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ckkgourmet

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, 2009 -

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Moderator's Note: For a discussion of L'Atelier from its opening in New York City through 2008, under Chef Suga, please see this topic.

I've been dining a lot at L'Atelier in NY as of late, and I'm somewhat surprised to see that it doesn't garner the same sort of attention for its counter food as some of the other important restaurants in town like JG's, Per Se, Adour and LB. Maybe people don't like paying for the discovery menu, from where the best stuff comes, but some of the best food in NY is available there. In any case, I think it's fair to turn our attention again to this restaurant because, for better or worse, Chef Suga, the great Tokyo L'Atelier chef who founded and (I believe) perfected our NY branch, is leaving for a new L'Atelier in Taipei, and he will be replaced by a certain Xavier Boyer from L'Atelier in London. I've been eating at L'Atelier NY during the transition, and here are my initial impressions (based on two meals):

Suga was a Japanese chef with Japanese tendencies. He was nowhere better than when preparing kobe beef or shrimp sashimi. The purity of his flavors, and the delicacy of execution, were key in most of his plates. Boyer is a very different chef. He's oriented more towards the land, and the earthly flavors of foie gras, quail, and veal. He is also more deliberately French, it seems to me, and so the reorientation of the restaurant might thus be said to be a somewhat radical one. The new specialties being rolled out include a truly wonderful foie terrine with port wine reduction gelee, serve with toasts; quail stuffed with foie gras (this didn't excite me, though it's apparently a classic in London); a lovely, if understated, veal, in a provencal style; and a red mullet that is interesting, but still lacks a something one might describe as a "more rounded" perfection.

It is my feeling that Boyer's food is quite promising, overall, and I'm inclined to keep L'Atelier near the top of my restaurant list for now. I would say, however, that one might, at least for the moment, regret the departure of Suga, which is a huge loss for New York. One wonders about all the factors motivating the decision. I know nothing about Boyer (and would love to learn more), but if Boyer can equal Suga's work in his own mode, we should be quite happy. In the next months, I will continue to keep all abreast of my evolving opinions on these matters--and I hope you all will do the same.

A note on the kitchen: Under Suga, one hardly noticed the labors of those cooking in the kitchen. Now one notices them. This isn't to say that there isn't discipline there, but one does have the sense that we have moved from a Japanese aesthetic of Zen and orderly silence to a more Euro-American ideal of improvised movement and communication.

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I've been dining a lot at L'Atelier in NY as of late, and I'm somewhat surprised to see that it doesn't garner the same sort of attention for its counter food as some of the other important restaurants in town like JG's, Per Se, Adour and LB. Maybe people don't like paying for the discovery menu, from where the best stuff comes, but some of the best food in NY is available there.

On the basis of my one meal there, I certainly agree with you. We cannot afford to eat at L'Atelier as often as you do, but if we could, we certainly would.

As for why it does not get more attention, I think part of it is New Yorkers' characteristic aversion to imports. JG and Le B exist in New York, and nowhere else. Per Se is the rare example of a luxury restaurant that has succeeded without the chef living here—but in any case it is part of a chain of two, not one of many. Adour isn't really in the same category as the others. I don't get any sense that New Yorkers have embraced it to any great degree. (It is also quite a bit less expensive.)

The price of the discovery menu at L'Atelier is dwarfs the price of dinner at the other places you mentioned except for Per Se. The whole Per Se experience (whether you're a fan of it or not) is really in a category unto itself.


Edited by oakapple (log)

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You may be right, oakapple, that we New Yorkers don't like imports. Or, perhaps, the problem is that we don't like chefs whose personalities are obscure to us. As far as I know, Joel Robuchon is not, in America, a well known personality. That said, I think we would be better off--and have better restaurants even in New York--if we were a little less invested in the hyped up images of certain cooks and more concerned with the quality of the food. After all, personalities, as we all know, do not guarantee great food. E.g., I've had three meals at Per Se. The first was extraordinary, one of the best of my life; the second was very good, but nothing special; the third (and last so far) was a huge disappointment. I called the Per Se manager the following day to speak my mind (I had convinced a divinity student to join me for lunch there, and I was embarrassed that he had spent so much of his scare resources on such utterly average food), and I had only an arrogant and disinterested reply. At Per Se, I figure, they don't need to care anymore. Perhaps they know that personality and hype have bought Per Se a pass. I still dream, though, of my first meal there.

