The original and the best?
It’s what I hoped to find out when I recently made a pilgrimage to the original L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, located in the most Parisian of quarters; the 6th arrondissement.
I’ve been to many of the L’Atelier’s around the globe; and there are many. It’s probably easier to list the outlets I’m yet to visit than to quote the ones I have. 🙂
I’m not going to bore you with the details about Joël Robuchon, suffice to say that he’s done pretty well for himself and his brand. For more details on arguably the world’s greatest living chef, check out one of my earlier posts here.
Unlike many of the L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon’s that I’ve visited, which seem to be tucked away out of sight; The Paris St Germain outlet was located right on the street level and open for the world to see. It was pretty hard to miss as I dutifully followed my Google Maps around the Rue’s and Boulevard’s that made up the very trendy part of Paris.
At the time of my visit, the outlet was ranked #80 in the #Worlds50Best; which made my visit all the more perplexing. You see, for most of my meal, I was the only person on the restaurant. Granted, it was a lunch time visit, but for such an esteemed restaurant, it was a little unnerving to be dining so alone (towards the end of my meal some other peeps arrived).
I was presented with a menu from a young waiter that had excellent English and regaled me with tales of his time in Paris and other parts of the world. Of course, the menu was in French, but having dined in many of the L’Atelier’s, I had a good grasp of the menu and a very decent idea about what I’d be devouring for my lunch.
Once my order was taken, my amuse bouche arrived, which was a departure for the typical L’Atelier small bite of foie gras with parmesan foam. Instead, it was a deep bowl that contained a perfectly prepared slice of salmon immersed in a vegetable broth and presented with a fresh ravioli of salmon. The broth was both sweet and fresh, working wonderfully with the fresh salmon; there was a hint of wasabi with the ravioli, which provided a little heat, but not too much for this little foodie (I normally avoid wasabi!)
Palate refreshed, it was time for my selection of freshly baked bread rolls to arrive in the now familiar Alessi bowl. With the usual assortments of bakery goodies on offer, I mostly focussed on the crunchy baguette (with a heap of locally produced salted butter) and the lovely mini croissants.
I’ve had the La Langoustine en ravioli truffle à l’étuvée de chou vert before, it’s definitely one of my favourites; small parcels of langoustine covered with a sweet truffle sauce and shaved truffle and served with stewed green cabbage. Simply delicious. The two expertly cooked ravioli had the subtle sweet taste, which was enhanced by the unctuous truffle sauce that was sweet and which left a beautiful lingering aftertaste at the back of the palate. The plating was quite simple, a smear of the sauce and the ravioli book ending the cabbage.
The very strong Japanese influence that was instrumental in creating the L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon brand was on display with my Le Gyoza a la plancha, volaille, poireau et gingembre, dans son bouillon au parfum d’Asie. The deep caramelisation on the traditional Japanese Gyoza was superb; the chicken filling sweet and brilliantly contrasted against the leek and ginger broth. There was a powerful hit of ginger on the palate, but still balanced expertly with the sweetness of the gyoza. I loved the bright colour of the broth at the bottom of the bowl and greedily drank the mix once I’d devoured the dumplings.
Arguably, the most famous of Joël Robuchon’s dishes, some say the dish that helped spread his fame, is the La Caille farci de foie gras et caramélisée avec une pomme purée truffée. The quail stuffed with foie gras and served with Mr Robuchon’s exquisite mashed potato is a dish I’ve eaten many, many times. I never get sick of it; the creamy sweet foie gras that oozes out of the caramelised quail and mixes with that sticky jus and shaved truffle. Just the thought of it as I type this description makes me want to head to my local L’Atelier for dinner….
Phew, anyway. It was delicious as usual; made all the more so with a separate pot of that buttery mash that is impossible to say no to.
It was about this time that my new young friend and waiter asked me if I wanted to do a tour of the kitchen and meet the team on duty. Haha, stupid question, of course I did. Interestingly, it was the first time I’d ever been invited backstage at a L’Atelier and it was great to get up close and personal with the chefs who’d made me pretty happy to that point. What struck me most was how young the team looked (or maybe, I’m just getting old!)
It was time for dessert and of course I stuck to form by ordering the Le Soufflé passion, fraicheur d’ananas et son sorbet <Pina Colada>. What struck me most about the variation of the dish was that it was served outside of a ramekin; which must have been an incredible feat of cookery from the pastry chef. The perfectly risen soufflé was sitting on a bed of stewed pineapple, which leant an extra sweet/sour hit to the sweet sugary soufflé. The dessert was perfection personified; not only beautiful but completely scrumptious.
I’m not sure what made me do it; perhaps it was the high from having an exquisite meal and meeting the kitchen staff, but I agreed to have a coffee at the end of my meal. It just went on to confirm my belief that no restaurant ever can do a great coffee. The less said the better and a valuable lesson for this little coffee lover.
Amazing meal does not equal ordering coffee!
The meal finished off with a pretty typical L’Atelier fashion; a madeline and sticky caramel.
As I left, I was struck by a few things; firstly, I was still completely amazed that there were only a few people dining at the restaurant for lunch. I was also amazed at how young the brigade of chefs were that were on hand for the meal. Perhaps it was a reflection that Executive Chef Axel Manes was so young himself; being one of the youngest chefs ever to achieve a coveted Michelin Star.