My partner and I had dinner last night at MB in the newly opened Legation Quarter complex just east of Tian'anmen Square. This is of course owned by Daniel Boulud, and has been a much-anticipated addition to the Beijing dining scene. I am very pleased to report that, based on our meal, it should be a smashing success.
First of all the setting--the restaurant is housed in a building that once formed part of the US mission to China under the Qing Dynasty, built in 1903. The renovation looks lovely, and as you enter the restaurant you come into a large reception hall with an impressive double staircase at the back, with the reception desk to the left. Further to the left, through a doorway, is the bar area, with lots of sleek looking tables and chairs and a nice, though smallish, bar. Judging by the cocktails we had, the bartender was trained overseas, since the drinks were both sizable and prepared perfectly (both rare in Beijing, I find).
On the right side of the building is the dining room, with probably around 25 or so tables, decorated so that it would not look out of place in New York or London. We were presented with a drinks menu (this is where we had our cocktails) and then dinner menus, both of which had a very nice selection. The dinner menu includes a prix fixe selection at RMB 428, but we did not pay it much attention, so I do not remember what was on it. The starters on the a la carte menu had a good range of dishes, including foie gras, duck liver, and such, though we opted for an Alaskan King Crab salad with mango and a grilled scallop dish, both of which were excellent. Main courses include several fish options, though we chose cumin-coated lamb ribs and a beef prepared two ways--braised and roasted, and again both were excellent.
It was after our appetizers arrived (while we were still drinking our cocktails) that we realized we had not seen a wine list, so we called the sommelier over. The wine list is extensive, with wines from all over (including some Chinese wines--wonder if anyone will ever order them?), and we chose an Amarone della Valpolicella. Wine prices are a bit steep, I would have to say.
We were not so impressed by the dessert selection, but figured we had to have something, it being a birthday dinner, so we shared a dish of milk chocolate bavaroise served with a puff pastry filled with homemade walnut ice cream--very nice, though nothing I feel like I'd have to order again.
When the bill came, I was a bit surprised by the total, but it turns out that they had charged us for a Tignanello, and not the Amarone we had ordered (which raised our bill by RMB 600, or close to $100). The sommelier fixed it, but I was a bit surprised that they did not offer more of an apology than they did. Still, I was favorably disposed to the place, so did not want to make more of it than it deserved. Our bill in the end was around RMB 2600, or close to $400, half of which was the wine.
The maitre d' is a Belgian who had worked at Boulud's restaurants in NYC and who has been here now for five months. It seems that he has worked successfully to train the wait staff pretty well, though a few kinks remain (such as not delivering the wine list with our menus). We will definitely go back.
Also in the compound, by the way, is a Patek Philippe shop, so if you have money left over after dinner, you can spend it there.