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Investors' dine and dance format to keep Yabaolu going

By Erik Nilsson ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-02-26 07:39:40

Beijng's Little Russia has a big problem.

Its Russians are leaving. And they're taking their cuisine with them, as they desert in pace with the decline of Yabaolu's fur market.

While the neighborhood's Russian eateries decrease, some persist under Chinese management.

The area's only Russian-run eateries are the year-old and family-friendly Dacha, and adult-oriented nightclub Chocolate, which has served food as a postscript to late-night clubbing for half a decade. The same restaurateur owns both.

The irony is Dacha (Big Chalet in Russian) also hosts a Ukrainian and a Japanese area with a high-end bar. And it also caters to Italian, Japanese and former Soviet nations' cuisines. Chefs from the respective countries are responsible for national menus.

Yet Russian dishes lead the repertoire, and 10 vodkas and Russian beer dominate the drinks menu. Classics include borscht, capital salad - potatoes, eggs, chicken and cream - and thin-skinned potato dumplings. And, yes, the chicken Kiev is everything decadent that can be expected of deep-fried, cheese-oozing poultry.

Dacha also hosts a kids' room with weekend art classes. And its children's menu offers meals presented as pictures. (Think cucumber slices as wheels.)

Chocolate, on the other hand, stages relatively risque performances at hours when kids snooze and adults booze. The ostentatious club is a solar system of disco balls that twinkle over diners around dusk and dancers in night's darker hours. It's less food and fewer clothes, and more drink and dance, as dawn draws nearer. Yet at any hour, the decor remains louder than the music.

"Russians have dinner (in Dacha), then go to Chocolate and dance," explains the owner's assistant, Damon Kukharenko. "To me, Chocolate isn't a club. It's a big story about Russian and Ukrainian style in Beijing."

It seems running a daytime eatery and nighttime disco is the way to win in today's Yabaolu.

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