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.