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It's no Flavortown
January 15, 2014 8:55 AM   Subscribe

The first time I ate at Villard Michel Richard, the latest restaurant to dance among the frescoes and marble pilasters of the Villard mansion in Midtown, I strongly suspected that I was in an awful hotel restaurant. This seemed like a connect-the-dots conclusion. It’s a restaurant. It’s in a hotel, the New York Palace. And it was awful.
posted by Chrysostom (42 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Quick! Ironic midtown dining for the 1%!
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 AM on January 15


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.

Just after 9:00 am and already I've read my food slam of the day. Might as well go back to bed and wait for the 'morrow.
posted by bswinburn at 9:08 AM on January 15 [18 favorites]


There is one more theory. Villard Michel Richard may be a symptom of the deal-making culture that afflicts the restaurant business. Too many chefs are being tempted with too many offers from too many developers and investors. Hotels especially know that a famous name lures travelers, who won’t realize until it’s too late that the food being served has nothing in common with the cooking that made the name famous.

I think many people now assume that A) celebrity chefs aren't hands-on in most of what is branded with their names; B) Press materials claiming things like their involvement in “day-to-day operations” are full of weasel words to obscure this fact.

This is just a step above an incredulous takedown of the Wolfgang Puck Express at JFK - Wells should (and probably does) know better.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:10 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I thought that said Michael Richards, which gave me a very different expectation before reading the article.
posted by Melismata at 9:10 AM on January 15 [8 favorites]


Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts at Villard Michel Richard.

That looks revolting and hilarious. Like it's already passed through the bowels of one of the diners and re-used for a performance with a cigar stuck in it as a final remark on something something.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:12 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I was not at all impressed with the fried chicken at Central, nor with the rest of my one experience there.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:12 AM on January 15


Note that adam platt, who "outed his anonymity" recently, new york gave this wankhole 2 stars out of what appears to be "respect".

Also: a classic slam "ninja" by frank bruni
posted by lalochezia at 9:12 AM on January 15


Also: moar slams
posted by lalochezia at 9:16 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


This poor, poor man. I can't imagine what going through this experience must have been like for him. If only there were some kind of international relief organization to help people in situations like this.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:18 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


That looks revolting and hilarious

Huh? The baby brussel sprouts and the mashed potatoes look delicious. The fried chicken just looks like fried chicken. It's impossible to tell if it's good or bad based on that photo.
posted by yoink at 9:19 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


. . . you could get nearly as much flavor by putting a lobster bib into a juicer.


Daaaammmmnnn....
posted by Think_Long at 9:20 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


> If only there were some kind of international relief organization to help people in situations like this.

His job is to review restaurants to inform people where their eating-out money might best be spent. You think all of his reviews should summarize to: "Well, I have to say, I'm just so happy I don't go hungry. I left nourished. Four stars."?
posted by gilrain at 9:23 AM on January 15 [44 favorites]


Wells should (and probably does) know better.

I am not a restaurant review connoisseur so take this with a grain of salt, but I'm reading this as the author calling out a regrettable phenomena rather than calling out a particular person.
posted by tychotesla at 9:37 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


That looks revolting and hilarious.

I'd argue that the food itself looks fine, but the presentation is awkward at best. Have you ever tried to make a piece of art, or design a set, or arrange pictures on a wall, and at some point you realize it looks contrived and artificial and calls attention to itself as a designed thing? That's what this presentation makes me think of.
posted by davejay at 9:56 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


"Slithering around the meat was a terrifying sauce the color of jarred turkey gravy mixed with cigar ashes."
posted by Nelson at 10:29 AM on January 15


This poor, poor man. I can't imagine what going through this experience must have been like for him. If only there were some kind of international relief organization to help people in situations like this.

Five Guys.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:40 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


The baby brussel sprouts and the mashed potatoes look delicious. The fried chicken just looks like fried chicken. It's impossible to tell if it's good or bad based on that photo.

