A slogan can tell you a lot about a restaurant and Let's Burger's slogan of "Probably the Finest Burger in Beijing" tells you everything you need to know about the place. A bit of boasting, but an overall lack of confidence (who declares themselves probably the best?) is what is bound to do this burger spot in.
First off, there has been an incredible explosion of high end burger offerings in Sanlitun over the past few months, something well documented by Beijing Boyce. All the places offer burgers in the RMB50-70 range in nice, upscale settings. I haven't been to Union Grill yet, but have made a few visits to Blue Frog and a comparison between Let's Burger and Blue Frog sees Let's Burger losing the battle.
Let's Burger is a very comfortable, cosy setting, an upscale diner that fits perfect with their burgercentric menu. The first strange moment was when we chose our table and sat for awhile waiting for a menu, only for a waitress to come by and say we had to get up and order at the counter. This was despite the fact there were only 3 tables occupied and yet 7 waitresses standing around. We were there for burgers, a regular one starts at RMB48, a cheeseburger is RMB58, and then a number of special offerings that are RMB68 and above. Mini burgers with foie gras and caviar and a wagyu beef burger (RMB168) are also on the menu. The ingredients, when possible are sourced organic and it seems at least an attempt was made to use high end ingredients. It's all a la carte, so a basket of fries will run you RMB20 for the regular option or RMB25 for herb or spicy fries. At the counter a sign declares there is "no free water so try a smoothie" and so my accomplice did, while I went for a beer. There are no draft beer offerings, but a number of interesting and rarely found bottled beers running from RMB25 (Grolsch) to RMB38 (the majority of options).
We went for the herb fries which came out first and were excellent. We were told by the waitress to sample the "condiments bar" with a lot of interesting dipping sauces, the wasabi mayonnaise was okay while the bbq sauce had a very fruity flavor. My accomplice declared the smoothie to be very good, though I didn't sample it. The burger's came out soon after and I was a little surprised by the tiny size of the burger patty, though it was made to look bigger with all the fresh toppings and the large, doughy bun. As happens too often in China, we weren't asked how we wanted the burger cooked, but it came out a nice medium well, just as I would have ordered it. The burger was juicy and was very good, but just too small, especially considering the size of the bun. If these were the regular size burgers, I'd be very curious to see how tiny the "mini" burgers are. It did feel strange to be sitting there eating with the many idle waitresses standing around watching you.
Considering the lack of customers, the strange service situation, and the prices, I just don't see how Let's Burger is going to survive. The problem isn't so much the food, it's the fact when most people think of Sanlitun, they think of drinking. I'm not sure about Union, but Rickshaw and Blue Frog (and the Den) both offer good happy hour deals on drinks and also have a number of regular food specials, something that Let's doesn't offer. I can go to Rickshaw or Blue Frog, get a good, filling hamburger and fries and have two beers and walk out the door for around RMB100, at Let's its going to cost you a lot more. A lot of places in Beijing that didn't get their doors open before the Olympics are going to suffer in the next 6 months, especially in light of the economy as foreigners in the city just won't be eating out as much. Sanlitun has exploded with restaurant options and while Let's offers a good burger, the problem is at that price, you shouldn't have to order McDonald's style and then walk out hungry.
Nali Patio, 81, North SanLiTun Street