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L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon NYC (2006 - 2008)


SeanDirty
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I know it's absolutely foolish to be accounting when talking about restaurants like L'A JR, et al. But, out of sheer curiosity, I decided to add up the current tasting menu, to the best of my abilities based on the a la carte:

The current tasting menu is $190.

$??  Amuse Bouche

$24 Le Thon

$27 Le Foie Gras *Tasting version has truffles instead of the

                gratinated grapefruit on the a la carte menu.

$24 La Saint Jacques

$17 La Langoustine *Tasting version has truffles and “young 

                cabbage” instead of the pesto version on the a la carte menu.

$27 L’Amadai *Price reflected is the “Small Tasting” menu portion.

                The main course version is $40.

$90 Le Boeuf de Kobe *Assuming it is the “Entrecote” (6oz.

                Japanese Kobe) instead of “Le Boeuf,” which is the steak tartare main

                course ($39).  "Entrecote" does not come in a "small tasting" size, so

                price would have to be adjusted, unless they serve the entire 6 oz. as

                a part of the tasting.

$?? Pre Dessert

$17 Le Riz

$?? Le Café

Total a la carte: $226 (w/o Amuse/Pre Dessert/Le Cafe, or the "truffled upgrades," and assuming they bring out the full 6 oz. Kobe).

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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here's an assessment of that $190 tasting menu and the $125 paired wines.

the wine markup appears to be astronomical.

That markup was typical for a tasting-menu wine pairing at just about any restaurant in JoRo's class.

9 pours for $125.

I had 18 pours at Alinea for $125. average bottle price (of the ones that I found later) for the bottles at Alinea? about $35.

Alinea, of course, is considerably more formal than L'Atelier.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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9 pours for $125.

I had 18 pours at Alinea for $125.  average bottle price (of the ones that I found later) for the bottles at Alinea?  about $35.

Alinea, of course, is considerably more formal than L'Atelier.

If you can find a three or four-star NYC restaurant that does 18 pours for $125, I would be very surprised.
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I know it's absolutely foolish to be accounting when talking about restaurants like L'A JR, et al.  But, out of sheer curiosity, I decided to add up the current tasting menu, to the best of my abilities based on the a la carte:

The current tasting menu is $190.

$??  Amuse Bouche

$24 Le Thon

$27 Le Foie Gras *Tasting version has truffles instead of the

                gratinated grapefruit on the a la carte menu.

$24 La Saint Jacques

$17 La Langoustine *Tasting version has truffles and “young 

                cabbage” instead of the pesto version on the a la carte menu.

$27 L’Amadai *Price reflected is the “Small Tasting” menu portion.

                The main course version is $40.

$90 Le Boeuf de Kobe *Assuming it is the “Entrecote” (6oz.

                Japanese Kobe) instead of “Le Boeuf,” which is the steak tartare main

                course ($39).  "Entrecote" does not come in a "small tasting" size, so

                price would have to be adjusted, unless they serve the entire 6 oz. as

                a part of the tasting.

$?? Pre Dessert

$17 Le Riz

$?? Le Café

Total a la carte: $226 (w/o Amuse/Pre Dessert/Le Cafe, or the "truffled upgrades," and assuming they bring out the full 6 oz. Kobe).

UE - this is pretty much the tasting menu I had about 2 weeks ago. I think I commented on your other "3 meals in NY" thread that I thought that our meal was ridiculously expensive, although there were some real standouts. Here's what I recall, hope it's helpful:

While both langoustine dishes are spectacular, the only thing they have in common is that they contain langoustine. The a la carte langoustine en papillote is a morsel of langoustine that's been wrapped in phyllo and fried. And it rocks. The tasting version is a loosely constructed "ravioli" with truffles, in a broth finished with foie gras. This one rocks way more (I had to call for silence while I was finishing the last few bites). The tasting version is definitely more than a $17 dish.

I doubt that L'Entrecote on the tasting menu was a 6 oz portion. It was outrageously good, and definitely not the tartare.

L'Amadai was a substantial portion, but I didn't think it was fantastic. In fact, one of the weaker of the night. I might substitute that one out.

I substituted out the foie gras for the uni - our server checked with the kitchen and they said it wouldn't be a problem. The foie that they served on the tasting menu was beautiful and covered with sliced truffles, and i'm glad I tasted my companion's, but i couldn't have eaten the whole thing. Same goes for the uni. Just a bit much for me, but I think it's one of the most expensive dishes on the a la carte menu. Presentation was stunning.

Someone mentioned the red pepper on the tuna tartare - I completely agree, it was almost bizarre (not too often you see slices of red pepper in a restaurant of that caliber??) and it overwhelmed the dish. Otherwise enjoyable dish.

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  • 4 weeks later...

We were four for dinner at L’atelier last night. Mr. Robuchon was in the kitchen, which I suppose is not a very common occurrence (I would guess 20% of his time is spent in NY). Well, he wasn’t exactly in the kitchen. I never saw him touch a plate or wave a spoon, my effortless surveillance stretching from 8:30 p.m to midnight. Robuchon was basically working the room like a seasoned politician, with a very boisterous handler at his side to make introductions and translate for the chef, who apparently speaks only a few words of English. The room was virtually full with a rather glamorous international set. Half the room was speaking French, with some Spanish, Hebrew and English mixed in with the chatter. Robuchon seemed to know the French speakers quite well, exchanging hugs with them. He seemed to have the most fun at the bar, however, where the crowd was especially jovial. At this stage of his successful career, Robuchon is entitled to have all the fun he wants.

Our meal was superb and the service excellent. I'd like to think that Robuchon'e presence had something to do with our delightful evening. We'll have to test our experience on a night he's not there.

I'll add some details about the meal later.

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I'll make a report later, but I went Thursday night with the hopes of eating Chef Robuchon's cooking. It was nice to have him walk by me several times, and even to exchange a few words with him, but I can't say I feel like I ate anything he cooked.

It was all pretty great nonetheless.

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I'll make a report later, but I went Thursday night with the hopes of eating Chef Robuchon's cooking.  It was nice to have him walk by me several times, and even to exchange a few words with him, but I can't say I feel like I ate anything he cooked.

It was all pretty great nonetheless.

Oh, this is all coming to a head... I'm T-minus on NYC and will soon be scooting up to Robuchon's bar. Can't wait to hear your report, Sneakeater!

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Thursday night I worked fairly late, until about 10. I'd heard that Joel Robuchon was in town, cooking at Atelier. So I thought I'd risk a visit.

The first big news is that, when I got there, there were PLENTY of seats available at the bar. Walking in was NO PROBLEM. Now maybe this was attributable to the horrible weather we were having Thursday night. But it's an interesting datum.

As had been reported, Chef Robuchon was indeed In The House. However, he was walking around like a maitre d' rather than functioning as a chef. At one point, he walked into the kitchen area and held a conference around the main table they have back there. But other than that, he was working the room and not cooking. To the extent that makes any difference.

The food was its usual extremely-good-to-excellent self.

