Michel Is Closed

If you call over to Michel, the bistro at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner, you’ll be redirected to the front desk, where you will be told the restaurant is now closed. As a hotel staffer explained, “It’s unfortunate” and “we are currently reevaluating the space.” The Washington Post‘s Tim Carman reported last Saturday that Sunday’s brunch would be the last meal.

It seems like only a year or two ago that Michel opened its doors—and that’s because it was, as I noted in my November 2010 profile of the chef for Washingtonian magazine. And while the story on MR’s comeback remains true (he’s since opened in Vegas and soon in Atlantic City), the Tysons experiment was always a major gamble, so to speak. Looking back to when I followed him around for a few days, the fears were already evident. Standing in the lobby, I remember Richard saying the emptiness of the hotel (typical in late summer) “makes me sad.” He never liked that it wasn’t the most accessible location (on the third floor). He even asked, “Will people come here?” in spite of the horrendous traffic.

A few months in, head chef Levi Mezick left for California, although Mezick told me he couldn’t resist running his own place in Monterey called 1833 (he was hired by the founders of Pebble Beach Food & Wine). The last time I saw Richard (about a month ago), he was in good spirits but he didn’t say much about the Tysons outpost.

In the end, I suppose, it wasn’t enough to depend on guests at the hotel. In my article I quoted former Post food critic Phyllis Richman who said, “[Michel Richard] has chosen a particularly tough challenge at the Ritz. The timing could hardly be worse for a pricey restaurant. The location has already proven that even a superb and lavishly promoted chef can’t squeeze a stable success out of it.” Turns out she was right.

And for the amount of time I spent on the piece and saying how much I looked forward to eating there, I never made it out to Michel—the traffic is killer.

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