And if everything had been on the level of the roasted chicken, the rustic bean soup and the salmon fillet on a bed of lentils energized with balsamic vinegar, Villard Michel Richard would easily qualify as an average hotel restaurant. But many other dishes vaulted across the gap that separates average from awful.
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. It is like edible Novocain.
What Villard Michel Richard’s $28 fried chicken does to Southern cooking, its $40 veal cheek blanquette does to French. 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 color 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.
When this NYT restaurant critic trashes a restaurant, he trashes the damned restaurant.
Although, oddly, his final overall rating was “fair.” I can’t imagine why. Either he doesn’t actually understand the meaning of the word, or he lacked a lower rating. Like “awful.”