We were in Beijing and after a visit to the Forbidden Palace, I decided to have lunch at Maison Boulud (布鲁宫). Besides lunch, I wanted to take a look at the Legation Quarter, the complex that Maison Boulud is housed in. When I was working at Tsao & McKown, we were interviewed for the design of the redevelopment of this complex and did some preliminary work. While we didn't end up doing the job, I was curious to see how things have turned out.
The Legation Quarter used to be the old American Embassy and is located just off the southeast corner of Tiananmen Square. When I arrived inside the complex I was a bit disappointed to see that not much is going on in there. Some of the planned retail spaces do not have any tenants yet.
Maison Boulud is located at the center of the Legation Quarter and inside the main building. As I walked into the restaurant, I was surprised to see Daniel Boulud, the Big Homme, on his way out with his luggage in tow; probably flying out to visit another one of his many restaurants around the world.
For lunch Maison Boulud offers a three course prix fixe menu at RMB 188 as well as an à la carte menu. The prix fixe, which Maria and I both ordered, have three choices each for the appetizer and main course and two for dessert. For Vera we ordered an Orecchetti Bolognaise from the à la carte menu; not quite the French food as we were expecting, but Vera really enjoyed it. As for Ava, she was sound asleep and hence missed a very good meal.
The restaurant started us with two amuse-bouches, both were delightful. I chose a breaded sardine for my appetizer, which was nicely pan fried to a golden crisp crust and served with an onion marmalade. This was followed by a slow baked cod that was perfectly cooked on a bed of vibrant vegetable with a fragrant sauce. Dessert was a lemon chiboust. As for Maria, she had the salmon to start, followed by the signature DB Burger, and ending with a chocolate dessert. The staff was also very nice to bring Vera a couple of scoops of ice cream (vanilla and chocolate) compliments of the house.
The meal ended with some petits fours as well as warm mini madeleines, just like the flagship restaurant Daniel in New York. Overall it was an excellent meal, very well executed. The service was faultless and warm. The interior of the restaurant is also very pleasant and the tables are nicely spaced. It is to easy to see why the restaurant was voted by Time Out Beijing as the Restaurant of the Year 2010.
My only complaint about the whole experience was one item on the bill: the cost of San Pellegrino, which was charged at RMB 90 per 750ml bottle. I must say I did a double take when I first saw the bill. I understand the margin on food is small and the restaurant needs to make money from drinks, but over US$13 plus 15% service charge for a bottle of sparkling water? Come on, that's really too much, more than 4.6 times the retail price of RMB 19.50. Whatever happened to the more "reasonable" 2.5 to 3 times the retail price? We had two bottles of San Pellegrino and that more or less equaled the cost of the prix fixe lunch. It is so unfortunate this crazy markup left us a bit soured from an otherwise excellent dining experience.