True New Englanders might scoff at Michel Richard’s refined mussel chowder at Central Michel Richard—but not once they’ve put spoon to mouth. A deep bowl arrives empty, aside from a handful of plump mussels, perfectly diced potatoes, and braised leeks. The golden-hued soup is poured in tableside. Richard was trying to copy the clam chowder “that Americans love” when he created this dish. “But I’m a Frenchman,” he says. “It’s American food with a little French accent.” The accent comes from saffron and a pinch of turmeric, the pungent spice that lends yellow-orange color to Indian curry and to this elegant version of an American classic.
$8 at Central Michel Richard, 1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-626-0015; centralmichelrichard.com.
-This appeared in the December, 2007 issue of the magazine.