Ribelle closes after service tonight, July 2, reports The Boston Globe, and chef/owner Tim Maslow seems "happy and relieved." Located in Brookline’s increasingly bustling Washington Square, the restaurant is a month shy of its third birthday, and it has racked up a large number of accolades since its opening, including a rare four-star review (out of four) from The Boston Globe’s former critic, Devra First, just two months after Ribelle’s debut. "The food is startling, inventive, and smart," she wrote at the time. This was followed by a glowing Boston Magazine review by Corby Kummer in January 2014, in which Kummer praised Maslow’s "consistently interesting food" and his "need to push the frontiers of flavor."
But those reviews, particularly First’s, came with consequences: "People expect more than we ever intended on offering," Maslow told Boston Magazine in March 2014. "When people see four-stars at surface value, you’re being left in a very hard situation. More often than not, it’s a situation we can’t win. We make most of our customers happy, but there are quite a few that are expecting Per Se or Menton; somewhere that is not us."
The praise kept rolling in, with Ribelle and Maslow picking up a few James Beard nods — Best New Restaurant semifinalist and Rising Star Chef of the Year semifinalist in 2014, plus Best Chef: Northeast semifinalist in 2015. Also in 2015, Food & Wine named Maslow to its annual class of Best New Chefs. "He turned his family's sandwich shop Strip T's into a destination for quirky, umami-packed comfort food — and then followed it up at a new outpost serving outstanding Italian cuisine with David Chang-ian inflections," wrote the magazine. Here on Eater, Maslow was awarded Chef of the Year in 2013, and the restaurant had a long tenure on the Eater Boston 38, our collection of 38 of the area’s most essential dining destinations.
Ribelle’s final few months were marked by a fairly drastic transformation. Following Maslow’s arrest on drug charges crossing the border back from Canada — charges that were later dropped — Ribelle became somewhat of a new restaurant called 1665 Beacon. The menu, which once drew inspiration from Italian cuisine, turned more in the French direction, featuring dishes like bouillabaisse, pan bagnat, and soupe l’oignon.
The restaurant has been sold, according to the Globe; Maslow can’t say to whom yet. But his next move is to work at Tiffani Faison’s Southeast Asia-inspired Tiger Mama in Fenway ("We think the same way," he told the Globe.) He’ll also continue to consult on his father’s Watertown restaurant, Strip-T’s, which remains one of the most delightful spots in town, from the smoked miso burger and smoked miso ramen to the Moxie wings and hearty lunch sandwiches.
Update, 7/7/16: In a July 6 Facebook post on the Strip-T's page, reproduced in part below, owner Paul Maslow (Tim's father) clarified some of the circumstances of the Ribelle closure and announced some changes at Strip-T's:
There has been a lot of speculation about Tim's arrest and his somewhat impulsive actions that followed. The charges were dropped against Tim because at no time was there any edibles in the car. He was transporting leftover sweets from an event in Montreal. The lab tests for THC came back negative and that was the end of it (except for Tim's reputation ).
As for changing the name, yes we knew we were going to sell the restaurant. Tim needed a rather large staff to run the Ribelle concept, quite a few employees had moved on and we were short staffed. Rather than hire new people knowing we would close, Tim chose to change the concept, a concept that could run with fewer employees. Every employee who worked at the restaurant the past few months knew we were going to close, this seemed the proper way to handle the situation.
I am pretty sure industry folks can imagine the hard work that went into Ribelle on a daily basis. We have been grieving for quite some time and now it is time for Tim and Theresa to make great things happen elsewhere. We tried our best and we can live with that.
Strip-t's is still open for business as usual. We have a new chef, William Nurse, who has worked for the Aquitaine Group for the past five years spending the majority of his time as head chef at Metropolis. In the next few weeks we will be introducing more of a neighborhood friendly menu at dinner. We have plenty of seating in the summer so come by and enjoy our hospitality!