Speaking of Adour, I think the place has been generally mischaracterized. Under Esnault, who is now departed, its tasting menus were dependably excellent, at the usual level of the Essex House dining room, if one happened to like that. It's a bit more conservative than other places, but in terms of execution and quality, it also deserves our patronage. I am, however, a bit nervous now that it's under the new chef.

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First, I have had four wonderful meals at Per Se this month. Second, I have not found any change in the quality of the food at Adour since Chef Dennis took over the kitchen in November and fortunately, Sandro, the genius in the pastry kitchen is still there.

There is no doubt that Ducasse and Robuchon have not received warm welcomes from New York city diners. There is a reason these two masters are considered two of the finest french chefs of the last 20 years. There food is great, but not what many new yorkers expect from fine french chefs. Perhaps, we only expect Gagnaire or Adria to come to the USA. My only complaint with Robuchon's restaurant is that it is too expensvie for what it is.

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There is no doubt that Ducasse and Robuchon have not received warm welcomes from New York city diners. There is a reason these two masters are considered two of the finest french chefs of the last 20 years. There food is great, but not what many new yorkers expect from fine french chefs. Perhaps, we only expect Gagnaire or Adria to come to the USA.  My only complaint with Robuchon's restaurant is that it is too expensvie for what it is.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by the above. What do we New Yorkers tend to expect from French chefs that is not on display at these two restaurants? More formality? A beggar's purse filled with black truffles? I thought the general complaint was that these restaurants were too French, not that they weren't French enough. Or are you simply saying the food is great, but not as great as some Americans (who otherwise would not know) think French food should be?

I very much like your idea of welcoming Gagnaire and Adria to our shores. We can all regret that economic circumstances make this unlikely for the moment. I'll keep hoping for such things if the economy ever gets better though.

Finally, I'm glad that Adour is maintaining its excellence! Based on your recommendation and another note I received, I will have to go back soon.

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There is no doubt that Ducasse and Robuchon have not received warm welcomes from New York city diners. There is a reason these two masters are considered two of the finest french chefs of the last 20 years. There food is great, but not what many new yorkers expect from fine french chefs. Perhaps, we only expect Gagnaire or Adria to come to the USA.  My only complaint with Robuchon's restaurant is that it is too expensvie for what it is.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by the above. What do we New Yorkers tend to expect from French chefs that is not on display at these two restaurants? More formality? A beggar's purse filled with black truffles? I thought the general complaint was that these restaurants were too French, not that they weren't French enough. Or are you simply saying the food is great, but not as great as some Americans (who otherwise would not know) think French food should be?

I very much like your idea of welcoming Gagnaire and Adria to our shores. We can all regret that economic circumstances make this unlikely for the moment. I'll keep hoping for such things if the economy ever gets better though.

Finally, I'm glad that Adour is maintaining its excellence! Based on your recommendation and another note I received, I will have to go back soon.

I think that most new yorkers have a poor understanding of what the great french chefs are about. It seems that most uneducated dinners in new york (obviously, not most of us on this forum) expect culinary fireworks from any famous french chef that comes to the city. That most french food isn't "new enough, or exciting enough" (both criticism leveled routinely at Ducasse). If the average diner in the city was better educated towards the french culinary giants such as Ducasse, they would have a better grasp of what these chefs represent, and would be more willing to appreciate rather than criticize their restaurants.

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We'll be dining at L'Atelier end of May - and I think I'll like the new chef (probably would have liked the old one too).

