Housed in a former U.S. embassy building, the restaurant marks Boulud's first foray into the international scene (it joins his four locations in New York, and one each in Palm Beach and Las Vegas). "An offer to create a restaurant in this kind of setting doesn't come along every day. I was immediately seduced by the space," says Boulud.
The grand, turn-of-the-century building is a star attraction of the new Legation Quarter, a development centering on the historic embassy buildings behind Tiananmen Square. Alongside Maison Boulud will be boutiques, an arts center, a branch of the London nightclub Boujis, an underground theater and several other haute eateries, including the Milan-based Michelin-starred Ristorante Sadler.
To redesign the historic space, Boulud tapped Parisian design duo Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier, of Gilles & Boissier, who worked on New York City's Gramercy Park Hotel. They preserved the exterior, while reenvisioning the interior as a stately manor house complete with a dramatic double staircase and sitting rooms. In a nod to the Beijing penchant for private dining, multiple rooms and a separate bar area were installed on the second floor. And everything from the hand-carved wooden chandeliers to a mural of a Versailles fountain was "Made in China" by local craftsmen.
In keeping with his new restaurant's location, the menu Boulud created is a balance between Chinese, American and French cuisines. "I conceived Maison Boulud especially for Beijing," says the chef. "You'll find references to the things I do at other restaurants, but it isn't a copy of anything I've done before." Among the dishes to which diners can look forward are Alaskan king crab with yogurt sauce and a touch of chili pepper, as well as a suckling pig served with daikon charcroute and a creamy mustard sauce.