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L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

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L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

mdibiaso | Sep 27, 2004 05:02 PM

My wife and I had our second 3 star meal at Robochon Paris restaurant many years ago. It was one week before he closed. We had been trying to book for years, and finally managed to book a Friday lunch for July in January of the same year. Dinner was full. So it was exciting for us to go back to his new place which I had tried alone by chance one week after it had opened.

As all know L’Atelier is very different from a 3 star restaurant. First booking was easy for a 6:30 seating. In fact, at 6:30 on a Monday there was no problems for walkins. There are no tables only bar stools. You can either like this or hate it. If you are interested in service, it sucks. The staff can barely move around the thin bar paths, the have do yoga stretches to place your plates in front of you, and they can barely see if your plate is finished or our glass is empty. But it is a fun show. The first time I was there it was fun since I was 2 stools away from Mr. Robuchon himself and I was amazed how calm every thing and every one was even though there were many guests and many plates being served. This time, Mr. R was no where to be seen, the staff seemed much younger and somewhat overwhelmed.

Yes, there were mistakes on my first visits, but they seemed to be caused by lack of routine. This time the staff just did not seem up to the tasks. We had a great time seeing one young male cook age about 3 years trying to rush some mussels along, the sweating of the onions, tomatoes and such before the mussels went in was a scene. Let’s just say the chef was producing at least twice the sweat of the onions, and at least once a little nasal mucus that ended up on his coat sleeve and the back of his left palm. I am sure the poor soul would have been fired on the spot if Mr. R had been there and seen it. Whether the customers ordering the mussels saw it themselves never revealed itself.

A young female cook was at one point trying to slice some Spanish ham. Being generous I would say the longest slice she managed was one inch in length. She seem more nervous with the blade than a mother would be circumcising their own baby boy. Probably took her 15 minutes in 3 dozen slices to finish one plate. All this actually made us laugh rather than cry since the dishes we ordered actually came out quite well.

My wife started with a thin spaghetti wrapped like a turban with a spoon of caviar on top and a tomato broth. Before I could blink, or try it, it was gone. She teased me later saying it was the best course of the night, including my courses each of which she did get to try (except the foie gras which she did not want to try). I have the fresh anchovies with eggplant and red peppers. I had had it the first visit as well. It was still very good but not as fresh and light as I had remembered it.

My wife then had the langoustine in paper like wrapping with a basil dip and a basil leave inside. She loved it. I had had it before so chose not to try since it is so small. I also loved it on the previous visit. I has a wonderful pan fried duck liver with cassis sauce and fresh peaches. There was a great crunchy sear on the outside and the interior was filled with moist, succulent fat. This was my favorite of the night. We then ordered a splurge since this was sort of a retirement dinner/trip for me. A 1990 La Chapelle Hermitage from Jaboulet. The waiter tasted and suggested we did not decant. I was surprised since I have had older La Chapelles that needed a half hour to open. But when I tried the wine I realized he was correct. The wine was soft, subtle, mature and already open and it seemed a risk to decant it.

For the wine I had ordered simple lamb chops with the famous potato puree and my wife an entrecôte with sautéed new potatoes. My lamb was marvelous, with the full flavor of lamb that I love and perfect spicing of thyme. My wife’s entrecôte was nothing special and a disappointment. We switched half way so she could enjoy the lamb with the wine. But the real surprise was the potatoes. I felt the potato puree to be a huge disappointment. Yes, they were rich and creamy, more of a sauce than a puree, but they did not taste list potatoes. This was made more clear when tasting them besides the lovely new potatoes my wife had which had all the fresh earthy flavors that make new potatoes so wonderful.

To finish the lovely wine we had a hard sheep’s cheese with cherry jam that was a nice match.

For dessert my wife had some chocolate thing I cannot remember and I have a chicorée dish that had two parts where the mascarpone section was the clear favorite with much more chicorée flavor. Overall a fun and interesting evening with some nice food, great wine and unusual entertainment, but definitely not a place that gets on my must list for return visits to Paris. Maybe Mr. R is too busy with his new “Table” venture to keep the apprentices at the Atelier performing at the level that got the buzz going when it opening.

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