Just as Universal CityWalk Orlando is the heart of Universal Orlando, it looks as if Universal CityWalk Beijing is going to serve exactly the same function for its own Chinese resort, given that the dining/shopping/entertainment complex is similarly being positioned as the nexus point of all travel at Universal Beijing. (Hey – why change something if it’s not broken, right?)
That means the new Asian district’s various venues will be getting a lot of foot traffic passing them by, which means, in turn, that some pretty heady concepts will be needed in order to attract eyeballs – the same exact reason why, back here in Florida, Universal has been continually tinkering with its own CityWalk lineup, continually phasing out older concepts and introducing such crazy new ones as Voodoo Doughnut and, much more recently, the Universal Legacy Store. Indeed, when combined with the fact that Universal has been extremely willing to mix and match its various CityWalk occupants much more freely than it is, say, the attractions in its theme parks, guests would be wise to pay attention to what’s going to be landing at the company’s upcoming new resort. (Don’t believe us about the interchangeability of CityWalks all around the globe? Just look at Orlando, which received Voodoo Doughnut from Hollywood, while that location imported Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and VIVO Italian Kitchen from us – with even more on the way soon.)
Just what is arriving at CityWalk Beijing, anyway? We only recently found out the full list, learning the full contents of all 24 gastronomical, retail, entertainment, and financial(!) categories. That breaks down to 15 restaurants, seven stores, a multiplex movie theater, and, most intriguingly, a financial services location (which isn’t to mention the “diverse range of retail and food and beverage kiosks,” whose exact identities are still unknown). Some look so beautiful and sound so appealing, one can only hope that they will eventually find their way to Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood.
Before we touch upon each of them, however, we need to quickly address another, even bigger question: when is Universal Beijing Resort opening, anyway? We’re almost to May, after all, which was the previously floated opening window. While there was no updated word on this front, Universal did let slip this little morsel: the Chinese CityWalk is currently undergoing final operational preparations, including team member training, so the area’s – and, hopefully, Universal Studios Beijing’s – grand debut seems to be just around the corner still.
Universal CityWalk Beijing’s restaurants – the familiar concepts
When going over the 15 restaurants that will soon call Universal CityWalk Beijing home, Universal divided up the roster into three main sub-groups. First up on the list are those entries that were first tested or otherwise implemented here in Orlando but which are now getting replicated overseas:
- Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
- CityWalk Red Oven Pizza Bakery
- The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
- Universal CityWalk – The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
There are two general takeaways to be had from this grouping. First, you’ll notice that a few of these eateries have names that are similar to their original Floridian nomenclature but which are just slightly tweaked for their foreign debuts. This could be to do with some kind of marketing rationale in China, or it could stem from some sort of legal and/or copyright consideration – we’re not sure which, but we do like the bit of variety added to the Universal formula, regardless.
And the familiar gets even more reworked when it comes to The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar specifically, with its striking-looking building that’s decked out with neon lights and cowfish adornments both. It’s nifty to see what Universal’s designers can come up with when not hemmed in by preexisting infrastructure – and it’s also enjoyable to see how this new CityWalk’s neon aesthetic is being implemented all throughout its area (something which will come up again at least once more as we work our way through all these new tenants).
(Also noteworthy here is Bubba Gump’s inclusion, as this marks the first time that the international chain is landing on the Chinese mainland.)
Universal CityWalk Beijing’s restaurants – the Chinese brands
The second batch of CityWalk residents constitute those homegrown Asian concepts, which are flocking from all over the giant country to be represented in the new theme-park resort – just like how, say, Bubba Gump and Cowfish did the same here in America. What makes these various Chinese venues all the more interesting is their emphasis on fusion cuisine, to one degree or another:
- CityWalk WUBEI CRAFT FOOD AND BEER
- JUMBO Seafood Restaurant
- Neon Street Hawkers – Southeast Asian Food
- Phoenix House Superior Shop
- Peet’s Coffee
We’re not only particularly fond of the concept art for Wubei Craft Food and Beer – that building is nothing short of gorgeous – but also of its highlighted bullet point: the eatery will serve up the Wubei Flight, a “flight of flavorful [exclusive] craft beers […] inspired by [the] five traditional Chinese blessings.” (Oh, yeah – it also slings the East-West fusion bite called the Kungpao Nacho, which is another automatic must-try.)
Phoenix House Superior Shop, meanwhile, provides Hong Kong-style dim sum that’s made fresh on-site to “make sure your every bite is full of happiness,” while JUMBO Seafood Restaurant offers Singapore-style seafood. And lest you wonder why Peet’s Coffee, a Californian creation, would be listed under the domestic CityWalk tab, here’s your answer: the largest Peet’s in all of Asia will have some decidedly local flavors on-hand, such as Mango Sago, which, apparently, is just enough to fit the fusion bill.
