The Palace Jewel Box
Meryle Evans - November 2013
New York City—It’s raspberry and chocolate for both the palate and the palette at Pomme Palais, Michel Richard’s vibrant new patisserie and haute take-out marché in Manhattan’s landmark Palace Hotel. The former is a luscious éclair; the latter exudes an ambience that reflects the personality of the playful, detail-oriented chef/restaurateur with its hot pink and brown decor enhanced with mirrors and white marble floors inset with chevron-patterned sparkling silver tiles. This 18 seat temple of pleasure, designed by Jeffrey Beers, is on the street level of the recently renovated ($140 million) hotel, where Richard also reigns at two restaurants: the fine dining Gallery and bistro Villard Michel Richard.
A culinary pioneer who came to New York City from France in 1974 to open a pastry shop for his mentor Gaston LeNôtre, Richard stayed on in the United States, creating a string of acclaimed restaurants across the country, starting with Citrus in Los Angeles, Citronelle in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., and, still going strong with the popular bistro, Central, in downtown D.C. Now, back in New York City after 40 years, he has settled into Gotham for a year, leaving Central in the hands of associates.
Seated at one of the marble topped tables for two, Richard, who laughs a lot, and whose voice can raise an octave when he’s expressing his enthusiasm for a new creation, explains that he has been working with Palace executive pastry chef David Carmichael every day for three months to perfect a parade of signature Richard pastries—both traditional and modern—the perfect croissant (his secret: brown butter), a macaron with jalapeño ganache, and crème brûlée French toast (a “ravioli” of brioche dough baked with a vanilla crème anglaise filling, caramelized, and sprinkled with more sugar). To illustrate, he draws a quick sketch of the dish, his customary method of interpreting ideas. In fact, several of his drawings have been used for plates made for the restaurant.
A Richard favorite, paper-thin tuiles, come in sweet and savory iterations like pistachio/raspberry and potato. The wafer dough is shaped into rolls, frozen, sliced with a meat cutter and baked 40 minutes in a 325 degree oven. “I love crunch,” he declares, adding, “and I love ice cream.” He and Carmichael, who was pastry chef at the hotel’s recently shuttered Gilt, also love the new ice cream machine in the updated pastry kitchen, and the dedicated chocolate room where they are making an assortment of 20 ganache fillings, many of them fruit, that will be sold in the shop by sales staff wearing, yes, chocolate brown uniforms, white aprons, and jaunty berets. There are special chocolate boxes in Pomme Palais colors, designed, along with other take-out containers, by graphic artist Patricia Spenser. The to-go boxes will transport not only pastries, but a large selection of savories, including crab cake on a brioche; 72 hour short ribs cooked sous-vide, with sliced tomato confit, grilled onion, and smoked mozzarella on white bread; and fried chicken that Richard makes with fine crumbs from the insides of baguettes and a coating of chicken mousse to replace the egg wash. There is also a cold case with salads and freshly pressed juices.
“The menu will change all the time,” notes Richard. “The desserts will be fresh and new. They won’t age like I did. But when you do something you love, when you find the right profession, it’s not work, you just want to do everything.”