Just as a point of information - if we are a party of two - can one of us do the Discovery menu - while the other orders a la carte - or do we both have to order the Discovery menu? Robyn

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Just as a point of information - if we are a party of two - can one of us do the Discovery menu - while the other orders a la carte - or do we both have to order the Discovery menu?  Robyn

I've eaten the discovery menu alone when friends have enjoyed things a la carte. Fyi, I tend to prefer the counter, maybe because of some sushi-related superstition, and maybe because the food is actually sharper there. When dining with a companion, I usually request the counter corner, so that we can talk more easily.

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Moderator's Note:  For a discussion of L'Atelier from its opening in New York City through 2008, under Chef Suga, please see this topic.

I've been dining a lot at L'Atelier in NY as of late, and I'm somewhat surprised to see that it doesn't garner the same sort of attention for its counter food as some of the other important restaurants in town like JG's, Per Se, Adour and LB. Maybe people don't like paying for the discovery menu, from where the best stuff comes, but some of the best food in NY is available there. In any case, I think it's fair to turn our attention again to this restaurant because, for better or worse, Chef Suga, the great Tokyo L'Atelier chef who founded and (I believe) perfected our NY branch, is leaving for a new L'Atelier in Taipei, and he will be replaced by a certain Xavier Boyer from L'Atelier in London. I've been eating at L'Atelier NY during the transition, and here are my initial impressions (based on two meals):

Suga was a Japanese chef with Japanese tendencies. He was nowhere better than when preparing kobe beef or shrimp sashimi. The purity of his flavors, and the delicacy of execution, were key in most of his plates. Boyer is a very different chef. He's oriented more towards the land, and the earthly flavors of foie gras, quail, and veal. He is also more deliberately French, it seems to me, and so the reorientation of the restaurant might thus be said to be a somewhat radical one. The new specialties being rolled out include a truly wonderful foie terrine with port wine reduction gelee, serve with toasts; quail stuffed with foie gras (this didn't excite me, though it's apparently a classic in London); a lovely, if understated, veal, in a provencal style; and a red mullet that is interesting, but still lacks a something one might describe as a "more rounded" perfection.

It is my feeling that Boyer's food is quite promising, overall, and I'm inclined to keep L'Atelier near the top of my restaurant list for now. I would say, however, that one might, at least for the moment, regret the departure of Suga, which is a huge loss for New York. One wonders about all the factors motivating the decision. I know nothing about Boyer (and would love to learn more), but if Boyer can equal Suga's work in his own mode, we should be quite happy. In the next months, I will continue to keep all abreast of my evolving opinions on these matters--and I hope you all will do the same.

A note on the kitchen: Under Suga, one hardly noticed the labors of those cooking in the kitchen. Now one notices them. This isn't to say that there isn't discipline there, but one does have the sense that we have moved from a Japanese aesthetic of Zen and orderly silence to a more Euro-American ideal of improvised movement and communication.

I ate at L'Atelier for the first time two weeks ago. I sat at the counter and had the Menu “Découverte” at $190, plus $125 for the wine pairings. I'm glad I went, but the price is not justified except by its location in The Four Seasons. The foie gras course was particulalrly ordinary and disappointing; I understand that it had just replaced a terrific foie gras course. For a full report see the last post on my blog. :hmmm:


Michael

www.epicures.wordpress.com

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I think we'll play it by ear. We usually don't do tasting menus - and the night we arrive might perhaps be a night for a variety of small plates. I'll just keep reading what all of you report about the restaurant. FWIW - having stayed at the FS Paris - FS Chicago - FS Tokyo - etc. within the last few years - I think the prices you quoted are high for a FS in-hotel restaurant (Le Cinq in Paris last October was cheaper than the prices you mentioned). Robyn

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I returned to L'Atelier last night, and I was informed that Boyer was in the kitchen. I was also told--I've come to be recognized--that when I was last at L'Atelier the sous was at work in the kitchen (anyone know his/her name?), and that this night it would be Boyer himself cooking for me.

