2011 Fall Dining Guide By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, October 16, 2011
When it comes to showing off his food, there's not a more creative costumer than Michel Richard. Witness the jolly French chef's amuse-bouche, a vivid green shot glass of cucumber-lime juice floating a single oyster, which is set alongside a stamp of soy-sauced yellowtail crossed with the world's tiniest breadstick. The duo is delicious, but its presentation - a round raised stage illuminated with pinpoints of light - is magnifique. Richard dresses escargots "porcupine" in spiky pastry, dappling the morsels with barbecue sauce and fencing them in with brilliant green stripes of pureed peas and herbs. The sweet fish known as silver hake wears baby artichokes and carrots cooked in beef jus (a fond childhood memory for Richard), and it rests on a ruby-colored emulsion of beets, ginger and orange juice. Elevating the lovely entree to the A-list is its side dish of house-made twisted pasta strewn with lobster. Among the master's signatures is a veal rack for two that can be apportioned for one if you ask: The slow-roasted meat is glorious, and it's handsomely outfitted with a garden of sauteed vegetables and a round napoleon of potato puree alternating with potato crisps. Compositions such as those, plus the army of cooks toiling behind a big kitchen window, divert your attention from the sad state of the underground dining room in the Latham Hotel. (The lights are kept low for other than romantic reasons.) If you want a good laugh, order the Rubber Ducky for dessert. Only Mr. Burns wouldn't crack a smile at the sight of an edible yellow bird bobbing on a foamy white sea of soft meringue, and only a sourpuss wouldn't want to drain the confection from its bowl.
2010 Dining Guide
2010 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010
Michel Richard has me at the amuse bouche. The opening act of tonight's bravura culinary performance brings together a golden snail fritter, a pinch of warm potato salad held together in a sheer clutch of green radish by a minuscule red clothespin, and a tiny Parmesan-flavored "cupcake" capped with salmon mousse. Three exquisite bites. How clever! How sublime! (Writers are warned against overusing exclamation points, but it's hard not to when describing some of the best food in this country -- or any other, for that matter.) Citronelle is where you'll find the most glamorous pizza in town, its delicate, saucer-sized crust spread with scallop mousse, decorated with sweet peekytoe crab and sparkling with caviar. There might also be crisp-skinned bars of succulent duck breast flanked by tender, sweetly spiced duck leg meatballs neatly lined up on a strip of carrot gelatin. The chef's divine sablefish "dressed in red" is indeed scarlet (he marinates the fish in beet juice, soy sauce and lime zest), and my favorite dessert is a plate of cracked-open eggs -- no, wait: The shells are designer chocolate, the yolks are tart lemon curd, and the whites are soft French meringue. Richard, with the support of chef David Deshaies, is a master wit. The underground hotel dining room is desperate for a makeover, but the buzz of a well-fed crowd and expert service help diners forgive appearances. The fresh gleam in the glass-fronted kitchen isn't just from the pots and tiles. A life-size silver toque is now on display in the window. It's a tip of the hat from the prestigious Association des Maitres Cuisiniers de France (Master Chefs of France), which honored its native son in September. Lucky him. Lucky us.
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