In one of the most modern areas of Beijing you can taste the cradle of civilization at Mercedes Me’s SiFang SanChuan. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition.
Back in the day, Sanlitun was an upstart neighbourhood with a grotty street that became known as Bar Street and very little else to recommend it. The area has been transformed since then and the latest development is the Topwin Center, which also houses the new Intercontinental Hotel set to open later this year.
If you’ve walked past it, you can’t help but notice there is a big Mercedes presence and it isn’t to sell cars. Mercedes have decided to try and branch out over recent years and begun opening Mercedes Me around the world. This one in Beijing is currently the biggest, with a shop, cafe, bar and a restaurant. So, recently your intrepid blogger went to find out why on earth a car manufacturer has entered the restaurant business.
“The world’s largest Mercedes me venue at 2,800 m2, the venue is home to the meCafe, a Southeast Asian Café; a juice bar by meCafe; the Lighthouse, a cosmopolitan watering hole; SiFang SanChuan, a modern Chinese restaurant; a gallery space, and retail component. Designed by HG Merz, the venue is a project created by operated by Cakeshop Originals.
The Topwin Center’s Mercedes Me:
Just Look for the Giant “Me”
Grand Entrance with a Sliding Door & Mercedes Hanging On the Wall
(Yes, we confirmed that it is a real Mercedes car, just without the engine)
Escape this Mercedes Merchandise-Filled Showroom and Follow the Staircase Up
My advice is to make your way as quickly as possible through the quasi-showroom on the ground floor, as the bar and restaurant on the 2nd floor are both beautiful.
We started off with a drink in the bar, Lighthaus. Inside, Lighthaus is elegant and as a plus, you can actually see where you are going. I have noticed that some of the newer bars in Beijing seem to be designed for bats rather than people, with incredibly dim lighting. With its giant windows, you have excellent views across from the equally flashy and twinkling Sanlitun Village, if that’s your thing.
The drinks we had – the Black Forrest Mule (RMB 80) and the Glühwein Flip (RMB 75) were both excellent in taste, presentation and size. It’s on the pricier side of cocktails in Beijing, but it’s on par with the other upscale and stylish bar options in the Sanlitun hood. Though it’s pretty in design, has a cool name and is conveniently located (easy to pop in for a pre- and/or post-dinner drink), I can’t imagine suggesting a night out at Lighthaus. It doesn’t have much charm or character and looks like any generic “upscale” bar that can be found in hotels in any part of the world.
Snapshots of Lighthaus:
The Two Sides of Gongti Compete with Flashy Lights
Lighthaus Drinks Menu
Black Forrest Mule with Tanquray Gin, Lemon Curd, Cassis, Lime, Spicy Ginger (RMB 80)/Glühwein Flip with private label red, cacao amaro, poached fig, five spice, egg white (RMB 75)
Appetite sufficiently whet, we moved into Si Fang SanChuan. Mercedes have gone for a Chinese concept, based around the popular cuisines from southwest China – Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan – the titular “Four Squares, Three Rivers” area which is where Chinese civilisation supposedly emerged from.
“Si Fang, the “four square” represented by Yun (Yunnan, Kunming), Gui (Guizhou, Guiyang), Chuan (Sichuan, Chengdu), Yu (Sichuan, Chongqing), historically defines the ancient terra of Southwest China, a land of colorfully diverse cultures as well as multifarious landforms and ecosystems. San Chuan, the “three rivers”, Wei, Jing, and Luo, the ancient rivers mark the origin of the realm of “four squares”, connect and nurture the Middle Land since as early as the Three Kingdoms.
Besides its historical references, Sifang SanChuan in its Chinese language context exudes grand but calm ambitions, fair and square ethics. It embodies the desire to explore the vast land (Zou Si Fang–walk the four squares) and through all the challenges (Yue San Chuan–fly over the three rivers), a dynamic, exhilirating process of self exploration, discovery and actualisation.”
Decked out in mustard yellow and gold, it sounds like a hangover from the 1970s, and yet is very pleasant on the eye – like sitting in a ray of sunshine with hovering giant balloon lanterns overhead. We also particularly like the large window that gives an unobstructed view into their immaculate kitchen with the woks ablaze.
Snapshots of Sifang Sanchuan:
Stepping Past the Welcome Reception of Sifang Sanchuan
Pretty Table Setting
A View into Sifang Sanchuan’s Spotless Kitchen
Private Dining Tables that can be Sectioned Off with Curtains
While the decor is interesting – there definitely isn’t another restaurant that looks like this restaurant, it still had a “hotel-y” restaurant feel to it. The concept for the cuisine is spot-on – roll almost all my favorite Chinese cuisines into one menu, but the decor doesn’t quite reflect the concept of the cuisine.
What this restaurant does really well is everything your neighbourhood local favourite doesn’t. Waiters are pleasant, there’s a great selection of drinks, food is presented beautifully and creatively and is not drenched in oil. Have a look below at what we ordered and judge for yourself.
LDS Snapshots of the Dishes at Sifang Sanchuan:
Wood Ear Mushrooms with Chili and Lime Sauce (RMB 42)
Yi’s Home-Made Golden Tofu in Salt and Pepper Sauce (RMB 68)
Chinese Toon Sprout and Egg Tofu Salad (RMB 38)
Stir-Fried Spicy Organic Cauliflower in Casserole (RMB 58)
Sautéed Chicken with Chili and Sichuan Peppercorn (RMB 108)
Poached Fish in Spicy Oil (RMB 188)
Ishinabe Fried Jasmine Egg (RMB 68)
Sautéed Sweet and Sour Shrimp with Fruits and Black Garlic (RMB 166)
Stir Fried Sautéed Green Beans with Preserved Olive (RMB 58)
Beef Fried Rice with Lemongrass Sauce (RMB 68)
Vanilla and Coconut Milk Pudding, Mango Pudding, Caramel and Nuts Milk Custard (RMB 36-38)
The Ishinabe Fried Jasmine Egg (RMB 68) was pretty awesome in presentation – they first bring you a claypot and fill it with fiery hot stones and then they pour on the raw egg over the stones and as they mix the egg in the pot, the heat from the stones cooks it almost instantly. Pretty clever and definitely a highlight of our meal – there was a lot of “ooh-ing” and “ahhh-ing”. Other dish highlights were the sautéed green beans 干煸四季豆 (RMB 58), Crispy Chicken with Chilis and Peppercorns 辣子鸡 (RMB 108) and their Poached Fish in Spicy Chili Oil 水煮鱼 (RMB 188) was some of the most delicate and beautifully done I’ve ever had in Beijing and this is one of my favorite go-to dishes especially at restaurants who can really do this dish justice.
Overall, the dishes were all delightful and it was all so good, we didn’t want to let anything go to waste so we ended up stuffing ourselves silly. But if you have out-of-town guests, I’m not sure this place would be the right choice as the decor lacks the authentic Chinese character that you would want to share. I would rather recommend this restaurant for a group of foodies keen to check out a hip new dining option conveniently located in Sanlitun as this is a great place to wine and dine with friends.
The bill came out at about RMB 280 per head including a bottle of white. Reasonably priced with good portions, if you have a craving for some spicy Chinese food, this place should be on your list.
Sifang Sanchuan Contact Details:
- Address: 2nd Floor of Mercedes Me, Next to Lighthaus Bar – 1 Sanlitun Nan Lu
- Tel: 8588-7150
- Opening Hours: Daily 11am-3pm, 5-10pm daily
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.