Citronelle Under Construction As Chef Michel Richard Expands To New York
Even as Hurricane Sandy was quickly approaching the nation’s capital this Saturday, groups were holding steadfast for their reservations at Central Michel Richard. One group outside the restaurant was eagerly waiting for French chef Michel Richard’s American restaurant to open, but Kulene DiCerce fondly remembered her experience at Citronelle.
It was “one of the most memorable meals of my life,” said DiCerce.
If DiCerce is right, Richard’s cuisine is about as memorable as the man himself. Inside Central, Richard was thrilled to hear about his fans’ enthusiasm. He clasped his hands and asked, “Where is she?” Richard has been getting praise like hers from Washingtonians since Citronelle opened at the Latham Hotel in 1993. The restaurant closed in July for repairs to the structure of the Latham Hotel caused by water damage.
Richard did not expect the repairs to take as long as they are. “One morning, they called me,” he said. “They said, ‘Michel, we are going to be closed a few days.’ And in a few days, now it is becoming a few months or a year.”
The renovation of the Latham Hotel and Citronelle is already in process. Citronelle has been gutted, and Richard is excited about its rebirth.
“They are going to have to hire a designer to redesign the restaurant. I want that restaurant to be a fresher version. A new Citronelle,” said Richard. “That’s what I want. A nicer, a better looking restaurant.”
A designer has not been chosen yet for the redesign. Mel Davis, Richard’s spokesperson, said she expects Citronelle to reopen in the second quarter of 2013, in time to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Meanwhile, Richard has been plenty busy. Central has introduced a pre-theatre menu, and he’s just been invited to open a new restaurant at the New York Palace Hotel. The new, yet-to-be-named project is something of a homecoming for Richard, who opened his first pastry shop in New York when he first came to America in the 1970s.
“I’m going back now, 38 years later. The accent’s still the same. L’accent is still the same. Same French accent. I am very excited. And, you know, the reason I am so excited is that I’m opening a pastry shop.”
Richard will be making numerous trips to New York to prepare to open the restaurant but reassures us that D.C. is his home. “My wife loves it,” said Richard. “It is a nice town. I love to be next to the president.”