by: Rigche Ma
Prince William New copyRose House is dreamy with an ethereal, otherworldly quality. From the pastel printed wallpaper to the fine china teacups, everything is accented with a rose motif. A gigantic arrangement of at least a hundred single stalks of roses arranged in a perfect orb take the spotlight in the anteroom before immaculately lace-uniformed waitresses show you to a table.
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We passed a variety of small to medium-sized taxidermied fowls, descended a steep flight of stairs, and were seated at our table – a party of six beneath chandeliers dangling from a very high celling. Our table was lit by a single candle perched on a blue and white porcelain candlestick shaped like a parakeet and weighed down by a mass of what seemed like a hundred years of dripped wax.
The eagle eyes of our waitress, Ro, catches the bait impatiently peering out of an innocuous-looking carryall, so Lisa, who had brought us to this present huddle, immediately surrenders the promise and kill – it’s ‘Byejoe,’ she announced.
Byejoe Red. Byejoe Dragon Fire. These sleek bottles of see-through spirit sounded familiar to ears attuned to Chinese tones. Surely, Lisa meant baijiu – the firewater that runs through 5000 years of Chinese civilization, presiding over rites and rituals, linking the living with ancestors who lived, changing its role and character alongside all aspects of life, in art, literature, religion, military, history and geography. Baijiu, commonly translated as white wine, Chinese white wine, saw a production of 2.6 to 4.5 billion gallons in 2012, of which only a wholly underrepresented 2000 cases was imported to the United States.
No, Lisa meant Byejoe, a sorghum base distilled in Maotai, China – the region made famous for its superb baijiu, shipped in small batches to be filtered and bottled in the U.S. (proximity for top-notch quality control). Byejoe Red has a smooth finish, and runs lower proofs than traditional baijiu, while retaining, unique to other spirits, the typical blast of Chinese alcohol in the nose. Byejoe Dragon Fire coyly charms at first, with the aroma of dragon fruit and lychee and then explodes with the fiery spiciness of hot peppers that rapidly spreads throughout the tongue.
Byejoe is the first of its kind tuned to suit the U.S. palate, and clearly geared to be the newly adopted name of baijiu for the West. But the sophisticated patrons at Buddakan have already caught whiff. Beverage director, Kevin, propelled Buddakan to the forefront of a new wave of cocktail culture when Longevity – Byejoe Red, lychee, dragonfruit, and blood orange, made the list of best selling cocktails at the Buddakan bar.
Ro arrives and fills the table with an assortment of appetizers. Asian tapas: Edamame dumplings – a chewy mash of soybeans in soft, spinach-green wrappers, General Tso’s dumplings still steaming in authentic bamboo baskets, tuna tartare, and Peking duck spring rolls – crispy without an oily aftertaste, succulent, juicy bites of sesame shrimp and no-mess boneless spare ribs, generously glazed with sauce and each one a savory delight.
Revelry for the night has already begun, with the stylish, chic, and casual gathered in the chinoiserie-inspired interior. Our table toasts with Byejoe Red, straight-up neat and a couple of cocktail glasses of the famed Longevity. This spirit of China tempered with its Western finish infuses and invigorates the pairing of fine liquor, good food, company, and conversation. But, of course. Expect nothing less. Byejoe means goodbye; a hitherto unexplored mystery of baijiu, and hello, a true dynasty change in the beverage world.
Byejoe has invaded Buddakan (NYC) and many other vanguard restaurants. Or, it may be purchased directly from www.byejoe.com