Universal CityWalk Beijing’s restaurants – the reimagined oldies-but-goodies
Speaking of fusion, that brings us to our last mini-section of restaurants – those items that provide a “refreshing twist [or] rejuvenation” on older brands:
- BMW JOYCUBE
- Cutie Cones
- Dong Lai Shun
- Quan Ju De
- TIME TRAVEL GRANDMA’S HOME FLAGSHIP STORE
All of these concepts will need some kind of explanation or, at least, introduction to American audiences – but even through all of the unfamiliarity, the culinary benefits they offer to the overall Universal experience are evident.
BMW Joycube just may be our favorite one of this particular bunch – this “crossover experience store,” developed and sponsored by the car manufacturer BMW, will offer almost something for everyone, starting with dining, running through entertainment and merchandise, and ending with something called a “brand experience.” Cutie Cones, developed in conjunction with Mengniu, has an array of customized “savory ice cream and dairy delicacies.” Dong Lai Shun and Quan Ju De will both be located inside the Universal Studios Store; the latter will have a walk-up window, where it will dispense its legendary roast duck, while the former will offer its own renowned dish, mutton hot pot, out on a terrace. (Here’s where that beautiful neon-filled CityWalk nightscape comes into play again – imagine dining outside against that backdrop!)
KPRO is a Chinese take on Kentucky Fried Chicken, delivering a “global creative menu to a new generation of sophisticated diners with ‘fresh, tasty, and ready’ food.” We have no clue what Time Travel Grandma’s Home is, but we can’t deny wanting to eat there right away, regardless; something of a local legend in Hangzhou, where its flagship location resides, the restaurant will be coming to Beijing for the first time, where it will create a “new design concept that also opens great imagination for guests.”
Universal CityWalk Beijing’s stores
There really isn’t as much to say about CityWalk’s “trendy premium shopping,” but we’ll list all of these retail tenets, nonetheless:
- ADIDAS MBC Store
- HARMAY FLAGSHIP STORE
- KAKAO FRIENDS Beijing flagship store
- POP Mart Global Toy Factory Store
- SWAROVSKI CRYSTAL STUDIO
- Universal CityWalk – The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium Candy Store
- Universal Studios Store
A more general observation that we can offer, though, about this roster is the obvious effort that both Universal and its local partners are putting into pushing the trendy label as much as possible, particularly towards the younger end of the consumer spectrum (which isn’t a big surprise, given that the Millennial and Gen-Z demographics make up almost a whopping 20% of the country’s overall [and very large] population). Take Harmay, for instance, which gets billed in the press release as a “new beauty and lifestyle retail brand popular among young, stylish consumers,” or Kakao Friends, which pursues the exact same shoppers with mystery boxes and licensed customizable merchandise.
The last two entries on this list, meanwhile, will certainly be much more familiar to Universal Orlando visitors – especially Toothsome’s gift shop, which really could stand on its own as a full-fledged venue. The last one, in particular, will be sure to invite some questions: could Beijing’s version of the Universal Studios Store be close to the brand-new one that we just received here in our version of CityWalk, with its sleek façade and spacious layout? The sole piece of concept art would seem to suggest so, and Universal’s creators could have designed both locations in conjunction with one another some time ago (remember that the demolition work to make way for the new Orlando shop started approximately a year-and-a-half ago) – but we’ll just need to simply wait and see for sure. Still, we do have this last clue to tide us over: the store is nearly 8,100 square feet in size, which is almost exactly the same footprint as the new Florida iteration.
Universal CityWalk Beijing’s entertainment and financial offerings
The last two items at Universal CityWalk Beijing may sound like the most pedestrian upon first blush, but they also hold a great deal of potential. Indeed, if part of the reason that we’re sifting through all of its occupants with such a fine-toothed comb is to discern what could possibly find its way over here, in one form or another, one would probably do well to look at this final category.
Let’s start with the rather generically named Universal CityWalk Cinema, which will come equipped with the next-generation IMAX format, called IMAX with Laser – the largest one, in fact, in the Beijing region. (What makes this the next step up in movie-theater experiences? It’s “true reality captured and projected,” according to IMAX.) The cinema will come with 10 other, standard auditoriums and a combined seat count of 2,000, offers a Party Room for birthday parties, and allows you to grab a slice of Red Oven pizza from next door and chow down on it inside – all of which seems to put it beyond what our Universal Cinemark currently offers.
And, finally, rounding out the very last of CityWalk Beijing’s offerings is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which is opening a branch in order to “provide guests with immersive and intelligent financial service with customized and intelligent ‘Black Tech.’” We’re actually not at all sure what that last trademarked moniker means, but it sounds suitably impressive, and if Universal already lets time-share companies hawk their wares at Universal Orlando, we have no difficulty at all seeing a big, fancy bank opening its doors just off the main CityWalk thoroughfare here.
If you were visiting Universal CityWalk Beijing, which stop would you eat or shop at first? And which would you want to see come to Orlando? Share your thoughts with 125,000+ other theme-park fans in our Orlando Informer Community on Facebook.