Back when Davé stood opposite a post office on Rue de Richelieu in Paris, reservations for the Chinese eatery were notoriously difficult to snag. It was entirely impossible to get a table during Fashion Week—unless it was Bella Hadid, Bradley Cooper or their assistants’ inquiring about a table.
To an outsider, Davé appeared to be just another Chinese restaurant in Paris, with unassuming décor of dark red panels outlined in golden yellow. But if these walls could talk, they would surely gossip about the endless parade of A-listers who came to dine here. The owner, Davé Cheung, who was known to everyone as just Davé, never presented a menu (he simply didn’t believe in having one) and no one knew the prices (yes, the bills were slightly inflated).Instead, customers like Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tobey Maguire would show up with their famous girlfriends and explain to Davé what they wanted to eat. He would then commit their order to memory for future visits.
“They ate lemon chicken, spare ribs, shrimp dishes…Vietnamese spring rolls, dim sum, vegetables,” Davé explains to CR. While the restaurant owner was known to greet diners at the door, he was also famous for hanging a “Complet” sign on the door—announcing to the world that the restaurant was full, even if there were only a handful of diners in the place.
Davé, who was born in Hong Kong in 1953, moved to Paris as a teenager with his family. He first opened his now-iconic restaurant near the Jardin des Tuileries on Rue Saint-Roch in 1982.It was around that time that he befriended the likes of Helmut Newton, Mario Testino, and Catherine Deneuve, who became loyal patrons that would return time and time again. Then came the musicians: Paul McCartney, Janet Jackson, George Michael, Cher, and Madonna. The Hollywood stars soon followed, including Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola, and Bernardo Bertolucci.
“All the models came in,” Davé adds. “Kate came a lot. Claudia, Shalom, Amber, Gisele.”
In 2001, Davé relocated to a new spot at 12 Rue de Richelieu, still in the 1st arrondissement. Behind the front door—which was dramatically draped with a velvet curtain from the inside—were all of Davé’s past customers. Captured in polaroids or various gilded frames, these images were plastered on the quilted crimson walls, from floor-to-ceiling.The restaurant’s visual history included shots of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Helmut Newton with his wife, June, and David Bowie and Iman. The images went on to highlight almost every member of fashion royalty: Lee McQueen, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, Carine Roitfeld, Azzedine Alaïa, Riccardo Tisci, and so on.
Davé can easily recite the names of every notable diner who stepped through his door, along with a little anecdote about their visit. Take, for example, Kim Kardashian. According to the restauranteur, the CR star stopped by with “the mother, the husband, [and] the kids.” But of course.
“Tom Ford [had] a big party here,” he says. “He was dressed very beautifully and has good taste. Very sophisticated and no drama. Very casual.”
Regardless of their A-list status, diners packed into Davé’s cramped and dimly-lit space where one table was set up just inches from the next; the glow of an aquarium provided most of the room’s brightness. The restaurant’s signature dishes were served on white plates—each emblazoned with the Davé insignia.
After years of 16-hour days and managing most of the restaurant’s operations, from answering phones to maintenance and repairs, Davé has decided to move on.“I’m not sick, I’m ok,” the 65-year-old restauranteur says. “At my age, the mind’s ok, but I have no more energy to do it.”
So he closed the restaurant in February of this year, much to the chagrin of his celebrity clientele and the hopeful diners who dreamed of eating among their favorite stars—though certainly never during fashion week. Davé’s dedicated customers willingly came to him by word of mouth—season after season.
Who could blame Davé for retiring? After all, he’s already a legend.END
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