This is why I was initially skeptical of, and eventually bored with, Top Chef. Looking at food--unlike something that's meant to be judged visually, like say fashion--is simply not satisfying.
posted by psoas at 10:46 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


wait - what!!! Fine dining Food is totally meant to be judged visually.

You can go to flickr and see the food at Gagnaire or Bras or Mugaritz - its visually extremely interesting. Appearance is a huge part of haute cuisine.

Wells is essentially a random number generator when it comes to these things. Maybe this time he got it right but he's usually wrong (see the Sushi Nakazawa review)

And yeah - part of what Wells is alluding to is that this place is much closer to an airport kiosk Wolfgang Puck operation where the only thing Puck has to do with things is that he's licensed his name - while its being presented as something akin to Per Se - where a celeb chef has opened a new restaurant where he will play just as active a role as in his original spots.
posted by JPD at 11:00 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


The real news here is that the Times had not-terrible things to say about DC's dining scene.

Disparaging comments about the food in Washington are (undeservedly) almost always part of the NYT's formula for writing about DC...
posted by schmod at 11:08 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


If only there were some kind of international relief organization to help people in situations like this.

McDonalds
posted by Billiken at 11:38 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


New York must be a frustrating place to partake in fine dining. A new restaurant seems just as likely to be a tourist trap that the kind people who "think of Chili's as their favorite restaurant" will rave about back home even though the food is mediocre at best as it is to be an enlightening experience that is worth every penny.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:38 PM on January 15


helps to know friends in the restaurant industry actually
posted by The Whelk at 12:44 PM on January 15


outside of midtown the odds of tourist trappism decline dramatically.
posted by JPD at 12:44 PM on January 15


That looks revolting and hilarious.

Huh what? That looks like expertly prepared fried chicken, nice and crispy. The brussels look nicely blanched, and the mash looks like it has a silky, velvety texture.

I take great exception to the branding on every piece of china though. Ugh. Tasteless.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:23 PM on January 15 [5 favorites]


Huh? The baby brussel sprouts and the mashed potatoes look delicious. The fried chicken just looks like fried chicken. It's impossible to tell if it's good or bad based on that photo.

It's $28 (on the bistro side; on the fancy side it starts at $140). And
Think of everything that’s great about fried chicken. Now take it all away. In its place, right between dried-out strands of gray 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 flavors.
On the plus side, the kind of people who go to restaurants like this deserve to pay through the nose for garbage.
posted by Fnarf at 1:37 PM on January 15


UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH I just went through the slide show.

Slide 12 makes me want to punch people. Shoving a sprig of rosemary into something on a dish is stupid and wasteful. You can't eat it, it's not being used for the aroma (a la Adria's prawns with rosemary), it's just stuck there like... like... I don't know, like a random penis on the Mona Lisa or something. It's just useless!

And yes, I read the description of the fried chicken. I, and the person you are quoting, were responding directly to the comment by Foci for Analysis.

On the plus side, the kind of people who go to restaurants like this deserve to pay through the nose for garbage.

Oh do expand on your point here, won't you? Or is it just classist garbage assuming that everyone dining there has money to burn, and hasn't for example saved up for months for (what should be) a special treat?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:43 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


It's just useless!


*starts to breathe heavily* STOP WRAPPING MY NAPKIN WITH A ROSEMARY SPRIG WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO PICK MY TEETH WITH IT WEAR IT AS A FESTIVE BOUENTILLE LIKE SOME KING OF THE BOUGH PAGAN SACRIFICE AM I SUPPOSED TO ADMIRE THE FACT THAT YOU'RE WASTING HERBS AM I SUPPOSED TO LEAVE IT IN MY FOURTEEN FUCKING DOLLAR MIMOSA SO IT CAN INFUSE WITH REAL ROSEMARY FLAVOR YOU FUCKING SHITHEAD FUCK

*pants*

I'm good, I'm good. I just. Yeah.
posted by The Whelk at 1:56 PM on January 15 [6 favorites]


On the plus side, the kind of people who go to restaurants like this deserve to pay through the nose for garbage.
People like me. Exactly like me, since I had that dish, though at Richard's Central, not Villard.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:57 PM on January 15


People like me. Exactly like me, since I had that dish, though at Richard's Central, not Villard.

