Millesime, nestled inside the Carlton Hotel on lower Madison Avenue, has one of the most gorgeous dining rooms you’ll ever enter. Utilizing much of the original interior architecture of the hotel’s nearly hundred year-old dining room, the cream-colored, long space is ornate, with Beaux-Arts touches like arched doorways, crown molding, chandeliers, and Art Nouveau lighting sconces. It’s not easy to find if you enter through the hotel (you need to walk through the bar and go up a flight of stairs), but there’s a new entrance around the corner that heads right into the dining room (you should still check out the bar downstairs, though).
If it wasn’t clear from walking in that you’re in a high-quality French brasserie, then all you need to do is look at the menu. We dined there at the invitation of the restaurant, and had the opportunity to sample the selection of homemade terrines and pates, including a stellar country pate; deviled eggs, which are given a rich smokiness by the addition of smoked sprats; a chilled white gazpacho that’s both and light and creamy at the same time; a decadent smoked salmon rillette with pickled beets that would be equally at home on a bagel (in a good way); Atlantic cod with clams, nduja broth, and pork sausage that was delicate, incredibly flavorful and perfectly cooked; rigatoni in a saffron-scented lobster sauce that hot all the right, lobster notes (it didn’t skimp on the lobster, either); and finally a play on traditional bouillabaisse with big chunks of cod, scallops, shrimp, clams and mussels in a satisfyingly robust sauce. All the food hit all the right notes and was very nicely cooked. The maître d’, Remy, was a perfect host, carefully orchestrating the meal and pairing each course with well-chosen wines.
We were disappointed to find, however, that the restaurant was nearly empty for the entire time that we were there. While the food was nothing short of delicious, the dishes on the menu themselves weren’t necessarily breaking new ground, and there isn’t that one dish that keeps customers coming back. While it’s certainly respectable to serve classic French fare in classic French preparations, it’s a shame that that isn’t enough to pull in the big crowds. Because the food here is very good, and Millesime deserves to be filling every seat, every night.