Doufuchi Hutong, Xicheng District
- 156 0112 2252 (English)
- ¥¥¥ 50-80 per person