Restaurant Review: Michelle’s Kitchen, Rego Park, N.Y.

By Jonathan Spira on 29 August 2017
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Almost a decade after closing his Manhattan establishment, restaurateur Samir “Michelle” Billon still has a loyal following. He hasn’t exactly been underground: instead he’s been operating a catering business out of Long Island City but recently decided to return to the restaurant world with a French and Belgian influenced establishment. His choice of location: an unassuming street in the Rego Park section of New York City.

Arriving during a heavy downpour on a surprisingly cool summer afternoon, FBT theatre critic John Buckley and I found parking spots to be plentiful and what is soon to be an elegant dining room to be a work in progress. This was not a concern, however, because the bounty of cakes, pastries, rolls, and croissant spoke volumes of what would be coming out of the kitchen.

Michelle, as he prefers to be called, explained how the rent at his Manhattan location, near Bloomingdale’s on Lexington Avenue, had jumped from $19,500 to $25,000, a figure that, for a small business, was the difference between profit and loss. He picked Rego Park because rents were reasonable.

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Our meal started with an assortment of salads including a simply exquisite Baba Ganoush, humus, falafel, tabouli, and roasted peppers. If someone had simply handed me a pita to accompany it, this alone would have been more than sufficiently satisfying. But we were only starting. Next came a grilled vegetable platter with zucchini, squash, peppers (yellow, green, and red), cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots. Who needs a mixed grill when the kitchen can do this to mere vegetables?

We let Michelle choose the entrée, salmon, baked with fresh herbs. Accompanied by mashed potatoes that were light and fluffy and string beans prepared with sesame seeds and garlic.

While we were dining and being regaled by Michelle, regular customers were stopping by for their fix of his salmon or one of his other specialties, in most cases to bring home. Their affection for Michelle’s cuisine was clear.

We had been warned by Michelle upon arrival that we were expected to try his American Dream chocolate cake as well as his carrot cake. Trying to save room with the amount of delicious food that headed in our direction was a Sisyphean task but we both dug in when it arrived. John, who is decidedly not a chocolate fan, pronounced the chocolate cake as “excellent” while I found great satisfaction with the carrot cake and dreamt about smuggling one home.

BOTTOM LINE

Despite the great variety of dishes we tried, I feel as if we only scratched the surface at Michelle’s Kitchen. Prices range from $12 to $16 and the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

THE DETAILS

Michelle’s Kitchen
63-24 99th Street
Rego Park, N.Y. 11374
Tel. +1 212 996-0012
www.michelleskitchen.com

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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