When you first arrive at Central Michel Richard, you emerge from a velvet curtained entryway and find yourself standing before the reception podium. All around you is blonde wood and bright, honey-warm light. To the right, a bustling, high energy bar filled with clearly happy patrons beckons. To the left, the ever so slightly more sedate dining room. Which way to go? Since we are here for dinner, are escorted to your table on the left of this clearly modern brasserie and settle in. All around, good looking patrons appear to be appreciatively grazing, sipping and chatting. The room has a warm buzz. This could be good.
Now at this point, many reviewers love to jump the rails and report about the lackluster service or some vaguely disappointing series of dishes, but I am pleased to report that Central gets most things right, at a very reasonable price. Its no wonder the place is filled and the crowd is in a good mood.
Among the appetizers that we sampled were old school favorites given a delightful twist, as in Filet Mignon Tartare and Duck Rilletes with Faux Gras Terrine.They both were richly satisfying, as was Mushroom Pearl Pasta Risotto.
For Mains, we had a first rate Steak au Poivre and a delightfully delicious Sauteed Scallops with Tagliatelle Provencale. I could have eaten that Tagliatelle forever! it was that good.
The wine list was well chosen and had a good selection of reasonably priced bottles. Service was a bit distracted however, and we felt neglected on a few occasions. Far too much time elapsed between the serving of our appetizers and the main courses. Perhaps the place is a trifle too popular for its own good.
All in all, however, we thought it was a winner that filled a niche for high quality French-influenced fare at a fun, accessible price point. In this age of empire building chefs, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few clones of this establishment following Chef Richard to the West Coast after he establishes his high-end L.A. beachhead.