I started with the foie gras ravioli in an herbed chicken broth, topped with whipped cream(!). This was a slight disappointment, only because the broth lacked the in-your-face aroma that I'd experienced from the chicken broth in which they serve (or used to) their cod. The whole dish struck me as slightly underseasoned. Still extremely good -- but it shouldn't be chasing the great langoustine fritter off anyone's plate.

I then had the hanger steak, which I'd always coveted but hadn't yet gotten around to trying. This was a complete success. It's nothing more than what it is: superb meat perfectly prepared. They also sent me over a pot of Robuchon's famous potatoes, which I don't think are regularly part of this dish. But I'd been very chatty, and I think they sniffed a potential repeat customer.

For dessert, Le Sucre. What can you say about this fabulous dessert?

Prices are too high here. But the food is excellent. I mean excellent. If you can now walk in without any angst, this becomes a really great option for last-minute dining of surpassingly high quality.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

This past week, I met up with an acquaintence for lunch at "The Counter" at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

All the basics have been pretty well covered upthread, so I'll just stick with my comments about the food. Click here to see the entire photoset (which includes non-food photos of the restaurant). I've also linked each course to my flickr. I've basically copied and pasted my comments from my flickr over here.

I had plans later that evening for a heavy meal, so I tried to eat light. Even with small(ish) portions, that didn't happen. My friend and I ordered three dishes each and shared. We also ordered one dessert and another was brought out compliments of the kitchen.

Amuse: Foie Gras Mousse

This amuse was a verrine served in a little shot glas. There was foie gras mousse on the bottom layered with a paper thin layer of Port wine reduction and topped with Parmesan foam.

Sweet and savory brioche - that's what this amuse tasted like. It was the effect from the warmed layer of Port (between the foie mousse and heady Parmesan foam on top) that imparted a yeasty flavor. I've noticed this with red wine in certain food items, like red-wine and caramel/chocolate infusions). Both my friend and I really enjoyed this amuse.

L'Anguille

This was terrine-like slice of carmelized eel layered with smoked foie gras (two layers of each - the top being eel). Garnishes included whipped cream

dusted with pimiento espelette, sancho chile powsder and chopped chives. ($29)

This course was one of the most interesting reads on the menu. I have encountered foie and eel many times before in Europe, but this was a first in the US (albeit, introduced by a French chef). This "terrine" was sweet - it tasted as if the eel had been pre-glazed before layering with the foie. The top layer of eel is bruleed very slightly - not thick enough for the layer to "shatter." This is different from the eel and foie courses I've had before in Europe, most of which involved smoked eel. Here, Robuchon definitely brings a familiar element from the East and adds it to his repertoire. Essentially, it tasted like cold Japanese glazed eel. My friend said it could almost be dessert.

The textures of the eel and foie melded very well - both buttery and silky. You could still distinguish between the two, but it was all very creamy-soft. I didn't really get to play much with all of the garnishes. What little I did get to try didn't seem to make that much of a difference.

La Langoustine

Crispy langoustine papillote with basil pesto. ($17)

We didn't share this course. I wanted to order it because everyone on this thread has raved about it.

This is the single most expensive langoustine I've ever eaten (and hopefully will ever eat). Was it worth it? Yes, but just this once. If you can manage to put the price to sleep in your conscience, it really is as good as everyone says it is.

The papillote wrapper (rice flour paper?) was crisp and shimmering with grease (There's a piece of parchment underneath to help soak up the grease. They also provide a finger dipping bowl with warm water and a slice of lemon.). A single basil leaf appears through the transluscently thin skin. Inside, the langoustine is soft and succulent - and piping hot and well-seasoned. In fact, the texture of the langoustine was unnaturally tender-soft that it tasted almost as if the meat had been pounded or tenderized before being wrapped. The basil pesto sauce really helped the flavor as well.

I asked the server what kind of oil they used to fry the <i>papillote</i> in - as it had a very clean taste and must have had a very high smoking point (ie. been able to be heated to a very high temperature) in order to effect such a clean flash-fried product. The server's initial response was vegetable oil, but after I pressed him more, he checked with the chef and confirmed that it was grapeseed oil.

L'Amadai

I ordered this - a good friend had commended it and it sounded interesting. Plus, I love bream. This was pan sauteed amadai in a yuzu citrus broth with lily bulb and shiso flowers. ($27)

If I'm not mistaken, amadai is the Japanese name for tile fish (or bream). Robuchon pan fries the the fish with the scales left on so that the scales cry to a snappy papery crisp. The very delicate cut of fish sits in a very light and clean-tasting broth with slivers of lily bulb. The top of the fish is finished with a tangle of shredded phyllo, chive and a sprig of fresh fragrant shiso buds - which added a most exquisite floral touch.

Both my companion dog-eared this as a highlight of the meal. The crisp scales against the delicate fish and calming broth was such a great contrast of textures and flavors.

Le Calamar

Sauteed squid with violet artichokes and chorizo in tomato water. ($20)

The squid was impressively tender, but not that *perfect* texture that I always hope for. The most compelling part of this dish was the flavors - smokiness from the chorizo (small cubes as well as julienned strips), loads of umami from dehydrated tomatoes and tomato water, and a fruity grassy flavor from the violet artichokes (which, being a very seasonal produce at this time of the year, I was pleased to encounter once more in New York in a later meal). While I loved the flavors, I had a problem with the cubes of chorizo and julienned strips - which verged on jerky dry - everything melts away and you're left still chewing the dried sausages.

Le Thon

Blue fin tuna tartar, bergamot red pepper confit with quail egg ($24)

I can't help but comment on the plating and presentation. Everyone has their sense of aesthetics. To me, this dish looked like a nightmarish creation of Salvador Dali - grotesque, fantastical and somewhat garish - as if it were alive, in its own strange way.

Okay, back to the food. The tuna was very clean tasting and fresh - everything glistened with just the right amount of oil and dressing. My one criticism of this dish - as with a number of others, is that it's terribly difficult to eat. Cutting through the egg, pepper and tuna was near-impossible. You either had to deconstruct everything or try and cut through and end up with a mess. We did the later. You can see the results here.

I joked with my friend about the "fence" of chives and julienned chorizo (you have to see the picture). The chives were tough and tasteless and ended up as floss in my teeth (read: extremely stringy); the chorizo, as I mentioned in the Le Calamar commentary, was dry and jerky-like. After all the silky tuna and pepper had melted away, you left flossing and chewing on these two elements. This distracting factor negated whatever flavor the chive and chorizo might have imparted.

Le Chevreuil

Venison medallion, carmelized quince, port reduction. ($25)

We couldn't decide between a few choices for our last course. We settled on the venison. This tiny cut, about 3 oz. was just a tad over-cooked in my opinion. We opted to have it prepared to the chef's recommended temperature, which, we were told, was medium rare. In my book, this meat was medium through and through. As a result, I didn't find the meat as tender as I had hoped. I know it's venison, but it was just a bit too grainy on the tooth for my bloody preferece.

