She already made it to the front page of Forbes Magazine. And her reputation in China and abroad is ever growing: Zhang Lan, Chairwoman of the South Beauty Group, the upscale Chinese dining chain, is an absolute celebrity. Stunningly good looking, she is renowned for her impeccable dress sense and fondness for art. But first and foremost she is a very successful business woman that enriched the Beijing dining scene with modern interpretations of age-old spicy Sichuan cuisine.
The latest addition in Beijing is South Beauty's newest location at China Central Place, located in the middle of the quickly emerging Hua Mao district, just a few blocks East of Guo Mao. The place that boasts a capacity of up to 1,000 dinners at any time is decorated in the best traditions of South Beauty's restaurants: The trendy young Chinese and foreign business people recline on red beige leather banquettes and enjoy eating in an upbeat and luxurious setting. For the ones looking for more discreet entertainment, South Beauty provides peaceful private dining rooms that are separated by glass walls and ingeniously conceived curtains.
The food is an elegant mix of evergreens from Sichuan and other South China cooking and modern Fusion. To mitigate any fears: South Beauty is not the place for aficionados of scorching Sichuan or Chongqing hotpot, but for open minded connoisseurs who wants to enjoy a good balance between best food traditions from South China and modern Western cuisine.
Fish, first double cooked, then fried in meat-style, presented a nice opening to a very varied meal that ranged from mild to mildly spicy. “Shui ju niu rou”, the sliced raw beef seared in a pot of hot oil amongst fragrant herbs, is the signature dish of Southern Beauty. Significantly milder than the traditional Sichuan original, the gorgeous mix of fresh beef and fine herbs was a true revelation. As with the Sichuan noodles that followed suit, it was an excellent choice to curb on the red pepper to allow the complex mix of tastes to come to full bloom.
The green bean curd is another highlight that makes South Beauty worth the trip. Fancily presented in cute cups with nicely colored toppings, the cool and refreshingly mild curd goes well with various flavors ranging from spicy, salty to sweet. A great idea that proofs that South Beauty is aware tasting and viewing are very much linked sensations.
The rigorous training staff is put through seems to pay off: The food was served by highly motivated, friendly and English-speaking staff. It makes South Beauty stand out amongst many other restaurants, making patrons feel they are truly welcome.
South Beauty's concept of regional favorites served in a stylish environment comes at a reasonable price: South Beauty offers meals from an affordable 150 RMB up. In the meantime, Mrs. Zhang is hatching plans to quintuple her store count and take South Beauty global. Like the fiery Sichuan chilies she serves, her ambitions can blow the mind.