Review by Ryan Sutton
Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) –- Michel Richard, the French chef
behind the now-closed Citronelle, one of Washington’s priciest
restaurants, has finally set up shop in New York. And true to
form, he’s given us one of Manhattan’s most expensive eateries.
So here are 18 things you need to know before you go there and
accidentally spend $700. Or more.
1. The Gallery at Villard Michel Richard serves the type of
fancy, fussy food one expects from a restaurant with an eleven-
syllable name. So while new wave spots like Blanca, Atelier
Crenn and Atera explore luxury through vegetables, offal or
avant-gardism, The Gallery finds extravagance through foie gras,
Dover sole and tableside saucing by men in fancy suits.
2. The Gallery serves what might be New York’s most
expensive four-course menu, at $150. Add the supplemental cheese
service and you’ll spend more than a five-course lunch at Per
Se, one of America’s best restaurants. The Gallery is not one of
America’s best restaurants, not after my meal there last week.
3. There’s also an eight-course menu for $185. So after
wine pairings, tax and tip for two, that meal will run you $747.
Ouch. But if the price is steep, the menu’s length is a modest
one in our culinary era where 18- to 30-course tastings are
becoming increasingly common at the high end.
4. The location is The New York Palace hotel, where an
overnight stay for two this Friday will cost you about $404 --
cheaper than your fully-loaded dinner date. The Gallery itself
is in the same landmark space that used to house Le Cirque 2000,
as well as Gilt, whose last chef served food that was almost as
uneventful as Richard’s.
5. Villard has a lower-cost bistro next to The Gallery. And
by lower-cost I mean the hamburger is $26, the (very good)
lobster burger is $34, and the punishingly leaden seafood pasta
is $34. Call it a spendy New York riff on Richard’s Central in
Washington, where the burger is just $18.
6. I didn’t see a single female waiter, back waiter or
busser at The Gallery. That’s because there aren’t any, a
spokesperson for the restaurant told me. The Gallery staff is
7. The bartender wields gold-plated jiggers. And he makes a
mean daiquiri. He uses a fine agricole rum, imparting the
libation with a pleasant medicinal sting. Cost: $19. He also
makes a forgettable calvados and peach tipple for $24. I state
these numbers as a public service because the Gallery’s website
only prints cocktail descriptions, not prices. Shady.
8. The Gallery also doesn’t publish an online wines-by-the-
bottle list, and the website’s by-the-glass list is stripped of
all prices. Good luck budgeting your meal in advance. Maybe
budgeting isn’t a word these people are concerned about. For
those who care, glass pours run $12-$69, while Champagne starts
at $26, a higher entry-level price than at the three-Michelin-
starred Daniel. Bold.
9. Caviar is perhaps The Gallery’s only game-changing dish.
The soft osetra anoints an eggshell filled with scallops
scrambled to resemble the texture of eggs, which they do, while
gently heating the roe, intensifying its maritime tang. Perfect.
10. Avoid white truffles. Traditionally, they’re shaved
tableside, exposing you (and surrounding diners) to the pricey
perfume at its prime. Instead, The Gallery shaved our $95 order
in the kitchen -- something to hide? What’s worse, Richard
serves the truffles atop a “fettuccine” of steamed and
buttered onions. The one-note vegetables don’t so much evoke
haute gastronomy as they do an effort to accommodate pleasure-
hating, gluten-free herbivores.
11. Vegetable eaters can enjoy a four-course option for
$140. It includes an excellent eggplant and tomato terrine,
which boasts as much complexity as one made out of pork
shoulder. That’s the good news. The bad news is that one of the
four courses is the lousy onion fettuccine.
12. Michel Richard is famous for his sense of whimsy. He
transforms a Nicoise salad into a savory Napoleon, improving
upon the original with vertical layers of crispy tuiles and
succulent raw tuna. He also turns foie gras into a livery creme
brulee, a dish that’s less tasty when you realize it’s available
at Jean-Georges, a better restaurant, for less.
13. Sometimes the whimsy doesn’t work. Richard presents a
caviar tin filled with what appears to be beluga roe. Take a
bite. It’s Israeli couscous, colored with squid ink and studded
with tiny bits of lobster. Surrounding the tin is what I like to
call furniture-store ice -- clear plastic cubes. They’re not
meant for eating. You expected luxury, and what you get instead
is the gluey texture and bland flavor of a wartime MRE.
14. The Gallery might have the worst lighting of any New
York restaurant. At the behest of design deity Jeffrey Beers,
tables are lit from underneath. The visual effect recalls a 13-
year-old putting a flashlight to his face before telling a ghost
story -- it’s a mistake that washes out and mutes any bright
colors in your dinner. Then again, this is good news for
Luddites, as the eerie table lights will make most iPhone food
photography look terrible. Sorry, Instagrammers.
15. Portions are too big. Thomas Keller, in his “French
Laundry Cookbook,” was perhaps the first to tell us there’s a
law of diminishing returns with food. That’s why Keller’s
tasting menus at Per Se are portioned so modestly that you wish
you had “one more bite” of each dish. At The Gallery, by
contrast, I struggled to finish bite after bite of the fake
beluga caviar or the average Dover sole.
16. Here’s perhaps the main thing: The Gallery isn’t
bringing much to the New York culinary conversation. If Richard
wants to offer striped bass as part of a four-course prix-fixe
at $150, it needs to be better than a $30 version of the dish.
It’s not. And boneless rack of lamb is as exciting as hotel
buffet fare, with jalapeno sauce packing all the heat of parsley.
17. Dinner is a set menu, so you can’t skip dessert. That
wouldn’t be a problem if the pastry department put out
compelling sweets. Instead, you get a forgettable crispy
chocolate bar and passable macarons. Yawn.
18. The Gallery, at about six weeks old, is still a young
restaurant, but if Richard is charging more than his peers, he
at least needs to be hitting his golf balls on the green. The
Gallery, sadly, is still very much hacking around in the rough.
The Gallery at Villard Michel Richard is at 455 Madison
Avenue. Information: +1-212-891-8100 or
P.S. To the folks who run Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges and
ZZ’s Clam Bar –- time to put your full beverage lists, with
prices, online too.
(Ryan Sutton reviews restaurants for Bloomberg News. The
opinions expressed are his own.)
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--Editors: Keith Campbell, Mark Beech.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Ryan Sutton in New York at +1-212-617-8528 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
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