Thanks for the tips on what to order during my first trip to Atelier. I had quite a good meal, though I wouldn't call it exceptional. Here's a recap. Your mileage may vary.
The room is tucked way into the back of the Ritz Carlton dining room, past its very nice, classy, dark-wood-panelled, executive-style lounge. The dining room itself is understated and old-fashioned, with a masculine decor paralleling that of the lounge, albeit with lighter-colored oak panelling. Ceilings are low, the floors bear a fuddy-duddy carpeting, and the chairs are comfy. Plenty of space on the tables. Nice low noise level. The crowd was pretty much over-50 business types, apparently heavy on hotel guests.
The service was excellent: friendly, attentive, and warm. The wine list was also excellent, probably the best aspect of the restaurant. It's very, very strong in French wines, but does very well with German, Italian, and even Austrian wines as well. Not a lot of American, Australian, or South American choices. I liked the sommelier a lot.
The amuse had two parts, a cup of warm "mushroom capuccino" (tasted like cream of mushroom soup to me) which was simple but nice, and a sad little tuft of wilted frisee without any particular taste at all. Appetizers were better. Quail and foie gras with black truffle gelee was quite nice. But the butternut squash risotto with carmelized cauliflower and banyuls jus wasn't as good as I hoped -- the texture was pretty close to right, a nice comfort-foody glop with the risotto preserving perhaps a little too much of its firmness. But the squash and cauliflower flavors were much too subdued, and I would have liked a lot more of the banyuls jus.
I didn't order the lobster, which was recommended here, because I usually find lobster dishes in French restaurants to be disappointing, and I hadn't come to trust Atelier just yet. The cod crusted with chorizo in a white coco bean puree with xeres vinegar jus worked quite nicely. It was a beautiful, flaky piece of fish, and the bean puree was excellent, paired nicely with the vinegar jus. It was imbalanced, I suppose, with the delicious chorizo rather overpowering the delicate fish, but all in all it worked well. The roasted loup de mer with lovage and hon shimeji mushrooms wasn't as good, a little too "lighter than air" for its own good I think.
The cheese plate was disappointing, and I can't recommend ordering it at Atelier. Most of the cheeses were underripe. Many hadn't even been cut open yet -- I felt like I may have been the first person to order cheese in days.
The dessert was unremarkable. The chocolate sampler featured one of the weaker molten chocolate cakes I've had, a chocolate mille feuilles that was fine but nothing great, and a warm mousse that was enjoyable but didn't distinguish itself in any way. We also tried the "yogurt pancake" with chocolate sauce on it, served with a pumpkin pot au feu and some sort of light mousse. Again, not special. Maybe the new pastry chef is still working out the kinks.
All in all, as I said, a nice experience, and I'll probably be back to further probe the menu. In the meantime, I think the real strength of this place (as with Daniel) could be the lounge in front, which would be a perfect place to drop into and have a great bottle of wine, should the occasion arise. The Ritz lounge is a lot more crowded than the Daniel lounge, but it's a nice vibe, in a clubby way, with paintings to look at and live piano music to listen to.
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