New York Times’ food critic Pete Wells has just come out with a blistering review of the Bistro at Villard Michel Richard, the fancy new restaurant at the newly renovated New York Palace in Midtown.
The Madison Avenue restaurant, which opened in October, looks as though it could be a two- or three-star eatery with chandeliers, gilded walls, and well-dressed diners. Plus, it is helmed by Michel Richard, one of the world’s most respected chefs. In the words of Wells, “Michel Richard was serious. He would not have come to New York last fall to open an awful hotel restaurant.”
And yet, according to Wells, it seems that’s exactly what he’s done.
The entire review is dripping with vitriol, and well worth a read. For those who want the gist, here are some of his most scathing lines:
On the wine: “One night, when my table of three wanted a little Beaujolais, the sommelier tried to sell us a magnum. Another time, when I asked for help choosing among more than 80 German whites, a manager said apologetically that he didn’t know much about them, and that the people who did weren’t around.”
On the fried chicken: “Think of everything that’s great about fried chicken. Now take it all away. In its place, right between dried-out strands of grey meat and a shell of fried bread crumbs, imagine a gummy white paste about a quarter-inch deep. This unidentifiable paste coats your mouth until you can’t perceive textures or flavours. It is like edible Novocain.”
On the veal cheeks: “A classic blanquette is a gentle, reassuring white stew of sublimely tender veal. In this version, the veal cheeks had the dense, rubbery consistency of overcooked liver. Slithering around the meat was a terrifying sauce the colour of jarred turkey gravy mixed with cigar ashes. If soldiers had killed Escoffier’s family in front of him and then forced him to make dinner, this is what he would have cooked.”
On the seafood pasta: “The seafood pasta, after all, is almost a direct quote from the 1980s, when doughy, gluey, overcooked fresh pasta and washed-out bits of unidentifiable seafood drooped in flavorless pink sauces. Of the same vintage, and just as bizarre, were the mushrooms under a tower of puff pastry ringed with cold, mud-coloured sauce that tasted of uncooked wine. (If Villard Michel Richard doesn’t make it as a restaurant, it could reopen as the Museum of Unappetizing Brown Sauces.)”
Wells reviewed only the Bistro (a la carte) portion of the restaurant, not the Gallery, where the 9-course tasting menu costs $US185 per person.
The last time Wells dropped such a scathing review on a restaurant, his target was Guy Fieri’s Guy’s American Bar and Grill, which included the zinger: “Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?”
Do yourself a favour and read the entire review of Villard Michel Richard at The New York Times.
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