After a run of more than five years – and amid rumors of rmb245 million in debt – groundbreaking French restaurant Maison Boulud in the Chien’men 23 complex closed for good on Sunday. I stopped by for a final cocktail and to pay regards to chef Brian Reimer.
I first visited Chien’men 23 a.k.a. The Legation Quarter in early 2008 when the place was a mess of mud piles, gutted buildings and peeling wallpaper. The brains behind the project, Handel Lee, spotted me and a friend wandering around and gave us an hour-long tour, explaining how the site would transform by summer into something impressive. And it did.
When it opened, Maison Boulud not only impressed in terms of architecture, but also shone in terms of service and food, due to then-general manager Ignace LeCleir — now at Temple Restaurant Beijing — and Reimer. The place leaves lots of good memories, from the quality drinks to the delicious DB Burger, from the truffle-infused Bourbon that inspired this post to hosting our second Grape Wall Challenge.
As for those rumors of 245 million renminbi in debt, I didn’t think it appropriate to ask Reimer about it Sunday. It is an outrageous amount, translating to a loss of 130,000 kuai per day, which sounds a wee bit high IMHO. Then again, there are possible explanations:
1. Reimer invested everything in bitcoins, plans to cash in when they’re worth billions, and will then rent the entire Legation Quarter.
2.Edward Snowden has actually been hiding in Boulud’s wine cellar and drank a quarter of a billion worth of the good stuff before anyone noticed.
3. The kitchen ordered way too many truffles.
In any case, goodbye Boulud. We’ll have to wait and see what Reimer does next. He described a pair of rmb100 bills laid on the bar Sunday by some well-placed people as the “first investment in the new property”.