Michel Richard made a splashy debut last week when he popped open the doors to Villard Michel Richard (455 Madison Avenue, 212-891-8100), the new fine dining shrine he installed in the former Gilt space at the New York Palace hotel.
So many new restaurants these days shy away from luxury in favor of rustic comfort, but Richard, a French chef who built his name on fine dining meccas like Citrus in L.A. and D.C.’s much-lauded Citronelle, embraces opulence with open arms. The three-room establishment built on landmarked territory is lavish: Gilded walls and ceilings frame plush dining areas, whose dark booths are lit by historic crystal chandeliers; an Art Deco-style bar anchors a high-ceilinged lounge area; and portraits of mid-century stars like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn bedeck the walls. A massive, well-lit, glass-walled cubic wine cellar centers one of the rooms, and among the 920 bottles on display sit a few that likely cost more than your rent. Welcome to living like the 1 percent.
This being fine dining and that wine display being what it is, you might be tempted to overlook the cocktails–don’t. Drinks are inventive and worth your attention. Take the L’Esprit de Raison, a blend of pisco, Armagnac Blanche, red grapes, egg whites, lemon, and simple syrup that was tart, textured, and refreshing. Fans of the classics might note a short but well-edited list that includes the daiquiri, the boulevardier, and the vieux carré.
As for the food, prix fixe is coming to The Gallery room, but that more traditional fine dining experience won’t be unveiled for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, Richard is serving a menu of French-American “bistro” fare at finer dining prices–which means there’s a $26 burger on the list as well as a $28 plate of fried chicken. You’ll also find a lobster burger, charcuterie tower, and more traditional roasted chicken. The dessert list covers American classics like the banana split and French favorites like profiteroles. The crisp-edged chocolate bar we were served at the preview party was the best bite of the night; it can be yours for $12.
Villard Michel Richard serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
Page through for a few photos of the space.