Overall, I was quite pleased with my meal. One of my two favorite courses was an absolutely choice pair of king crab ravioli. They were wonderfully delicate, with a perfectly balanced and refined flavor. The other great course consisted of calamari, artichokes, and arugula, a warm dish in a lovely broth. The integration of ingredients, with just a hint of garlic in the background, was remarkable. Both the ravioli and this brothy dish make a meal worth it in of themselves.

Most of the other courses were good, even excellent, but not perhaps sublime. There was a spaghetti with lobster meat and peas that struck me as indifferent. Far too subtle for my liking. A foie gras and eel napoleon similarly did not sparkle as it should. A seared piece of foie gras with roasted cherries and almonds almost soared, but probably needed a few more grains of salt. Better was the veal with potato, but again salt might have been added (indeed, I kept thinking to myself: now here's an actual fine restaurant that doesn't have a salt cellar on the table, but could use one).

It's still early to say anything for sure on the topic of Suga vs. Boyer. Certainly, the addition of some of these new dishes inspires confidence in Boyer's abilities. Others, on the other hand, feel as if they were still being worked out and refined. The person sitting next to me at the bar, and who ate at L'Atelier regularly, said she missed Suga's food, and at this point, I definitely agree. Still, I'm hoping that, with time, Boyer will prove that we're better off with him. He's clearly a talented chef and I will return again.


Edited by ckkgourmet (log)

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We dined at l'Atelier the night we arrived in New York (Wednesday). Unfortunately our plane was way late (too late for our original reservation). And when we were finally ready for dinner - the only 2 places open at the bar were in the far right corner - one seat scrunched up against the wall. Reminded me of a sushi bar in Tokyo - very hard not to get to know the people dining next to you (who - luckily in this case - were very agreeable). Our server was very competent in terms of explaining the menu to us (in terms of dishes/sizes of various dishes/etc.). We wound up with 2 small plates - and splitting 2 larger ones. Right amount of food.

Some hits - some misses. My husband liked the poached egg with spicy eggplant stew (his dish). I liked the spaghetti with asparagus/morels/poached egg (we split this one - my husband didn't care for it as much). We both liked the quail stuffed with foie gras (which we also split). I didn't care for the crispy langoustine (my dish - too greasy - not enough "crisp"). Pleasant albeit somewhat "squashed" dinner (in terms of elbow room). But this is clearly no Jamin (last place we dined at a Robuchon restaurant).

I guess we will have to get used to the feeling of being "squashed" in New York restaurants. The places we dined at in Paris in October were much more spacious. Robyn

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We dined again tonight at l'Atelier. Much better experience for a couple of reasons. First - we weren't running late because of a delayed plane. Second - Sunday night isn't crowded at all. So the restaurant seemed more serene and spacious. Third - I think we picked courses we liked better (including a nightly special white asparagus course - better than any spargel course we ever had in Germany). Service was as good as last time - which was very very good. Robyn

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I was wondering if someone could give me an idea or comment on the current price range at l'atelier in NYC. The only menu with prices I can find online is a bit outdated. I am a huge fan for l'atelier in vegas and think its quite a bargain, but I'm not sure I can justify $30-40 for small size plates and appetizers (as listed on the older menu I found). Thanks

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We went for the first time tonight, and I quite liked it in general. I was able to get a reservation Friday night on OpenTable with choices of 5:30 or 6:15 Saturday night, which was a surprise for a prime time at a restaurant of this quality, but I suppose they keep some tables open for hotel guests at The Four Seasons, so they may accommodate late reservations. Good to know, if you want fine dining on short notice.

We sat at the counter, which I'd recommend, but don't expect much of a view. There are lots of plants, hanging baskets of fruit, pillars and such that obstruct the view, so you're sitting at the pass of a busy kitchen, but what you see is mainly plating, and not quite enough to figure out too many interesting things. The presentation is very nicely done, with one or two particularly decorative selections, but not everything is done in that style, so it doesn't come off as overwrought.

