Michel Richard has always been known for his whimsy, and he seems more focused than ever on widening the smiles on diners' faces with the likes of Champagne-topped martinis garnished with brandied cherries and a kiddie-inspired meringue rendition of a rubber duck in a "bath" of coconut foam. In between, the chef marries rigorous French technique--you'd be hard pressed to find more perfect soups or puff pastry--with bursts of surprise (cocoa puffs have never been so fabulous). If there's a caveat, it's that the subterranean dining room is in need of a spruce-up--although the atmosphere is still exciting at one of the tables facing the glassed-in kitchen. To brighten things, Richard has taken a cue from Vegas, where he's just opened a branch of his more casual bistro, Central: Every 20 minutes or so at Citronelle, a silver sparkler shoots up from a table and a couple shares a birthday or anniversary kiss as the waiter snaps an iPhone pic.
What to get: Escargots done up as "porcupines" in spiky pastry and topped with barbecue sauce; oyster shooters with cucumber gelée; a Technicolor mosaic of thinly sliced venison, eel, and other seafood; ultra-rich lobster "begula" pasta; roasted duck drizzled with spiced citrus sauce and paired with duck confit over rémoulade; lobster with Chinese-takeout-style fried rice; lamb with jalapeño-cumin sauce; short ribs for two; delicately sliced napoleon; crêpes suzette filled with lemon curd.
Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.