How can one look at the new Flamme without comparing it to the original Beijing branch in Sanlitun? This new opening in the Indigo mall maintains the older sister’s sense of eclectic value: a bunch of comfort foods done decently, if not really well. And your bill will still go a lot further here than at a hoity-toity hotel steakhouse.
It’s the subtle tweaks that separate this version from the other, more Beijing-institutional branch. There’s a new lunch menu that tries to lure in more dollars with un-steakhouse-like eggplant parmesan and coconut curry. The service has taken an upgrade, with cracking servers that dispute any sort of aloof irregularity that the old one was notorious for. A great addition is the pizza (22RMB), with thin, crisp crusts and a decent balance of cheese and toppings – they’re good, though the dollhouse-ready appetiser portion at dinner isn’t as desirable as the larger lunch sizes.
But for most of dinner, it’s familiar Flamme: Indigo provides a meat fix in the house steak, with a good-value price of 148RMB for the larger, more satisfying cut (260g). It’s succulently soft and tender – especially considering that the Tuesday two-for-one deal (11am-9pm) will whet appetites here as well. It’s not the best steak in the city, but it fits with Flamme’s egalitarian sensibilities. Starchy two-bite Idaho potato skin (32RMB) appetisers will fill up sensibly: a dollop of refreshing sour cream doesn’t make the serving terribly heavy, and it works as an excellent pairing with the meat.
Others aren’t as reliable. A DIY Cobb salad (68RMB) is an expensive, uneven mess of cheap bacon and flat avocadoes combined with a watery dressing. The signature burger’s (88RMB) sloppy, multileveled tower of food, including two patties and a fried egg, will make a mess of your hands, face and diet plans, though the burger itself is rather plain. Opt for the fish instead: the clean, flavourful sea bass (98RMB) is lightly breaded around a flaky, sea-fresh interior, paired with a nice set of condensed spinach.
Unlike the Sanlitun branch’s clientele, the suburban shoppers and day-tripping families of Indigo Mall don’t tend to be interested in the booze. As such, the bar in this Flamme lacks the excellent mixologists of its sister venue. And while it has many of the same drinks, such as the fruity, gin-based Passionate Englishman (70RMB), they seem rather out of place among the families and H&M bags. That extends to the rest of the restaurant: Flamme’s a mall spot, and while the wood and marble give it a bit of quiet sophistication, the ‘outdoor’ balcony looking out over a domed mall courtyard ‘sky’ kills any mystique. At least the weather’s reliable.