And how was it?
posted by davejay at 2:05 PM on January 15


It was pretty much the same in the Washington Post review. "...this is not especially beautiful or memorable cooking.... The check, for a four-course tasting menu for two with drinks and wine, stings. Six hundred dollars is a lot to pay for copies of originals."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:06 PM on January 15


I take great exception to the branding on every piece of china though. Ugh. Tasteless.

Not if every tourist and foodie is taking pictures of each plate as they drop. Now it's marketing!
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:10 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


classist garbage

Guilty as charged. I'm in the mood for a good class war.
posted by Fnarf at 2:13 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Marketing is often tasteless. And honestly some of the platings are kind of dull. That 'celebration cake' (ugh the fireworks really) has such a disgusting looking mosaic of sauces.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:21 PM on January 15


I thought that said Michael Richards

I thought it said Maurice Richard, but he was only about lettuce.
posted by yerfatma at 5:37 PM on January 15


Those little chocolate (?) whatsits in the sauce mosaic look like peppercorns. And that's a bit of a funny dish, it has everything but a boat race: little macaron, berries, fireworks, chocolate, multicolour sauces, sponge cake. We do a fancy hot choc for sad kids in our house with a similar theme: hot chocolate, cream, sparklers, sugar sprinkles, paper umbrellas, chocolate sauce, little sugar pigs. You know. But we are a couple of dags, you kind of expect Proper Cooking to be a little more restrained.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 5:47 PM on January 15


That's really not a lot of components for a dish at (what is supposed to be) this level. I've created a dessert that had fourteen separate components on the plate, and the plates came back virtually licked clean. Then again, same restaurant, I created a dessert that had only four, and tables would routinely order seconds (and fourths, once, but it was an iced dessert and had been a bitch of a hot day) of that one.

I guess what I'm saying is that plate has eight or nine, maybe ten components, and it looks like a hot mess. Whereas the fried chicken has four, and looks amazing. One of Adria's dishes, called Earthy, has I think north of fifteen components on the plate and it looks gorgeous--and the bits and pieces I've made from the recipe were all delicious. Then again, one of his (imho) best dishes had two components.

In conclusion, fine dining is a land of contrasts.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:58 PM on January 15 [3 favorites]


That 'celebration cake' (ugh the fireworks really) has such a disgusting looking mosaic of sauces.


Yes, it really should be organized into several dipping areas.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:47 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


oh man you know you're canadian when
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:12 PM on January 15


I take great exception to the branding on every piece of china though. Ugh. Tasteless.

Unfortunately par for the course these days.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:14 PM on January 15


And yet it still earns a 'Fair' rating? Seems like a perfect candidate for a 'Poor.'
posted by yellowcandy at 10:54 PM on January 15


Maybe it means, "Food like one would eat at a fair." Do they have funnel cakes?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:41 AM on January 16


Another well-done slam -- Alan Richman on Fish & Game in Hudson, NY:

The first was bread, more formally a “bread bowl.” It held a couple Parker House rolls, a few slices of sourdough, and a schmear of the house spread, made with butter, yogurt, and ash, one of those slick concoctions that doesn’t taste as good as plain butter but guarantee an elevated price. In this case, the bread bowl was $8, quite a climb from what bread in fancy places used to cost, which was nothing. The slightly grainy schmear wasn’t nearly enough, so we asked for extra, and that was another $2, please. Our bread had climbed into double figures.

An unnamed salad came with a promise from our waiter of “14-31” ingredients, but mostly it was leaves, plus a few yellow flowers. It was dressed with red-wine vinegar we could taste and fish sauce we could not. The designated salad implement was chopsticks, not the most effortless way to dine on leaves. My hungry friend said, “Is that all there is, bread and leaves?”

I advised her to feast on the lovely ambience. She remained hungry nonetheless.

posted by neroli at 10:30 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


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