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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Next Magazine - Villard Michel Richard

The legendary New York Palace is still going strong, with Villard Michel Richard to bolster it! 

Villard Michel Richard
455 Madison Ave (btwn 50th/51st Sts)

SHORT ORDER: An exquisite experience helmed by master chef Michel Richard, and extraordinarily designed by the divine Jeffrey Beers.
PETER’S PICKS: Negroni; lobster bisque; perfect steak; fried chicken; Napoleon
PETER’S PANS: We didn’t experience an ectoplasmic visitation from the long-departed Leona Helmsley. Also, I’ve run out of superlatives.

Having recently visited the extraordinary Villard Michel Richard helmed by the gentleman himself, master chef Michel Richard, in the legendary New York Palace hotel, I can confidently assert that even former proprietress Leona Helmsley would be proud. Interior designer Jeffrey Beers has created an exquisite, remarkably ornate experience that must be seen to be believed—seriously, there’s enough gorgeous grandeur and intricate pomp that, were circumstances somewhat different, Marie Antoinette herself would lose her head. Illumined golden curls blaze upward on the sconces that flank the marble finishes and original paintings lining the walls and all the while, an outrageous temperature-controlled chamber known as the “wine cube” is stocked with 1,000 bottles and anchors the sprawling dining room.
Cocktails crafted from age-old recipes border on the mystical and are taken quite seriously at Villard Michel Richard. The few rounds my friends and I encountered while we lingered were devastatingly good, but certainly not for the uninitiated, and should be sipped slowly. Alongside a basket of petite gougères (fancy French cheese puffs), an evenly balanced sidecar rattled forth, straight up in an elegantly etched coupe that lent a feminine touch to the otherwise masculine tables. My Negroni was on the rocks, however, in a brew of G’Vine gin, Campari, sweet vermouth and a conspiring orange zest.
Cubes of tuna tartare tangoed with watermelon; at once a wonderful chewy crunch left to dance on the palate with a suggestion of sesame oil. We shared spoonfuls of superb, steaming sherried French onion soup with luscious violin strings of cheese, and also leaned toward rich, sumptuous lobster bisque poured over chopped lobster meat and onions that all came to full flavor as the bowl rested near to room temperature. The sole crab cake was bedded by finely shredded leeks bathing in a bright drizzle of chive oil. Mushroom feuilleté delighted—we devoured the luxuriously plump shiitake mushrooms neatly sandwiched between layers of puff pastry.
Mushroom risotto outfitted with pearls of pasta and topped with a crumbled Parmesan tuille was a delicious interim course that we also shared, before launching into mains. Seared salmon was served fairly rare with just enough salt. Tender, tiny lentils, carrots, and shallots accompanied. A gargantuan slab of medium rare côte de boeuf au poivre was prime perfection. Served with French fries and a side of haricots verts tossed with crispy shallots, it readily warranted the $59 price tag (and is the most expensive item on the menu). Michel’s fried chicken was beyond. Start taking notes: the breast and legs are first wrapped with chicken mousse and shaken with bits of country bread before being fried. The end result: tender, mouth-watering pieces of chicken resting upon absolutely dreamy mashed potatoes.
We easily succumbed to the banana split topped with cubes of pineapple and served with plots of vanilla and chocolate ice cream as well as strawberry sorbet with sugar-browned Rice Crispies. The Napoleon featured more puff pastry, lighter than air, filled with a ridiculously delicious cream.  

Prices: Appetizers: $12–$20; Entrées: $24–$59; Alcohol: wine, beer, signature cocktails, full bar

First published in part in Next magazine.

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