If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’d know that I have a certain penchant for French fine dining; more so, I have an absolute love of French cuisine.
There is no one who personifies French fine dining more than the legendary Joël Robuchon; a man who has transcended being a mere chef into being a deity of the art of fine dining. It’s therefore not a surprise that during my many travels around the globe have been fortunate enough to visit almost all of the L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon restaurants….
But I’ve never met the man; until this week.
It was a last minute post on Facebook that alerted me to the fact that Mr Robuchon would be in Hong Kong; no doubt celebrating the recent continuation of his Hong Kong restaurant’s 3-Star status in the 2018 Michelin Guide. There had been so many times in the past that I’d missed meeting Joël Robuchon, often by just a couple of days. There was no way I was going to miss this time.
A quick call to some dining buddies and we had a quartet to get along for a Monday night double date; oh, and a date with a certain world-famous chef 🙂
You know the schtick at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon; it’s famous for its wraparound bar dining approach so that diners can view the ‘workshop’ where the world-class chefs in all Joël Robuchon’s restaurant ply their trade.
We arrived at the sleek black and red entrance to the dining room and were shown through to our seats, conveniently located on a corner so we could easily converse while watching the team of chefs in action. For a time, we sat at the bar, talking to each other but with one eye on the kitchen – where was the elusive Joël Robuchon? We saw the restaurant’s normal Executive Chef David Alves; but no Joël Robuchon.
I’ll admit that we were all a little distracted, and if truth be told, a little nervous that we’d not see the elusive Joël Robuchon; the idea being a little deflating to us all.
But then we noticed a change in the dining room, there was a little electricity in the air, a shift in the dynamics – all diners essentially looking in the same direction. There he was, in the kitchen overlooking the preparation of our food (and I do mean ‘our food’) – inspecting and using his skilled hands to make minor adjustments.
I’m sure it was only in my imagination, but at that point, we all seemed to catch our breath and suddenly; the world was all OK and we could focus on the task at hand; devouring the dinner menu that we’d ordered.
Normally I go into a huge amount of detail about each course, waxing lyrical about the technique and taste of the food that comes when dining at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – but in this post, I am going to let the pictures tell the story with only a description.
We started with the L’Amuse Bouche
The first dish was the incredibly light but delicious Cauliflower panna cotta with smoked salmon and imperial caviar
There was a deftness of touch, vibrancy of colour and lightness of flavour with the Maine lobster and baby spinach in spiced ravigote sauce
The textures and flavours of the Teppanyaki Kagoshima beef tenderloin with salsifies and chervil roots were enough to bring tears to your eyes. The richness of the fatty beef a joy to behold.
But of course, no visit to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon would be complete without a serving of his world famous pomme purée. At this point, it must be said that our dining buddy made a bold claim to have a mashed potato that rivalled the great chefs (Alex, I’m holding you to that!)
Look, I’m never going to say that I’m dissapointed with a Joël Robuchon dessert, but I will say that I’d not normally have chosen the Pear tart with cinnamon mousse and pear sorbet. Of course it was pretty, and it tasted just fine…. But I didn’t want just fine for dessert. I wanted to be blown away, as I have been many times before.
It’s unusual to say that you visit a 3 Michelin Star restaurant and the food was secondary for the visit; highly unusual to be frank. But I wasn’t there for the food. I was there to say hello to one of my food idols; to let him know that his food is second to none and that I’ve been collecting visits to his restaurants like some people collect Harrods Bears (hello Shelley), or stamps, or cricket cards or…. well you get the point.
And I did tell him all those things, that I loved his food and only had a few of the restaurants in his global empire to ‘collect’ before I had the whole set. And I didn’t make a fool of myself; not like the first time I met a food idol (Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 fame – read about my embarrassment here).
But I do wonder how much of my schpiel he picked up on….. Once I’d finished talking he asked us with a smile ‘do you speak French’, before moving on to say hello to other diners in the restaurant….
At least we got a great photo 🙂