Excuse the baseball reference – I have been reading Ring Lardner lately – but I batted .333 the other night at the Legation Quarter (map) aka Ch’ienmen 23. Because I lost my phone, I had no way to contact the person who invited me to the official opening of Meat & Wine. And because I decided at the last minute to scope out the cocktail “shake off” at Fez, I arrived – with Mr Hao and Ms Hao – to find no tickets left. Crowds to the left of me, smokers – or at least char-broilers – to the right, I ended up with a base hit by swinging around and hustling to Maison Boulud.
I talk to many readers of this blog and there is near-universal acclaim for this place as a dining establishment, in terms of food, service, and ambiance. I also hear tales of the staff going the extra mile. Example: One acquaintance took his young daughter to Maison Boulud for her birthday dinner and she wanted a particular cake not found on the menu. One solution would be to substitute another dessert. Instead, the restaurant ad-libbed and made the sweets she desired. Not surprisingly, this thrilled the birthday girl and her parents are now fans and frequent patrons.
Maison Boulud is also a nice if sedate place to grab a drink. As mentioned elsewhere, I find the atmosphere a bit stuffy – a few ceilings fans for circulation and a slight brightening of the lights might help – but it is hard to top for service and attention to detail. I imagine my snootier friends would call it “civilized.”
I tried the Belgian Touch on Thursday night, with its raspberry beer providing a refreshing edge, though I still prefer the first two cocktails I tried at this place last year – Project 23, a spicy little number, and Bourbon Iced Tea, a refreshing one. But what impresses is the service. We received a welcome aperitif, chamomile-infused Grappa so smooth I would gladly order it on future visits, and a basket of “madelines”, cupcake-like morsels made with lemon, honey, and powdered sugar. As we finished our cocktails, we had a sample of vanilla- and fig-infused whiskey mixed with mashed persimmons and homemade orange-flavored bitters.
Mr Hao and Ms Hao recounted good experiences having dinner and brunch – and grabbing a bite at the ice cream stand stationed until recently out front – at Maison Boulud, thus adding to the list of the people who hold it in high esteem.
Note: Maison Boulud will be closed September 30 to October 3. Until the national holiday passes, it is best to call ahead.