Baijiu is finally open and Edmonton can’t get enough of it. I can tell because I live a stumbling distance away and every visit thus far has shown a full house. Small Asian plates, boozy cocktails, old school hip-hop vibes right in the heart of downtown. I can’t ask for more.Owners Kevin Cam (North 53) and Justin Hill found a gem in the old Mercer Building, a 110-year old space, and a central part of 104 Street. I am in love with the interior: floral printed walls, pleated-leather seats, and a large booth that even Biggie himself would approve of. The mix of old Shanghai, OG hip-hop, and modern cocktail bar is right up my alley. Head Chef Alexei Boldireff understands Asian flavours, that I have no doubts. Read on for details of all the dishes I’ve tried so far or skip straight to cocktails if that’s your thing. Each Devilled Tea Eggs order comes with four halves. Black tea isn’t as predominant as a traditional Chinese tea egg but the pickled chilies, togarashi, and wasabi are enough to make you forget that. I miss the punch that came with the eggs from Baijiu’s pop-up but nevertheless, it’s a great way to kick off the night and one that I’ve ordered with every visit. The Spicy Stirfried Cabbage from the media launch wasn’t as spicy as I’d thought but the use of chimichurri was a nice twist to a dish common to my childhood dinner table. One of the most addictive bites on the menu: Korean Brussel Sprouts. I can’t fathom anybody not enjoying brussel sprouts after trying this dish. Mixed with gochujang, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and lime, you might want to order two bowls. I’ve had the Pork and Shrimp Lion’s Head Dumplings before at Baijiu’s past pop-up dinners and it’s nice to see that the dumplings have remained consistent. I would have liked a thinner wrapper given the style of dumpling but the flavours are on point. Sichuan Confit Chicken is one of the best dishes to order on the menu. It comes as one, two, or three pieces ($7/$13/$18) and each ones comes out crispy, deliciously confit, and subtly numbing from sichuan peppercorns. Dip your piece into caramelized onion emulsion for a sweeter bite or the house hot sauce to keep things kicking. Kung Pao Chickpeas serve as a vegetarian option on the menu. Chickpeas are cooked and tossed in a spicy kungpao sauce with bits of fried tofu, chilies, scallion, ginger, cashews, and lime. The portion is generous and extremely filling so I would reserve this dish only if you were in a bigger group. Fried rice is a staple in any Asian household and it remains the same with Baijiu. Char Siu Pico Fried Rice is traditional in the most sense: housemade BBQ pork, tofu, egg, bean sprouts, Chinese five spice, and hoisin. It’s the pico de gallo that makes this dish stand out. Korean Braised Beef Bao make for the perfect late night eat. Braised Pine Haven chuck with house ssamjang, kimchi, and fresh pear make for great fillings. Compared to the other dishes on the menu, this one is surprisingly more mellow in flavour, despite having kimchi in it. I tried the Tom Ka Clams last week and fell in love with the clams. You can’t get any fresher than with seafood sourced from Effing Seafoods. With that noted, I thought the rest of the dish could have used touch more seasoning. Our rice noodles came out broken into smaller pieces. I’m not sure if this was intentional, as it was served with a spoon and thereby easier to scoop and share, but the Vietnamese in my blood would prefer the full length of the noodle. Save room for dessert. Like the Devilled Tea Eggs, I always order the Fried Bao Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s a godsend after a night of cocktails and surprisingly filling. Think burger-sized, crispy outside, dough inside, and flavourful housemade ice cream. Thus far, I’ve had the coconut and green tea and both have been outstanding.
Let’s not kid ourselves. You can’t go to Baijiu without ordering a cocktail. It’s their namesake, the Chinese translation “white alcohol”. They’re ‘keepin’ it boozy’ so you’re better off letting them do just that and make a night of it. Bar manager Tommie Cheng has created a cocktail menu you’ll want to work your way through and so far, it’s been amazing. I’m still learning quite a bit about cocktails so I won’t say too much about the flavours and balances of bitter, sweet, and sour but here’s some quick thoughts so far.
Sakura Spritz umeshu, grapefruit, cointreau, lemon, rose & hibiscus, bubbles – Light & refreshing. Perfect for toasting and celebrating.
Baijiu Milk Punch dark rum, cremovo, chinese soy milk, cream, cinnamon & vanilla syrup, pistachio – Interesting to say the least, I don’t think I’ve ever seen soy milk and alcohol before. It’s not the drink for me but I will fully disclose that I do not like soy milk in the first place, nor similar milk-based alcoholic drinks like Bailey’s or egg nog.Happa/Grappa Flip – nigorizake, auchentoshen, honey grappa, lemon, orange bitters, whole egg green tea matcha powder – FAVOURITE. My god this cocktail is good. Last Days in Vietnam soju, cognac, sherry, black pepper & thai basil syrup, lime, lemongrass, soursop, birds eye chili – Was described to us as “alcoholic pho” but ignore that, it doesn’t resemble pho whatsoever. Having said that, it’s a unique blend of spices and aromas and definitely should be reserved for your last drink.
Cognac West cognac, sweet vermouth, chai tea infused pomegranate juice, angostura bitters – One word. Boozy.
Lazy Susanne rhum agricole, don julio blanco, aperol, guava puree, grapefruit juice, lime, cardamom bitters, absinthe – Delicious and very well balanced. Sweeter than I expected.Nipo-Brasileiro cachaça, pandan syrup, papaya puree, lime, plum bitters, sapporo – Second favourite on the menu. Hennessy & Green Tea – A must order. Shots of Hennessy followed by in-house mixture of green tea and simple syrup as chase. Guaranteed fun time with these.
Cocktails will run you $13-15 per drink, and shots of Hennessy & Green Tea will run you $9. Worth it!Overall, I’m a fan. Feel good vibes, good eats, and good drinks. I can’t ask more for my local watering hole and I think it makes for a great addition to the neighbourhood. Only the large booth is reservable, the rest walk-in only. Long live Baijiu! Baijiu
10364 104 Street