Monday, January 17, 2011

Michel Misses the Mark

Michel by Michel Richard, Tyson's Corner

When I first heard that Michel Richard was set to open a restaurant in the former Maestro space at the Tyson's Corner Ritz, my heart fluttered as I eagerly anticipated a foodie lunch spot near my office. Richard's Central is one of my top DC go-to restaurants, delivering playful and always flawless takes on classic French and American dishes. And Citronelle is a DC splurge dining experience that delivers elaborately choreographed service, excellent cuisine, and some whimsical surprises. I thought: how could Michel go wrong--the dining scene in Tyson's is like the traffic, it needs some serious help, is barely tolerable at best, but mostly just frustrating (the now shuttered Inox gave it a go last year but did not succeed).

Lunch with colleagues last week seemed an opportune time to try Richard's newest endeavor for the first time.  I headed over ready to splurge on lunch (entrees between $20 - 27) and introduce my coworkers to the magic of Michel.

The experience started off well.  The restaurant had all the hallmarks I've come to expect from himself: an illuminated stack of plates, a fuchsia dining room, a large visible kitchen.  And on this day, the legendary chef was walking around among us mere mortals, waiving, and monitoring kitchen progress.  How could we go wrong?

Did we ever go wrong.  This lunch, to be crass, sucked.  The service, the pacing, even the quality of the food.  Typing the latter makes me the saddest, but I will elaborate.

The dining room was only about a quarter full, but it still took fifteen minutes for our waitress to  initially greet our party of five.  The wait for wine was another twenty minutes, and our entrees took almost an hour to arrive.  We saw our stern waitress a total of three times during what turned into close to a 2 hour lunch, as wine glasses sat empty and later plates sat uncleared.  The water boy on the other hand was fortunately quite attentive.

As my stomach growled, I thought I could take solace in the fact that when (if?) the food does arrive it will surely smooth over everyone's frustrations.  Incorrect again.   While Central is incredibly consistent food-wise, Michel has not yet gotten into this groove.

Michel: Fried Chicken

I opted for a favorite at Central: fried chicken.  At Michel, the take was juicy, but the breading had a gummy layer that did not adhere to the chicken, causing the chicken to fall apart the minute I cut into it.  A sweet potato puree, while a decent addition on its own, was topped with some sad looking greens, an unworkable combination of contrasting textures.  While the raspberry sauce for the chicken was quite flavorful with an Asian-flare, it did not compliment the sides, making the dish feel and taste fragmented.

Michel: Side of Fries

I will say the presentation was mostly attractive; both the tuna carpaccio and salmon terrine could have doubled as art.  A side of french fries ($8) arrived in a miniature fry basket crisp, hot, and appropriately salted with a trio of dipping sauces. 

I wanted to love Michel.  Instead, I left disappointed and not inclined to go back.  At least at this point, better service and more consistent dishes can be found across the mall at the Cheesecake Factory.  Alas, I am left to conclude the state of Tyson's dining remains dismal.

Michel on Urbanspoon

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