Tag Archives: Candles Steakhouse

The Not-Quite Belgian Beer Bar

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When I was 13 years old, I walked into a bar and was served my first beer. This was in Mons, Belgium — where drinking laws regarding age practically do not exist. Attitudes regarding alcohol, in general, are different than in the US. This was in the late 1980’s, and the bar stood right outside of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe’s (SHAPE) rear gate. SHAPE is the military headquarters of NATO, and my high school was on that base. And with that first sip of Stella Artois, a life-long love-hate relationship with beer began. Specifically, the love was with Belgian and Dutch brews. I can’t take a sip of Chimay or Duvel without feeling nostalgia for my teenage years.

One can easily imagine how excited I would get upon hearing about a new Belgian beer bar in Changzhou and Xinbei in particular. Now, imagine that I can walk to it from my home, and you can understand how even more excited I would be. You mean I can have Chimay on tap? Hoegaarden on tap? So, one night, I went there with two friends. And it is hard to say I walked away from the bar happy. I wasn’t.

It wasn’t the decor. The inside of the place looks great and spacious. It wasn’t the location, either. Being next to Monkey King Pizza and Candles Steakhouse makes it really easy to find, even if you are taking the bus. My problem is from their main selling point: the beer itself. Now, keep in mind I walked in wanting to like this place very much. I love Belgian beer, and they serve it. It’s not hard. It’s not rocket science.

So, I ordered a Chimay, a Hoegaarden, and a very “not Belgian” Guinness on tap. All of them tasted slightly off. My two friends were drinking Becks — also as drafts. They complained about the same thing. The beer tasted slightly off and mostly flat. Take Guinness, for example. The whole selling point of having it as a draft comes down to carbonation, bubbles, and a thick head. These drafts had none of that.

In the end, I think something is wrong with this bar’s system of taps. I doubt the beer was flat when the kegs were delivered. The problem was just consistent with too many beers that they offered. In the end, that may be a good thing. Draft systems can be fixed, and when this bar fixes their taps, I will go back, drink Belgian beer, and be very happy. But only then. Paying lots of money for a flat Chimay is just a non starter.

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One badly carbonated Irish Guinness … at a Belgian beer bar

Candle’s Mediocre Jeager Schnitzel

Changzhou’s foreigner population contains a high number of Germans. They tend to be engineers — logic dictates that they would not be English teachers. This demographic reality can be seen on high-priced restaurant menus meant to attract expats and their money. And by this, I do not mean Jeagerwirt or Chocolate’s in Wujin — both actually boast themselves as “German Restaurants.” Rightfully so, too. Both are great.  I am talking more about the generally themed “foreign” eateries that want to be everything to everybody.

Candles in Xinbei is such a place. Their menu tries to excite Australians, Americans, Brits, Germans, and more. This is a place often championed as “The Place” to hang out in Changzhou. And that’s true — but only if you live in Xinbei.  The people who champion this place the as the greatest ever are people who live in Xinbei and think Wujin is a waste of time.

I now live in Xinbei, and I can tell you that when it comes to German food, Candles is mediocre. It’s great, because, well, there is nothing else in the Xinbei district that competes. When you have nothing else, and you only have one option, mediocre is quite awesome. Think about it. What other choice do you have? You don’t.

I thought about this, because I ate a Jeager Schnitzel at Candles for lunch, and it was nice. But. But! But, Jeagerwirt  and Chocolate’s in Wujin do this particular dish much better. Please don’t assume this as “hating” on Candles. I would eat this again and eat it again at Candles.