What I did like about the venison was that it imparted a naturally grassy-sweetness that comes only from the freshes and most naturally fed deer. I also immensely enjoyed the dusting of cruchy sea salt and fresh coarsely cracked peppercorns which added not only flavor but a nice textural contrast.

The fried quince was buttery and plum chutney had a nice heft - both were welcomed garnishes. Same with the slightly sweet port reduction, which our server (IIRC) tried to tell us was balsamic vinegar - not a mistake I would think a server at a Robuchon restaurant should or would make. The sauce obviously was too red to be reduced balsamic.

Pre-Dessert

Like the amuse, this was served in a little shotglass. Almond cream layered with tomato confit with "strawberry soup" and topped with a milk foam.

Strawberry predominated the smell, but together with the tomato confit, which lended a meatiness that stepped in for the texture of fruit, this little creamy verrine had the effect of cherry! The almond cream wasn't nearly as over-powering as I had feared. This pre-dessert did its job - delivering a very simple and very refreshing mezzo between the savory and the sweet courses.

Le Sucre

A golden sugar sphere filled with strawberry and saffron honey mousse, served with honey saffron mousse, pomegranate gelee, and vanilla ice cream. ($17)

What a magnificent plating and presentation! Like Le Thon, this could be a Dali creation. (I also commented to my friend that it also reminded me of the mystical nature of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I'm sure he thinks I'm a nerd - and perhaps crazy now.)

I'm not a sweet-tooth, and to that end, this dessert really failed to catch my attention. The best part of this dessert, besides its tremendously gorgeous presentation, was shattering the sugar globe and seeing all of the saffron honey mousse filling, along with blood-red strawberry compote ooze out. Gorgeous seduction in the process. I found myself enjoying three things about this dessert: the vanilla ice cream, the pomegranate gelee, which had a nice tartness, and the saffron honey mousse for its wonderful flavor.

Pampelmousse

This dessert, compliments of the chef, involved grapefruit segments, wine gelee, mint sorbet with a meringue. ($17)

The Pampelmousse looked angelic and heavenly - with the wall of gossamer white sugar crisp and frothy foams and meringue. Everything glistened and gleamed with a bright-white cleanliness.

Mint, grapefruit and wine - who would think that would make such a great combination? I'm glad Robuchon did. This was a nice light and refreshing dessert - not cloying and immensely soothing. I could enjoy this on a nice hot summer day. At the bottom were whole wedges of grapefruit luxuriating in a white wine gelee. This was topped by meringue and a quenelle of very fresh mint sorbet (very herby - almost like basil). I preferred this dessert over Le Sucre.

Overall, I was underwhelmed by this meal. As others have noted upthread, the food is impeccably presented, very flavorful, perfectly executed and very creative. I agree. But, for the price, it's really hard for someone of my means to justify the exercise. This was a "simple" lunch. Budget-wise, we certainly didn't go for any of the heavy-hitters, like "Les Spaghetti" ($110) or "Le Caviar Oscietre" ($98). We stayed within the "Small Tastings" portion of the menu and easily dropped over $100 on lunch each.

"L'Atelier" truly is an appropriate name for this restaurant (concept). I found the experience to be very sterile and clinical. There's a laboratory-like feeling which slightly edged my sense of comfort. The restaurant could be a scene from an 80's movie about "Space Age" dining.

The Counter is literally a sushi bar - instead of the chilled fish in the case, you've got bell peppers (brilliantly coloured).

Service, on a whole, was pleasant (even humours) and very attentive - until the end. My friend and I are almost certain that at the end of the meal when our desserts were cleared, the server gave us the standard song and dance about "may I bring you anything else?" to which we answered no. He then mumbled something about getting the check ready. 20 minutes later, my friend and are nearly waving our arms to flag him - anyone - down to get our check. Sitting at the Counter, you'd think it'd be easy to flag your server down. Nope. We finally grabbed another server hurrying by.

L'Atelier is not a restaurant that I'd personally choose to return to again. I didn't have a bad experience, but as I noted, I didn't find the food compelling enough to justify the prices.

Lastly, Chef Robuchon was not in.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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fwiw...wholesale prices on langoustines in NY (which are brought in from either Scotland or New Zealand...Venetian scampi is not available here)...run in the $4-6 range apiece (see the discussion on the Degustation thread)....considering the markups on the rest of the Atelier menu....I'd suggest this may be the least marked-up item.

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fwiw...wholesale prices on langoustines in NY (which are brought in from either Scotland or New Zealand...Venetian scampi is not available here)...run in the $4-6 range apiece (see the discussion on the Degustation thread)....considering the markups on the rest of the Atelier menu....I'd suggest this may be the least marked-up item.

Nathan, I don't doubt what you say one bit. As others on this thread have noted, the pricing at L'Atelier is anomolous.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Three Fish Walk Into a Bar... from today's NYT, with some recipes. It covers a cooking class that Robuchon taught at L'Atelier and describes the papillote de langoustine au basilic in detail.

(edit, edit, edit...)

As a refresher, here's a close-up of the papillote.

(cough - though now that I've switched from the print-friendly view back to the full article view, the image included in-article is probably better. :-D)

Here's a longer shot from ulterior epicure.

Edited by larrylee (log)
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Three Fish Walk Into a Bar... from today's NYT, with some recipes. It covers a cooking class that Robuchon taught at L'Atelier and describes the papillote de langoustine au basilic in detail.

(edit, edit, edit...)

As a refresher, here's a close-up  of the papillote.

(cough - though now that I've switched from the print-friendly view back to the full article view, the image included in-article is probably better. :-D)

Here's a longer shot from ulterior epicure.

After reading this article, I feel even more cheated by the prices at L'Atelier! :laugh:

$17 for a langoustine with one basil leaf, a 1/2 sheet of brik, and some basil pesto that didn't even contain nuts or cheese?

I guess I was paying, much in part, tribute, by way of Amex, to Robuchon's regard for quality ingredients and ingeniously simple preparations.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Three Fish Walk Into a Bar... from today's NYT, with some recipes. It covers a cooking class that Robuchon taught at L'Atelier and describes the papillote de langoustine au basilic in detail.

(edit, edit, edit...)

As a refresher, here's a close-up  of the papillote.

(cough - though now that I've switched from the print-friendly view back to the full article view, the image included in-article is probably better. :-D)

Here's a longer shot from ulterior epicure.

After reading this article, I feel even more cheated by the prices at L'Atelier! :laugh:

$17 for a langoustine with one basil leaf, a 1/2 sheet of brik, and some basil pesto that didn't even contain nuts or cheese?

I guess I was paying, much in part, tribute, by way of Amex, to Robuchon's regard for quality ingredients and ingeniously simple preparations.

UE - I make the same dish, but use a combination of arugula, basil and cilantro pesto and serve it for free. And the people who have tasted L'A's, say mine is better.