It seems the options have been simplified from earlier reports in that we were not offered various smaller tasting menus. Instead there is a page of tasting portions, another page with traditional appetizers and mains, the full tasting menu for $190 without wines, and a dessert menu. It is possible to mix and match from the tasting portions, appetizers and main dishes, but we opted for seven tasting portions between us that we shared, plus two desserts, and the server helped us arrange our selections from light to heavy to make for a well paced meal. I thought our server was great, though the busboys were hovering a bit, prodding us along a bit faster than we wanted at first, though they adjusted after the first course or two.

The amuse bouche before the meal was a shot of avocado cream with a grapefruit gelée and what I think was a small piece of beef carpaccio on top, which set the tone for the rest of the meal--lots of combinations of savory cut with citrus.

Now reconstructing from memory and menus posted on their website, we started with a Portobello Mushroom Tart, with Eggplant Caviar, Tomato Confit and Arugula and Grilled Squid with what seemed like bacon or jamon and roasted red peppers. The mushroom tart was one of the more elaborate presentations with a thin line of balsamic, a small green dot of pesto, and a larger red dot of what seemed like a red pepper sauce, and various other little dots, and it always seems a bit obscure to figure out how to combine these things, so one tastes them separately to figure out what they might be and then dips to taste. It looks great on the plate though. The squid is quite wonderful, seared without being overcooked, smokey from the ham, with a hint of the citrus theme cutting through.

Next we had the Seared foie gras and Grapefruit Gratin together with the John Dory Filet with Fava Beans, Chorizo and Sauce Vierge. The foie gras tasted fried in bacon (conjuring vague reminiscences of rumaki from the 70s, but elevated to something much more subtle) and the grapefruit gratin was a surprising counterbalance. We realized in retrospect that we had too many foie gras dishes, but this one was the most unusual, so for a dish that features foie gras, this would be the keeper. The John Dory was good, but not particularly surprising, which is fine. Not everything needs to be surprising.

Then we continued with Braised Veal Cheek, Thai Jus and Crunchy Vegetables and the Free-Range Caramelised Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras and Potato Purée. Having seen a recipe for the famous potato purée, I couldn't imagine what was really that unusual about it, but the texture really is distinctive--perfectly smooth but not whipped or gummy and with lots and lots of butter to make a kind of a paste. In addition to the portion that came with the quail, we received two extra portions served in Staub mini-cocottes, which I think were a bonus. The veal cheek was incredibly soft and the Thai jus a good contrast to the other flavors in the dishes we selected.

The ground hanger steak and foie gras burgers on brioche buns with fries and house made ginger ketchup seemed like a good dish to end on, since we'd each get one slider, and this is one of the house standards. Well, it's a very tender burger with a slab of foie gras on top. Do it once to see what all the fuss is about, but the foie gras and grapefruit gratin is more interesting.

We received a pre-dessert amuse, which was another shot glass this time with a raspberry panna cotta and granita, which were well paired.

Can I say something about the flatware? The spoons are weirdly deep and odd to eat from, and the knives have a symmetrical shape that in a dark restaurant makes it hard to tell which is the cutting edge and which is the spine. My wife couldn't understand at first why she wasn't able to cut through the crust of the mushroom tart.

Desserts were a yuzu souffle with Okinawa sugar ice cream and a coconut dacquoise. The yuzu souffle was really wonderful, yuzu being a flavor that stands up well to the dulling effect of the eggs in a souffle, but I thought a little too large in comparison to the other dishes, which isn't to say we didn't finish it, but it could have been 2/3 the size and would have left us wanting more rather than thinking it was going on too long. I was expecting something that looked like a dacquoise from the dacquoise, but it was a deconstructed/reconstructed version with a dollop of coconut buttercream in a vanilla foam over tapioca with bits of hazelnut (I think) crunch floating in it, and that got me thinking about dacquoise and its connection to this dessert, which isn't an undesirable result.

