Restaurants & Bars

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon report (long)

shortstop | Aug 24, 200602:27 PM     10

Had dinner there last night. Sat at the counter. We had the tasting menu, which is a great way to sample of some of the better dishes. Our amuse was a lemon verbena gelée topped with a fennel cream and olive tapenade. Interesting.

First course: Lobster ravioli in turnip. The turnip stands in for pasta in the ravioli and the lobster is cooked just so and mixed with something that holds it together. (not sure if it is mayonnaise or a crème fraiche) Towards the end of this dish I noticed a hint of fennel. A favorite, it was one of those dishes where I was sad when I got to my last bite (which I should add, came quickly, as the whole dish is not more than three or four small bites.)

Second course: Langoustine fritter with pesto. My mother described this as the best spring roll she’s ever had. It is one langoustine in a spring roll type wrapper fried with a dollop of pesto in between the langoustine and the fried shell. A standout.

Third course: Spicy eggplant stew with a poached egg. It is hard to describe this dish as to do it justice in any way, but it is quite delicious, the richness of the egg yolk combines well with the eggplant. (The eggplant stew was not spicy at all.)

Fourth: Cod topped with roasted peppers and covered with a thin sheet of pasta, in a broth with bits of ham. My least favorite dish (don’t love cod) but interesting nonetheless. The best bites were those where there was a bit of everything on the spoon, including the broth.

Finally, roasted quail stuffed with foie gras and the truffled mashed potatoes. When they first served this I thought the portion of the famous mashed potatoes was too tiny, but by the time I finished this dish I was quite full. The quail was flavorful, crispy skin, beautifully caramelized, and I enjoyed the mashed potatoes, and perhaps if I was less full could have better appreciated them.

We came full circle with the dessert midcourse, as there was the lemon verbena gelée again. (an intentional bookend, or an oversight to be served the same component of a dish twice in one tasting?) This time it was paired with a herbal/citrusy granite, some kind of foam (my apologies for the lack of specifics, I did not take notes). I did not think I would like this dish, too much citrus and green for my taste, but it was an excellent palate cleanser because it was not too sweet.

Then came one of my favorite dishes, a molten (very) chocolate cake, serve with a coffee tuile, and quenelles of ice cream, chantilly cream and an intense orange marmalade, with swirls of two sauces on the plate, one coffee and the other bittersweet chocolate. One of the best desserts I have had in a high-end restaurant. (I find many desserts in higher end restaurants to be style over substance, and this had both: style and substance. Very satisfying, as I have quite the sweet tooth...)

The almond soufflé with bitter almond ice cream on a bed of cherries was also good, but the chocolate cake was the winner of the two.

Service at the counter was excellent. I was going to order the lobster ravioli in addition to the tasting menu but our server knew I wasn’t crazy about one of the dishes and offered to replace it for me with the lobster. In addition, I had ooh’d and aah’d at the chocolate dessert when it was served to another diner, but it is not one of the tasting desserts. Our server thoughtfully asked if I would like that instead of the tasting menu dessert, which was the soufflé.

I agree with the poster bickel who remarked in an earlier thread (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... ) that Robuchon is not about value, however when I was thinking about the meal later in the evening, it struck me that the price of the tasting menu was similar to Per Se in its early days, but in terms of both food and service, this meal did not hold a candle to Per Se. This is a much more casual vibe, especially with the Four Seasons bar bustling in the background. There are no flourishes here, like Per Se's butters, salts, mignardises, etc. (actually there is no butter period, unless the diner requests it, as we were informed that M. Robuchon believes that bread is to be dipped into sauces not to be eaten with butter.) It is hard not to compare a restaurant with others out there in the same price range, and in the price range of Robuchon's tasting menu, Per Se wins, hands down.

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