You're more than welcome to give mine a go.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Guys,

For those of you who are lucky enough to eat at Jamin while Joel Robuchon was still around, do you mind sharing the differences between Robuchon's in the past and now? Many of the food experts said that the current Robuchon's restaurant is nowhere as good as the one in the past, but do not confused what he's able to execute in the past. My questions: The current Joel Robuchon is the same person as the one behind the Jamin's stove, why couldn't he produce dishes as good as the ones before he retired?

Does it because ...

1. It is actually his teams/staffs at Jamin that were really good? I thought many of the chefs at his restaurants are his former chefs cooking or learning from him in the past

2. Robuchon's ability/culinary skills are going down the hill? Which I don't think it makes sense at all

3. Robuchon lost the motivation to cook anymore?

Or maybe it's just like Paul Bocuse, he's good in the past but at this moment he's just one of the good chefs but not in the peak anymore? Lastly, the peak of Passard, Veyrat, Pacaud, Ducasse or Gagnaire etc. ... how are these people compare to the peak of Robuchon (I don't even know who Robuchon is by the time he retired)? Thanks

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I had the fortune of eating both at Jamin, and then at the short-lived Robuchon (as I think it was called)...the same space that Ducasse took over after Robuchon.

The best meal of my life to date was at Jamin.

What made it so special? Well:

First, the food. Each dish was both creative and prepared to perfection, artfully. Its been decades since I was there but I'll never forget many of the dishes. The food was mind blowing, and would still be considered creative by today's standards.

Second, the service. It was true Michelin ***. Flawless service; small number of tables (wasn't it something like 17?). The sommelier was great and knew the winelist inside and out. Also, unhurried. I think I was there 4 or more hours and enjoyed every minute.

I've been to l'Atelier twice and The Mansion in Las Vegas once. Neither bears any resemblance to Jamin. The Mansion aspires, apparently, to that standard but--if I may be so candid--it is a joke by comparison. The cooks there seem to "paint [cook] by number". Not that creative. Attempts at haute cuisine and service but they miss it by a mile. Food is not that creative, not that well executed, wine list is insultingly overpriced, etc. Don't get me started. l'Atelier is much better, and my two meals there have been remarkable but nothing like Jamin. Food is creative and outstanding--just not in the same league as Jamin. Its more of an artisinal but still "mass market" version of his food.

Why the difference? I think its where his 'head' is at these days. He has decided to cash in and make money--nothing wrong with that. But unlike Jamin, which was small and his 'baby' where he was in the kitchen and created/crafted *** cuisine, he has decided to franchise by training top level chefs and cooks to re-create his vision. Nothing wrong with that.

But there's a reason that a copy of a Rembrandt--even by his most talented of students--goes for a fraction of a price that a true Rembrandt painting sells for. Even if it takes x-rays and a team of specialists to authenticate it as a copy versus an original Rembrandt, its not the same and the price reflects it.

For me, the best version of Robuchon's cuisine today is at l'Atelier--either in Paris or New York. But it bears no resemblance to Jamin.

I think what made Jamin special was the creative 'terroir' driven cuisine...inventive and the height of quality. Probably couldn't say that about l'Atelier, and certainly not--not even close--about The Mansion. Plus the service.

If I had to pick one chef today in the USA who most closely approximates the actual cooking and inventiveness of the food at Jamin, it would be Daniel Humm. The setting isn't even close, nor is the service (just too many tables/covers etc. and they don't aspire to Michelin *** experiene) but the food is nearly as inventive and quality driven.

Edited by DutchMuse (log)
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DutchMuse,

Thank you for giving insights and sharing your experiences of the legendary Robuchon for the new foodie lover like me. I only tried once at his Macau restaurant and it was nowhere near the 3* (in both food and service), even Pierre Gagnaire's HK is better than Robuchon a Galera IMO.

Who were some of the sous chefs at Jamin? Were Claude Le-Tohic or Alain Verzeroli already with him at that time? In the old Jamin, I assume that some of Robuchon's famous dishes like pommes puree, mille-feullie of tomato with crab meat or caviar in a fine jelly with cauliflower cream were created at that time (we could enjoy them this time around as well) ... so what are the differences? Aren't many chefs already catching up with what he's able to do?

What's wrong with the Mansion - foodwise (I heard the ambiance and service are excellent)? Then, what are you current fav. restaurants on this planet? Hmm ... too many questions I guess. Again, thanks

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Hi Bu Pun Su

Haven't been to his Macau restaurant, but what is wrong with The Mansion is...well, almost everything. The atmosphere is ok if you consider the venue (somewhat bordello, but of course isn't everything in Vegas?), but they have a notice requiring jackets/ties for gentleman....but several people were there in shorts and/or jeans and t-shirts. OK...let's ignore that. They had a petit fours cart near the entrance, and people who came in to the restaurant gathered around it and, with their fingers, began picking sweets off it before being seated. OK...that's not the restaurant's fault, so let's ignore it...but it IS part of the atmosphere. I never saw that at Jamin. Still, not fair to blame the restaurant.

My partner does not like any seafood, including caviar. My first course was blanched asparagus with a canal cut into each of 2 speaks with caviar put into the canals (Robuchon, at Jamin, I doubt would have done something so plain). Anyway....for my partner's first course, he got 3 asparagus spears blanched with no canal and no caviar. See what I mean by 'paint by number?' They couldn't create a different, special first course for him. Shocking for a restaurant of that supposed quality and price.

The rest of the food was remarkably ordinary and not remarkable. In fact, our captain even, obliquely, commented that "Guy Savoy is in town" the night we were there and hinted we should have gone there.

Robuchon's dishes you mention above are classics. They're no longer cutting edge or profound but in the day, they were beautifully done and creative for the era. So yes, many chefs are 'catching up' but the question is--who is now pushing the envelope as Robuchon did in his day? In one way, Robuchon continues to push the envelope by creating an almost informal venue (l'Atelier) with Michelin 2 star food. Pretty good.

Current favs? Hmmmmm....in NY...Eleven Madison for the cooking; Jean Georges; Guy Savoy Paris; .....for home-like atmosphere and great wine...l'Ameloise in Burgundy.....I could go on and on but it depends on the 'category.' The above are for haute cuisine....but there are many I could list.

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  • 8 months later...

So it's been quite a while since anyone here has had anything to say about L'Atelier, but my friend and I have finally put together some thoughts on the many meals we've had there. It turned out to be pretty long, so we broke it up into three parts (basically, appetizers, main courses, desserts), the first of which is below. Pictures, for those who are curious, can be seen HERE...

No matter the time of day, my appetite, my clothing, or my food preference, L’Atelier always seemed like the right place to go, and I think that’s a really important quality of a favorite restaurant. Considering the amount of times we’ve eaten here, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Aaron and I have tried everything on the Fall 2006, Winter 2006, Spring 2007, and Summer 2007 menus, and even some of executive chef Yosuke Suga’s experimental dishes. Maybe this is why L’Atelier is perhaps our favorite restaurant in Manhattan.

