- scene: A setting fit for Marie Antoinette, and one of the most ornate opulent places to be seen in NYC
- sip: Anything you like at the regal bar; the wine list is sort of huge and the sommelier a little snotty, but there are some gems to be found
- savor: Crab cakes; cheese puff gougeres; lobster burger
- sit: Date night here might be tricky- the decoration says " special occasion" but the rest of the vibe is not that formal, so make sure that your dining partner is a)informed and b) not waiting for the ring; business associates; parents from out of town
- spend: $$
- address: 455 Madison Avenue (between 50th and 51st)
- phone number: (212) 891-8100
- website: www.villardmichelrichard.com
I first heard of Villard Michele Richard on Eater, and I was immediately drawn in by the description of the interior: Opulent golds, over the top marbles, holograms…I was in! I love anything over the top and indulgent,the more impractical, the more whimsical, the more ridiculous the better- especially when it has a bit of a sense of humor, and anyplace that has holograms of its chef behind the bar has to have a sense of humor. What also struck me about this place was the accessibility of the menu- it was composed of items that were approachable in composition and price; there was no additional formality or pretense that such an fancy setting could command. Villard Michele Richard is a place for people who love indulging in fine things- lovely decorations, good food and wine, and don’t want to feel guilty about it when they get the check.
Channeling our best Serena Van Der Woodsen, (PS my hair is better) we walked into the space at the Palace Hotel, and we were not disappointed- all of our gold, fluffy, high- ceilinged dreams were indeed true. We took a left and sat at the stately and impressive bar, in a room that serves an abbreviated menu and made me feel like sitting at King Cole bar, but not quite as cozy. Off of this room was another formal dining space, that is going to start serving a set three -figure tasting menu any day now. While the food and the decor bridge the gap between imposing and approachable without any hiccups, the service seems a bit confused as to how they should play it. I don’t think that the servers should crouch down and lean on the table to take your order TGI Friday’s style, but they should be friendly and informative and eager to help- they were a bit stiff, especially at the bar. The only other odd thing that struck me was the stark difference between the restaurant decor and that of the path to the bathroom- the lavish appointments stop so abruptly as you walk towards the restroom it reminded me of being backstage at the Nutcracker or something.
Anyway, the room is commanding and beautiful, with a glassed- in wine cellar in the center. The crowd was a pretty typical midtown mix- European families, men in suits and some older people. VMR is a perfect place for a work dinner (no corporate platinum card needed) and also a place to take a break for a drink and a bit during the holiday madness that takes over the fifties this time of year. The food was delicious- not too fussy or overcomplicated, just well balanced, fresh and as described. Cheese puff gougeres are a no brainer, and although we marveled at the size of the stack, they disappeared with alarming speed- once you pop, you can’t stop. The crab cake had a lot of flavor, pan fried instead of the dreadful deep fry, and the tomato mozzarella was also highly enjoyable, the twist being peeled cherry tomatoes.
Our veggie friend had the goat cheese Caesar for dinner, which looked cheesey and rich, just how I like my salads. Sister’s salmon was straighforward and well seasoned, a lighter meal choice that is dependable. I had a lobster burger, which of course I was curious to try, because I had not heard of such a thing. Apparently this creation is made by making a lobster mouse that binds all of the lobster chunks together, and then giving it a light sear for crunch. This is then topped with a thing parmesan crisp for some umami and slapped on a yummy roll. The fries, being fries, were also delicious.
I am rooting for this place- it is a needed addition to the dining choices in the hood, and a sight to behold. The menu is basically a glorified room service menu (something for everyone, a la The Mark), done extremely well. T’is the season to be merry, cheery, bright and full, so go indulge after some shopping, I assure you it will not drive you into debt.