I had a glass of Alsace riesling and a single espresso, and the bill with tip came to around $325, which I thought was not unreasonable for this level of dining and service. The tasting menu looks wonderful, but eight tasting portions per person would have been way more food than we wanted, and I would only do that if we had planned ahead and not eaten for the rest of the day, but this being a Greenmarket day, we weren't passing up a dozen local oysters on the half shell from Seatuck--my favorite fishmonger of late--for a $10 lunch for two.


Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)

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Sorry – as a more substantial post -- I was considering a return visit to L'Atelier. Had a very so-so experience wrt the food itself back right when it first opened back in fall of 2006. (Over the years, I've gradually tempered my desire to try out exciting new restaurants during the initial settling-in periods, and figured I should give L'Atelier another try. In practice, so much has changed over the years wrt menu, chef, etc, that it probably is utterly unfair to base any of my current decisions on that long-ago, one-off experience.)

Fwiw, my visit was not bad; rather, very few of the dishes blew me away, nor did some of the Robuchon "classics" seem particularly well executed or emblematic of particularly French-ified cuisine.

From a sample size perspective, I ordered a large % of the savory menu, focusing on what subjectively seemed to be the most interesting/promising dishes. I recall being particularly underwhelmed by some of the dishes containing seafood tempura, but beyond that, nothing really comes to mind. Nothing was bad or inconsistent that I can recall.

I was rather impressed w/the pastry -- managed to try (I mean consume the entirety of, not just split/take small, perhaps unbalanced samples of others' desserts) the majority of the desserts, w/subjective judgment re: which ones were most "interesting."

At the time, I remember thinking something along the lines of how, ignoring cost completely, the experience would have been strictly dominated by a visit to some of the other NYC French institutions (if seeking haute french, which is obviously not the goal or design of L'Atelier) or Degustation (if seeking masterful small-plate, multi-multi-course tastings w/a more modernist slant – again, I realize, not the L’Atelier experience either).

Wanted to see if anyone had more recent comments on the overall experience, or specific dishes when I go back this time around.

The most official (and I hope, somewhat current) menus are at the bottom of this page:

http://www.fourseasons.com/newyorkfs/dining/l_atelier_de_joel_robuchon/

Was definitely going to get the Discovery menu this time around and supplement w/dishes that ppl either seemed particularly fond of, or are part of the L’Atelier “classics” set – any opinions from others wrt what these might be? (I assume that the menus from the link above are at best an approximation of what the true current menus are, so I’d rather just solicit specific expys from others, especially if there ar cyclical/seasonal items that are not reflected on the online/possibly outdated menu)

As for pastry, it isn’t entirely surprising that much of the menu remains constant, albeit w/flavor variations – I’m definitely looking forward to that portion of the meal.

Thanks in advance for any advice that ppl may wish to offer...


Edited by cellardoor (log)

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Just a few questions. My wife and I had a nice time with the sampling menu awhile ago. Are the langoustines still wrapped in brik dough? Does anyone know who makes the knives served with the quail and foie gras (and perhaps other dishes)? Here's an image from someone's blog

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-0U-_iE2ecIQ/TWJsKIcSWfI/AAAAAAAAckQ/DLehTpAbmYU/s1600/atelier-21.jpg

Cheers


Edited by Scout_21 (log)

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Just a few questions. My wife and I had a nice time with the sampling menu awhile ago. Are the langoustines still wrapped in brik dough? Does anyone know who makes the knives served with the quail and foie gras (and perhaps other dishes)? Here's an image from someone's blog

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-0U-_iE2ecIQ/TWJsKIcSWfI/AAAAAAAAckQ/DLehTpAbmYU/s1600/atelier-21.jpg

Cheers

Can't help you with the knives, but I can say with relative confidence that the crispy langoustines are unlikely to be changed, as they are considered a signature dish of the L'ateliers. He has always made them with brik dough.

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Thanks for the confimation. I noted this post on chowhound

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/320335

and the waiter said it was a type of filo...The ones my wife and I had were certainly not rice paper and looked just like other images online that I have seen for other dishes that have used brik dough.

Cheers

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