L’Atelier’s location inside the Four Seasons Hotel might suggest a level of stuffiness, but this is quickly eliminated by Joël Robuchon’s unique sushi-bar style seating, which forces complete strangers to talk with, rather than about, each other. This setup also means that the final platings are done directly in front of diners, allowing them to have an increased appreciation of the work that goes into each course, while cleverly hiding the messier kitchen elements behind closed doors. The energy from the adjacent Four Seasons cocktail lounge also flows into the restaurant, setting a lively tone without airs, something that is very much appreciated in contrast to many other haute French restaurants where the only sound is that of cutlery hitting the plate.

Instead of chandeliers, oil paintings, and exquisite gold-leaf molding, L’Atelier’s decoration comes from the food itself, with vases of vibrant orange carrots and green cucumbers sliced daily and put on display. The restaurant uses pervading black undertones to place further emphasis on these vivid colors: the placemats, plates, and countertops all keep one’s focus solely on the food. Even the staff is dressed in black uniforms. Against this black canvas, the halogen spotlights ensure that every detail of every course is highlighted.

Each meal at L’Atelier begins with a basket of miniature baguettes and rolls. The bread is made with a high-gluten flour which creates a slightly elastic interior; the perfect texture, in fact, for returning soup bowls in spotless condition. The crumb is not dense, and the crust is light and crispy — the product of allowing a small amount of dough to naturally expand to size. Be warned, though — it’s very easy to fill up on these rolls, and while delicious, they are just the beginning.

The amuse bouche remained fairly consistent through our visits to L’Atelier, a foie gras parfait with port reduction and parmesan foam. The saltiness of the parmesan contrasted with the sweet port reduction, and both flavors complemented the warm, silky-smooth foie gras mousse. A very rich, and very welcomed, introduction.

I once read that the number of pleats in a chef’s toque represent the number of ways a good chef can cook an egg. If that’s the case, someone deserves a huge crease for L’Oeuf de Poule, a stunning dish that we tasted the first night at L’Atelier. A chicken egg was first slow-poached, then flash-fried inside a golden nest of crispy strips of brik pastry. Surrounded by crème fraîche and tiny bits of smoked salmon, then lavishly topped with a mound of Osetra caviar, this presentation was nothing short of spectacular. I am always in awe of the egg, a self-contained nutritionally perfect ingredient that serves as the foundation for an infinite number of recipes. With this dish, Robuchon pays homage to this divine ingredient, luxuriously salting it with caviar and diversifying its texture by adding crispy bits of fried batter. Aside from the absolutely beautiful presentation, the well-rounded flavor was both fundamentally satisfying and intellectually stimulating. The incredibly generous portion of caviar ensured its distribution lasted through each bite, which was delicious even after the egg was already just a happy memory. With an astonishing $98 price tag a la carte, both the cost and the flavor of this dish are over the top.

Having at least one egg dish in every meal at L’Atelier always seemed like the right thing to do. And with the familiar comfort of eggs and toast in the morning, L’Oeuf coque sans coque was a great example of why. The preparation could not have been simpler. A soft poached egg placed atop a spicy eggplant stew redolent of cumin. Surrounding bits of crispy croûtons and a thin triangle of toasted bread lent a nice crunch that contrasted the oozing egg yolk. A light buttery foam on top of the egg added yet another texture, bringing a light airiness that the dish would have otherwise lacked. I would be happy to wake up to this any day.

Another tribute to the egg is L’Oeuf cocette, a soft-boiled egg topped with a lightly foamed mushroom cream, vibrant green parsley puree, and a few sautéed chanterelles. There’s something inherently homey and satisfying about eggs, remarkably even when served in a martini glass in the Four Seasons Hotel. The first dip of one’s spoon into the glass sends the rich yellow yolk oozing throughout the rest of the ingredients. The mushroom cream added earthiness without weight and the beautiful green parsley puree added necessary brightness with both its color and its herbal flavor. A simple piece of grilled bread, perhaps, to dip into this rich concoction would have been added a nice touch.

Next one might want to move on to some soup, and if it’s warm out, there are few more refreshing options than La Tomate en gazpacho aux petits crôutons dorés et amandes fraîches, L’Atelier’s take on the Spanish classic. A small bowl of chilled tomato soup, resting on a bed of ice, and studded with fresh almonds and miniature croûtons. This soup was a bit Frenchified, perhaps, as it was a bit creamier than your typical gazpacho. Yet that textural change made the soup more interesting, I thought. There were also streaks of aged balsamic which added a little bit of tartness to a few special bites. Aaron was not quite so taken with this dish, but I found it to be a winner.

If it’s cold out, the options are even better. The late autumn menu brought La Châtaigne, a chestnut velouté with celery foam and foie gras. This is my single favorite dish from L’Atelier (and, apparently, Aaron’s). It’s also the single most delicious dish I’ve ever had in the US. Chestnut and foie gras: what a brilliant combination. The warmth of the nutty velouté with the creamy foie gras was nothing short of enlightening. The addition of celery foam added a textural element that bridged the gap between liquid and solid; and even more importantly, brought a hint of vegetal bitterness to tame the sweetness of the chestnut. The ratio of foie to velouté was immaculate, ensuring that each bite had some of each. In every regard, a truly stunning dish.

Le Potiron en velouté au lard fumé et croûtons dorées was another fabulous soup blending the warmth of autumn in the form of pumpkin, with the everlasting satisfaction of smoked bacon. A beautiful study in contrast, just thinking about this dish makes me hungry. Each element contributed its unique texture to this complex soup, keeping it from ever becoming monotonous. Every bite had a different blend of crunchy, creamy, and smooth with the croûtons, crème fraîche, and velvety pumpkin broth. The smokiness of the bacon both complemented and tamed the sweetness of the pumpkin. Some croûtons remained crunchy while those toward the bottom softened up. There was no need, even, to submerge bread in this soup. At least, not until the very end, when I sent my bowl back sparkling white.

There were times I wasn’t quite sure if soup or pasta might make a more fitting early course. In such instances, I went for Les Ravioles, which offered the best of both worlds. A captivating preparation, with tiny foie gras ravioli floating in a warm, rich chicken broth with spiced crème fraîche. Somehow, each bite managed to consist of both pasta and bouillon, making this very enjoyable to the very last spoonful. The texture of the ravioli was also very interesting, as there was a delightful popping sensation in my mouth with each bite. These satisfyingly intense bursts of flavor were not unlike eating larger fish roe, only instead of that salty brine you got the unmistakable fatty goodness of foie gras. The dollop of crème fraîche made some spoonfuls of the broth slightly richer, and its cool temperature added a very pleasing contrast to the warm soup while adding a bright top-note of flavor.

Seeing its beautiful plating going on at the bar, it was impossible not to want to try Le Caviar Osciètre, a generous spoonful of Osetra caviar atop a roll of capellini very lightly dressed with tomato sauce. Pretty to look at, no doubt, but this is a dish that ultimately left both Aaron and I unfulfilled. I think the biggest problem in this dish was the lack of textural contrast — the tender capellini (generally unworthy of being called “pasta” anyway, according to Aaron) and moist caviar proved to be a monotonous combination. And as for flavor, the capellini didn’t have much at all, with its tomato dressing too bland to be lifted even by the briny caviar.

