Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
April, 1974. That's when a 20-year-old Michel Richard arrived in New York from France to help esteemed pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre open his first stateside patisserie on east 59th Street. Now, just a few blocks away, Richard has returned to Manhattan after almost 40 years with the launch of Pomme Palais (plus two additional restaurant concepts) at the New York Palace, part of the hotel's $140 million renovation project.
After successful runs in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.—where he still owns Central Michel Richard—one might ask, why New York, and why now? "It's now or never," the Brittany-born chef says. "It's a good location, and I love my partners. The whole team, top to bottom, is just what I was looking for."
And Richard's hope is that the new bakery and cafe is just what the neighborhood is looking for. Pomme Palais, whose name is a French play on the Big Apple, sells macarons, eclairs, and other pastries. In the back, to-go dishes are available, including a 72-hour braised short rib sandwich and fried chicken on the hot side, and an ahi tuna and watermelon salad and cold-pressed juices on the other.
It's an inviting, light-filled space, one that Richard describes as "modern, fresh, and ripe like a strawberry." Designer Jeffrey Beers lent his expertise to the interior, complete with marble floors and table tops, gold-and-white tile back splashes, and a pink accent wall.
His other two hotel projects—one formal, the other more bistro-style—will open soon, so for now Richard is focused on Pomme Palais, which is also making chocolates in-house. "Forty years ago, a friend told me that when you leave New York, you are gone for the rest of your life," Richard says. "I'm so happy to be back."
Click through the slideshow above to see the pastries, savory snacks and more.