Mercedes Me is a ‘lifestyle
house and experience
shop’ from the revered
German automaker that’s being
introduced around the world.
The idea is to provide a holistic
lifestyle experience with its high-end
restaurant, café and bar, as well as a
swanky car showroom.
The new Sanlitun location, the
first in Mainland China, opened its
doors last month with possibly the
most over-the-top, glammed-up
launch party of the year. The Beijing
location is also the first Mercedes
Me in the world with a Chinese
restaurant. But with so many
Chinese cuisines to choose from,
which did the illustrious car company
choose to represent its brand in
China? It’s complicated.
The name Sifang Sanchuan is a
humblebrag reference to the cradle
of Chinese civilisation and the three
rivers that sustained it. The menu
preface talks a good game,
promising a 'dynamic, exhilarating
process of self exploration,
discovery and actualization'. And all
without a service charge.
The dining room glows with soft
golden light. Suspended orbs of
lattice-bound yellow fabric hover
over each table. Waitresses pace
the perimeter, ready to pounce
on any unsuspecting chopstick-fumbler.
Brass accents and roughspun
yellow upholstery cement the
colour scheme. It’s all very nice, but
none of this gives us a clue as to
what to expect from the kitchen.
Ostensibly the menu is
Sichuanese but with a very wide
brief, which gives it the feel of a hotel 'Chinese regional' restaurant or a
chain that lost its personality three
second-tier cities ago. The menu is
large and unfocused, covering the
gamut of regional Chinese food,
almost like it’s trying to not offend.
With some helpful
recommendations from the staff,
an order is finally made from the
huge menu. Dishes arrive with breakneck speed and chopsticks
flitter between cold dishes of sliced
pigs ear in Sichuan peppercorns
and chilli oil, mouth-numbing cold
poached chicken with chillies, and
marinated sliced beef with spicy
sauce. The cool, gelatinous textures
conceal a smoldering heat, but the
artless, even sloppy, presentation
does nothing to highlight the natural
contrast of bright green and red.
A plate of fragrant Lijiang-style
stir-fried chicken with peppers and
fermented bamboo shoots is next.
The morsels of chicken are juicy,
and the flavour of the sweet peppers
and fermented tang of the bamboo
shoots give the dish an extra lift.
As it’s served, a glass of raw egg
and jasmine blossoms is poured
over scalding-hot river stones resting
in a clay pot. The egg and blossom
mixture is airy, with a soft velvety
texture brimming with floral aromas.
A bowl of poached seafood,
mushroom and dried chillies
occupies us next. Medallions of
tender scallop and chunks of bright
pink lobster float to the surface, and
the bowl is reduced to oil and dried
chillies in no time.
The drinks list sports two of
Mercedes Me’s own wines, which
are both perfectly drinkable.
The remainder of the wine list, like
much of Sifang Sanchuan, feels
a little restrained. In general, the
restaurant feels inconsistent
with scale and spirit of Mercedes
Me worldwide. The concept is
designed to appeal to Merc-starved
Mainlanders, but is 'just another
Sichuan restaurant' really what this
wealthy group of tastemakers is
after? We think not.
This place lacks identity. With
little by way of defining features
to make it stand out other than
its address, Sifan Sanchuan is
just another good Sichuan chain,
reliably putting out a familiar canon
of dishes. A good meal is to be
had at Sifang Sanchuan, but we
expected more drive from this high-end