Disappointed with that pasta dish, Aaron thought Les Spaghettis might do the trick instead. L’Atelier’s rendition of spaghetti alla carbonara was something he had read about as an off-the-menu specialty from the Paris location. The dish was served traditionally: just pancetta, egg, black pepper, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and spaghetti. The small cubes of pancetta were rendered just until translucent without being overly crispy — exactly the right point. The rich yellow-orange color was evidence that only egg yolks we stirred in at the last moment. In the hands of lesser cooks, this sometimes leads to small coagulated bits of egg rather than a creamy sauce, but that was not the case here. Aaron found this dish to be over-priced, at $40 for the two small half-portions. But other than that, his only knock against the dish was that there only a smattering of black pepper, an essential ingredient in this Italian classic.

Instead of such rich beginnings, sometimes I just wanted to start a meal with something cool, clean, and light. Perhaps even something raw. In such instances, Le Thon Rouge is a nice choice. A simple plate of lean tuna sashimi garnished with sun-dried tomato oil and a light sprinkle of fleur de sel. It’s hard to critique this dish since its primary ingredients are so simple and so good, and I’m always impressed by the humility of a chef who can take a step back and let nature sing on its own (*cough* Kinch). This tuna was impeccably fresh, and the coarse fleur de sel added a nice crunch with each tender piece of fish. The tomato oil added richness and a complex sweetness, rounding out the cool, salty combination of tuna and fleur de sel. We saw this dish many several times during the course of our visits, most often as a complimentary treat from the kitchen. But I probably wouldn’t specifically order this dish again. Not because it wasn’t delicious (it was); but because I think there are more interesting dishes to sample, and stomach space is finite (or so people tell me). Besides, if all I’m after is fresh raw fish, there are plenty of delicious Japanese restaurants in New York.

Another cool appetizer was the surprisingly lackluster Le Homard, paper-thin turnip slices encasing chunks of lobster meat bound together with a sweet-and-sour emulsion and a bit of rosemary. These lobster “ravioli” were often presented as a trio, but the single one seen below was sent out as a “gift from the chef” one evening. Surrounded by cracked pink peppercorn, the aroma became almost floral, complementing but not contrasting the natural sweetness of the lobster meat and the turnip. In the end, though, this combination was perhaps a bit too sweet. I guess it turns out that even haute versions of lobster salad are not much more appealing to me than traditional ones.

A similar presentation with equally unsuccessful results was Le Crabe. A very light way to begin a meal, with large chunks of blue crab sandwiched between two slices of avocado, topped by crisp sticks of tart green apple and drizzled with almond oil. The combination of crab and avocado is tried and true… and boring. The strongest praise Aaron could offer for this dish was to call it “inoffensive,” and I tend to agree. Yes, the crab was tender, the avocado creamy, and the green apple crispy, but one can only stand so much of the sweet-tart combination of the three. Nothing explicitly wrong with this dish, yet it was far from riveting.

The very first dish I tried at L’Atelier was L’Oursin, sea urchin in a lobster gelée topped with cauliflower cream. Before even receiving this course, I couldn’t help but stare in awe at the plating in process — each drop of green parsley mayonnaise placed with surgical precision, perfectly matching in size and spacing, in a ring atop the bed of cauliflower cream. Unfortunately, this dish offered more style than substance as the extremely delicate flavor of the sea urchin was overwhelmed by the excessive amount of lobster gelée. Aaron was disappointed as well, pointing out that the temperature of the dish was a bit too cold, which kept some of the more subtle flavors from emerging.

Another light dish is La Langoustine en carpaccio, only this one is not fried, or even cooked for that matter. Thin slices of raw langoustine were lightly garnished with roasted poppy seeds, chives, and edible flowers. Thinly sliced langoustine “carpaccio” is one of the most interesting edible textures, feeling somewhere between solid and liquid — I am never sure if I should use a fork or spoon. Its tender texture is, however, not accompanied by a fatty mouthfeel, but is actually rather lean with a clean finish. The flavor was somewhat in-between a lobster tail and a shrimp, with an incredible softness. A scattering of poppy seeds added a textural crunch. The chives added an herbal freshness and a slight bite. I’m not too sure what the other elements did because aside from color differentiation, they weren’t very noticeable. Despite its simplicity, this was a magical dish.

Another interesting preparation with that same ingredient was La Langoustine en papillote croustillante, a single langoustine wrapped in paper-thin brik pastry with a single basil leaf visible inside. Served alongside this was a dab of vibrant green basil pesto. What first struck me as incredible with this dish was the apparent lack of oil. This langoustine was deep-fried; yet it neither felt, looked, or tasted the least bit greasy. Second, the crust was strikingly thin. The first dish that comes to my mind for comparison is shrimp tempura, where the batter often becomes distracting due to its thickness. But here, the brik adds nothing but a fine crisp layer contrasting against the tenderness of the langoustine. Perhaps the biggest evidence of the crust’s thickness is its shatter effect, where the first bite literally showers tiny fragments of the coating onto the plate, much like the first bite of a fine croissant.

Neither of us were thrilled with La Coquille Saint-Jacques, a single scallop served in its shell with seaweed butter. In fact, I would say this is one of the weakest dishes we’ve ever had at L’Atelier. With such a minimalist presentation, there is no room for error. Unfortunately, every time I’ve stubbornly ordered this dish, I found the scallop to also be overcooked — hard and firm. Practically floating in (admittedly very good) Échiré butter, it almost seemed more about the butter than about the scallop (”Wait… the butter dish is already on the counter,” Aaron quipped when this was first set before us). The natural sweetness of both the butter and the scallop were unfortunately masked by the dried seaweed used to season on the scallop. This contrast, in most cases much appreciated, was overwhelming here.

I never thought to combine scallops and truffles, or really any kind of shellfish and truffle; but as it turns out this combination works really nicely, particularly because the muted flavor of scallops are highlighted by the fragrance of the truffle — rather than competing, these two ingredients actually enhance one another. But for me, it was the milky foam that really brought La Saint Jacques en mousse together, since I don’t think truffles simply grated directly on scallops would have done much more than serve as a distraction. This addition also created a scope of texture, starting from the gentle airy foam as you work your way to the slightly chewy scallop, and finishing with the crunchy accompaniments, all being accentuated with the scent of truffle. While I’m not the biggest proponent of table-side service; for truffles, the fresh shaving can really allow one to fully appreciate the aroma. But even without that extra flourish, this was fantastic.

The boundary between pet and edible dinner guest always seemed to confuse me, particularly because I would eat just about anything. Rabbit? Okay. Cute little suckling pig? Why not. (Don’t start this conversation with Aaron unless you want horse or dog brought up…) But frog?! I thought about the moral implications for a second minute, then my carnivorous stomach made up my mind for me and I ordered Les Cuisses de Grenouille. Too often, frog legs are unnecessarily greasy and messy to eat. But as haute French chefs are wont to do, the chefs at L’Atelier, well, frenched the bones. The resulting meat lollipop encourages the use of hands (though Aaron generally needs no such encouragement) without leaving the fingers greasy afterwards. The crispiness of the batter nicely complimented the slight chewiness of the meat, without it feeling excessively oily. The parsley coulis added some vivid color to the plate, but did nothing to save this dish from ultimately being quite boring. And honestly, those three Lilliputian frog legs look pretty pathetic all by themselves on the plate. There are certainly better options on the menu.

