Went to 3sums last night to try the city’s latest burger joint. I attended one of the taste tests prior to the opening and 1) the burgers were tasty then but are generally better now but 2) my opinion then that rmb45 or rmb50 for a trio of minis is more appropriate than the proposed — and now implemented — rmb60 stands.*
Also, since that taste test, chef Zach Lewison has grown a beard that is all Chuck Norris-like (see photo above). It doubles as the bar’s bouncer. Has its own gravitational pull. Made me want to buy a Chia pet. I think he’s raising bees in there. It’s awesome.
3sums’ theme is small portions in groups of three, whether that means burgers or sides or cocktails.
My burger trio:
- The Mexican, with black bean cake, guacamole and salsa. Good ingredients but this burger needs kick. It might be as simple as adding zest to the “zesty salsa” or skewering a few jalapenos slices to the bun so people can spice at will. Or serving it with a Taco Bell hot sauce packet. Vegetarians apparently love it. But they’re starved for burgers in Beijing and will eat pretty much anything.
- The Texan, with spam, egg, bacon, cheese and salsa, is a better version of the breakfast burger at the taste test and works well on an English muffin. Plus, it plays on the historical association of Texas and England. If you have bacon preferences, let it be known that at 3sums it comes very crispy.
- The Midwesterner, the best I tried, included a beef burger, processed cheese, Dijon mustard, caramelized onions and a Pringle in a sesame seed bun. Good texture, good flavors, a worthy burger.
There are 13 more mini-burgers, including the Seattle Hippie, with grilled portobello and pepperjack cream cheese, and Southern Belle, with beef, bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce.
- Sides: Six options, including sweet potato fries and Parmesan fries, at rmb15 or set of three for rmb30. I had the tater tots. I liked the homemade ketchup.
- Drinks: Get Tsingtao at rmb10, with Vedett rmb40 and Magners cider rmb45. Cocktails — including a “blueberry Bloody Mary” I have yet to try — are rmb45, while soft drinks, lemonade and iced tea are rmb10. I had the mojito 3sum, with three flavors served in Ikea storage jars (see below). It was okay.
- Design: Inside, a mix of open kitchen, lounge and kiddies playroom given the swings, colorful — in one case animal-shaped — chairs, and stuffed animals used as table markers. Outside, space for more than two dozen customers.
- Toilets: 3sums has one.
- Specials: The Signature (Southern Belle, Midwesterner and Hawaiian) or the Lite (English, Neandrathal and Seattle Hippie) trio plus thin fries and lemonade, iced tea or soft drink is rmb60 any time.
If you like burgers, 3sums is worth a try, although regulars from Home Plate BBQ about 100 meters up the same street will find it pricey. Overall, this place reminds me a bit of that Mexican burger: good ingredients but in need of some fine-tuning to reach its potential. I look forward to seeing what the team of Jerry Guo, Linda Miao and Zach Lewison do in coming month.
* If I were 3sums, I would go full out on Weibo, Weixin, etc to put a premium on the experience of eating at the place. That means a steady flow of photos of mini-burgers, mini-drinks, stuffed animals, of people eating mini-burgers, drinking mini-drinks and hugging stuffed animals and, even better, of people doing all that stuff while sitting on swings. I’d even offer a free iced tea to any customer who posts a photo of a burger, drink or stuffed animal while in the place. And I’d make souvenir T-shirts, mugs and pollution masks with “I had a 3sum in Beijing” on them. Finally, and most importantly, I’d charge 10 kuai for touching Zach Lewison’s beard. Per second.