Having a bad day? Alienated in the suburbs and despairing of your China project? Juicy Squared, now available in Longhua’s ICO Mall, is the familiar Western refuge you need.
With only one rice dish on the menu (a cheesy gratin, RMB48) the entrees of the cafe are decidedly foreign-facing, with the sandwiches, steaks, pasta and breakfast starches that expats often miss. Especially in the northern reaches of the city, that’s a welcome change. Leather-style booths, walls of artificial plants and a books-and-deer interior scheme complete the feeling of (almost) home.
We were genuinely surprised that the combo of black tea and “cheese cover” (RMB30) actually work well together. The touch of salt in the cream cheese topping balances well with the sweetened tea.
The grilled sirloin steak (RMB69) is acceptable, especially if you’re craving red meat. It’s tender and carries the taste of the mildly sweet pepper sauce. It’s not the quality you’ll find at the new steakhouses of the CBD, but it’s served with a respectable medley of onions, peppers, corn, potatoes and even some al dente pasta, if you feel like carb-loading.
French fries (RMB26) are the thick kind you’ll find elsewhere – but like the other dishes we tried, average ingredients are handled here with admirable care and skill. The honey-mustard sauce is a nice option, keeping with the sweet theme of most dishes.
Untried but intriguing is a menu of all-day breakfast, with pancakes (RMB46), bacon, eggs and sausages that promise to cheer up any homesick heart. We did indulge in a waffle with bananas and walnuts (RMB53). It’s adorable and certainly big enough to share, with fresh fruit, candied walnuts (of course) and quite respectable vanilla ice cream. If the waffle isn’t as crisp as homemade, the batter has a clean bite that serves as an excellent base.
There’s a certain place in our heart for a cafe that plays The Ditty Bops, a sweet-voiced female duo who – no joke – released an album about a cat running for president. If Juicy Squared lacks an actual cat theme, the spirit is there in the (sometimes) mellow music, sweet drinks, and Western-friendly dishes that invite friends to set down their shopping bags and reconnect.
Who’s going: Longhua shoppers, homesick expats
Good for: Familiar Western favorites
Nearest metro: Qinghu Station (Exit D), 16 minutes