To be continued...

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As the second person who dined with tupac17616 more than fifteen times at this culinary mecca, here is the second part of our collaborative review of L'Atelier New York, our favorite restaurant in Manhattan. Photographs from all our experiences at L'Atelier can be found HERE.

Getting into the main fish courses, part of our very first meal included Le Bar, a sea bass filet with crispy baby leeks, tomato, and a lemongrass foam. Adam did not much care for this dish. He found the lemongrass foam to be a bit too strong. Also, the fried baby leeks on top were a bit dry, adding too stark a textural contrast to the warm and moist fish. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the portioning of the fish was significant enough that it actually caused palate fatigue for him after about the third bite. I should point out, though, that I disagreed with him on this one. I found the natural sweetness of both the tomato and the leek to work well with the aroma from the lemongrass, and I was not as overwhelmed by the foam as Adam was. Not my favorite dish, I admit, but far from a failure.

On a more recent trip to L’Atelier, Adam sampled L’Amadai cuit en écailles et servi sur une nage bulbe de lys, a tender filet of amadai (sea bream), served skin-side up, whose flesh gently parted with just the slightest press of the fork. The crevices within the filet, combined with its absorbent texture, drew in the lily bulb broth making the texture of the fish moist, juicy, and redolent of lily bulb. This dish’s Japanese-inspired simplicity and lightness made it a refreshing break after other richer courses. But that being said, this dish didn’t particularly move him; and while the quality of ingredients was high and the technique exemplary, he’d probably hold off on ordering this to save room for other things.

I’ve long believed that smoked salmon has no place at the dinner table. It’s one and only companion should be a New York bagel (and maybe a schmear of cream cheese). But one night, having either run out of other options on the menu, or seeking to expose the unfortunate circumstances of my birth outside the Tri-State Area, I opted to order Le Saumon Mi-Fume, the lightly smoked salmon. Laid on top of a buttery potato cake, the fish was tender and moist, if surprisingly a bit muted in flavor. The watercress brightened it up nicely, though, as did the minuscule condiments that came alongside — a sweet onion jam, black olive paste, and a single sun-dried tomato. The fried ribbons of potato were a nice idea, but ultimately ineffective in adding a crunchy textural element to the dish.

I’ve tried on a few occasions to imprint the leaf of an herb on a piece of pasta, each time without much success. It’s certainly not easy; at least, that was the first thought that ran through my head when I was presented with La Morue - fraiche en imprime d’herbes dans une nage aux aromates, a thin sheet of parsley leaf-imprinted pasta laid across the top of generous piece of cod. All of this was placed in the center of an aromatic broth. Since the fish was skinless, the sheet of pasta acted as a chewy component both making the dish more texturally interesting, and keeping the tender fish intact. It also locked in much of the moisture and heat, as the fish kept its temperature for a while. Soup, pasta, and fish course all in one, this was a pretty enjoyable dish.

Another tasty presentation reminiscent of both ocean and land was Le Calamar, a salad of squid cooked a la plancha with violet artichokes, chorizo, and tomato water. Adding a nice top note was a generous distribution of piment d’Espelette, the spicy Basque pepper. With all the graceful knife strokes of a veteran sushi chef, the chef carefully scored the calamari with his knife prior to cooking, so that it puffed up and fanned out as it cooked. The effect on the texture was wonderful, with the firm, almost crunchy (but not tough) calamari cooked to just the right point. The slight smoky and spicy chorizo added richness, and the lightly dressed arugula salad on top of it all provided a bit of additional acid in addition to the naturally peppery flavor of the greens. While I quite enjoyed this dish, Adam found the arugula in particular to be superfluous. Probably not something he would order again (though I disagree).

After a while, it seemed like we’d run out of new options on the dinner menu. When that happened, we simply asked to take a look at the lunch menu! One dish that caught me eye there was La Pintade, or guinea fowl. This dish certainly seemed more on the Spanish side rather than the French side of Basque cuisine. The bird was very moist, with the breast resting underneath the confit leg. Pimientos padrones were placed on top, the sometimes-spicy-sometimes-mild peppers that are damn good when just fried in olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. On the very top were crisp slivers of jamon serrano, and there were also bits of roasted tomato throughout. And definitely plenty of piment d’espelette — a favorite seasoning of L’Atelier. The overall combination of ingredients was quite tasty. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough sauce to go around for the cous cous, leaving much of it dry. Other than that, this was a nice dish.

A solid choice that never seemed to leave the menu was La Caille, caramelized quail stuffed with foie gras mousse, served with potato purée covered with shaved black truffle, and a small green salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette. Though this is a dish whose richness may first strike the diner as one-dimensional, it is actually quite indicative of Joël Robuchon’s attention to balance on the plate. It has the complex sweet and salty, with the caramelized quail meat playing against the rich foie gras stuffed inside it. The hot and the cool, with the quail and the buttery puréed potatoes brightened up the tart green salad. Likewise, both texture and aroma are given equal attention, with the buttery smooth puréed potatoes elevated by the unmistakable earthy aroma of truffles. No single element threatens to dominate over another, and the resulting harmony is the stuff dreams are made of.

Le Ris de Veau was a nothing more than a simple preparation of sweetbreads, but a good one. The fresh laurel leaf didn’t really accomplish much; but, the sweetbreads were cooked very well: crisp on the outside and buttery smooth on the inside. It’s easy to tell when one has started with a good product and it has been cooked correctly, when there’s none of the fatty or oily mouthfeel that poorly prepared sweetbread dishes often have. This is still very rich and meaty, but maintains a clean finish. But the dish was certainly not perfect. I mean… stuffed lettuce leaf? C’mon now. As much as chefs try to turn lettuce leaves into something special, it is rarely successful. That said, with the main ingredient being cooked impeccably well, it is hard to find much fault with this dish.

After viewing the very cool Annotated Dish write up in New York Magazine, and running out of new things to try, I decided to give Le Foie Gras fumée, the layered combination of smoked foie gras and eel terrine, a try. Once was enough. The dish reads very well and sounds like a combination that would work; but it didn’t. In fact, this was one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had at L’Atelier. The glazed eel is so sweet that it completely overwhelms the foie gras. The creamy texture of the foie gras is prevented from coming through by the drastically different, almost stringy texture of the eel. The white on the plate is actually whipped cream — what was that doing there? There was also a bit of sansyo pepper to perk things up a bit, and some chives mainly for color variation; but the real problem was the conflict between the eel and smoked foie.

One time that I stopped by without Adam, I enjoyed a few items he has still yet to see on the menu himself. Figures… the one time he couldn’t go. The first dish was Le Foie Gras de canard une symphonie soyeuse sous une fine gelée à la feuille d’or, a thin layer of veal stock gelée on top of a very creamy foie gras mousse. This combination was covered with shaved white truffle and edible gold leaf. The truffles gave a rich and interesting aroma to this dish that otherwise would have had essentially none. The gold leaf was, obviously, superfluous, but that minor quibble this dish as a whole was wonderful.

It is always a nice to see something as rich and creamy as foie gras prepared in a way that highlights, without distracting, the ingredient’s natural flavors. When Adam first saw Le Foie Gras chaud de canard au gratin de pamplemousse, he hesitated at the thought of mixing grapefruit, or any other kind of citrus for that matter, with something so delicate as foie gras. But since we had already had everything else on the menu out of curiosity, he went for it. He was pleasantly shocked. Somehow, the bitter acidity was muted — but not completely — in a way that actually cut through the fatty mouthfeel leaving behind a crisp, lean, but still creamy flavor. The sauce was left thin which allowed for maximum absorption in the liver, despite making the plating a bit runny — a sign that flavor, in this dish, was not to be sacrificed at the expense of presentation. The saltiness of the foie gras engagingly complemented the fruitiness of the grapefruit, a beautiful twist of different flavors that mixed together in harmony.

Among the meat options, Le Chevreuil, a filet of venison with caramelized quince, was perhaps the heartiest. What a nice combination. It’s annoying how venison is always paired with the same old black/blue/huckleberry sauce. Frankly, it’s trite. Pairing it instead with caramelized quince was refreshingly original, and added just the right level of sweetness. The venison was cooked rare as venison should be. I am a sucker for a well-executed aigre-doux (fancy French words for sweet-and-sour) preparation (don’t get me started on the Italian cipollini in agrodolce), and so I thought the mignonette worked very nicely in this case. Overall, quite a solid dish.

It’s pretty rare to hear someone mention a foie gras and beef burger without bringing up Daniel’s db burger. See, I just did it, too. But L’Atelier has a foie gras and beef burger on their menu as well, and it is pretty unique. Le Burger is arguably more about the foie gras than the beef. It’s incredibly juicy, making one wonder whether it’s the foie gras or the ground chuck that is more responsible for the stream of juices that will inevitably run down your hand. Adam and I both dislike bell peppers very much, and frankly their addition in this dish seemed out of place. But the small brioche buns are very nice, soft and slightly sweet. The dish also comes with a small cup of crinkle cut french fries and house-made ketchup with a very sweet and distinct flavor which comes from the addition of ginseng. Adam and I didn’t particularly like the sweet ketchup; but our friend did proclaim it the best thing since kosher Coke.

Sometimes, though, the bun, the peppers, and the other condiments just get in the way. Sometimes I just want Le Boeuf. Basically about eight ounces of pure raw meat, L’Atelier’s exquisite beef tartare is the best I’ve ever had (… in the US, I should add, lest we forget the buttuta al coltello I had in Italy). In an effort to minimize palate fatigue, I’ve found L’Atelier to be generally consistent with the portioning; but this dish is nearly two to three times the size of any other dish on the menu. It is definitely intense, and definitely not for vegetarians. The dish comes with just the right amount of condiments — mustard, cornichons, red onion, and parsley — which highlight the natural flavor of the beef without distracting. The texture of the meat was very nice, too, neither too coarse nor too finely ground. Yes, there were crinkle-cut french fries, and yes, they were tasty; but really. who cares about stupid french fries when the meat is that good? It should probably be noted that this dish’s $39 price is a little steep for what it is; but certainly justifiable given the generous portion.

For those who actually like their meet cooked, one surprisingly fantastic option was L’Onglet, the humble cut of hanger steak presented with shallot confit, grilled piquillo peppers and roasted fingerling potatoes. The meat was juicy and tender, and when topped with the sweet caramelized shallots and surrounded by an intensely meaty jus, the more complex salty-sweet flavor was quite enjoyable. The roasted potatoes and grilled peppers added a Basque flair to the dish, and topped with a few coarse grains of fleur de sel, they were quite flavorful. A fully satisfying main course, and a nice change of pace from the smaller tapas-style portions that permeate the majority of the menu.

While perhaps leaner than a slab of foie gras, kobe beef is nonetheless renowned for its intensely marbelized texture. We’ve sampled two variations of this Japanese-style beef at L’Atelier, one served with grilled piquillo peppers and the other with wild lettuce. Adam found the latter less appealing, as the raw lettuce served more as a useless garnish than something to complement the steak. The contrast between raw and cooked was just too stark for the lettuce to work with this dish. That being said, he was asked how I wanted the meat cooked, without any haughty mentions of how “chef recommends” that he get it — a small sign that the restaurant was thankfully willing to cater to the preferences of its clients. His request for rare was fulfilled, the marbelization shining through with each slice. (Truth be told, for something this fatty, I swear by medium-rare, allowing a bit of the intramuscular fat to be rendered.) Unless shared among two people, this course became a bit tiresome, since it was, after all, simply a steak. While the quality of meat was indeed high, this seemed more applicable for a steak house and a little out of context with the creativity of some of the restaurant’s other dishes.

It would seem based on what we’ve shown so far that vegetables may be lacking in a meal at L’Atelier. Quite the contrary — there are a few vegetable dishes that might act either as an early course or perhaps a side dish with the more substantial main courses. One such dish that seemed like a refreshing start to a meal was L’Avocat en velouté sur un fondant acidulé de légumes, a vegetarian dish not unlike gazpacho. As you can see in the photo, its presentation that is perhaps more interesting from the side. The dominant flavor in the thick, slightly gelatinous translucent base is undoubtedly tomato, though other vegetables round it out. The avocado crème layer lends some depth to the initial acidity of the vegetable base, a result that works. Texturally, we found this dish rather dull and would have liked to see perhaps some crisp vegetables to add for greater contrast. It was certainly pretty, though.

A lovely vegetable dish was called, fittingly, Les Legumes, small sautéed mushrooms atop a crumbly tart crust with feta cheese, drizzled with maple syrup, and covered with crisp slivers of zucchini and yellow summer squash. Though Adam didn’t have a chance to try this particular dish, I recall it being a lovely combination of sweet, salty, and savory. The feta and maple, in particular, was a brilliant combination of salty and sweet, and along with the mushrooms, added lovely depth and complexity to the bright taste of the barely-cooked zucchini and squash.

All this talk about how wonderful L’Atelier is, and we haven’t even mentioned Robuchon’s famous mashed potatoes yet. Fortunately, many of the more substantial main courses often come with these as a small side dish, so you’re bound to encounter them sooner or later. One small bite of these intensely buttery, unbelievably smooth potatoes, and there will be little need for anything else. In my experience, these addictive spuds have even been known to cause cases of culinary beer goggles, rendering the rest of the meal irrelevant, so enjoy at your own risk. But a meal at L’Atelier is simply not complete without a little cast-iron ramekin of these potatoes.

Edited by ajgnet (log)
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