Monday, November 16, 2009

Experiencing Joel Robuchon in Paris

When I was planning my Paris trip, I decided I wanted to eat at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. You might wonder, why not try something that I can't get in New York City?And why not try something that I haven't already tried before (my first Robuchon experience was at the more refined and upscale location in Las Vegas)? But this is Paris, where Mr. Robuchon started his career. And this is the original spot where he opened his first location in 2003. So those are reasons enough to "use up" one of my few meals in Paris, right?

Well, the answer turned out to be: sort of.

What I liked: the concept. A small restaurant with bar seating around an open kitchen where diners can watch the meticulous preparation and cooking process that made Robuchon one of the top chefs in the world. This also allowed the wait staff to interact with the customers and answer any questions they have. Our waiter, for example, told us that Robuchon just opened a new location in Taipei, Taiwan and is looking to open two more locations in the US: Miami and Philadelphia. He also told us that the staff works only 3 days a week but very very long hours, and that many people end up quitting for that reason. We also got a great bottle of burgundy after chatting with our sommelier, who looked like he was ten years old.

What I didn't like: my own outsized expectations. I came thinking it would be a life changing experience. I walked away satisfied by a good, expensive meal, but was not blown away. The menu was a mix of a la carte "plats petites", regular sized entrees of meat and seafood, a handful of specials de jour, plus a 9 course "decouverte" prix fixe menu for 150 Euros. Not wanting to stuff our faces too much, we went for a la carte, and I will let the food speak for itself below.

The Crab Royale, crab salad sandwiched between thinly sliced radishes.
Beautifully presented but tasted like something you can get
at any seafood restaurant in NYC. Nothing too interesting about it.

The expertly made foie gras was so delicate it
melted in our mouths. The best item of the evening.

The langoustine ravioli was tasty, but covered in
so much sauce and truffles you could barely taste
the langoustine. The pasta was extremely well made, however.

The suckling pig special du jour. Again, lots of sauce but this time
it works. Very very tender meat, more undercooked than
I am used to but very tasty. Not life changing, however,
like the pig we had in Pienza, Italy. Needed more crackling!

The suckling pig came with a side of the creamiest potatoes I've ever tasted.
Second best item of the evening. We watched the guy
whip this up in the kitchen all night and wondered when he
would get to rest. This is hard work! No wonder people don't make it..

Dessert was a perfectly made souffle, one of the hardest
things to do right. The waiter opened the middle and slid
a scoop of pistachio ice cream into the center.
Tres bien!
Now you might say, how could a meal like the above disappoint? It didn't. It just didn't match my outsized expectations. Or we ordered the wrong things. To me, some of the best foods in the world can be eaten out of food trucks and holes in the wall. Call me crazy, but if I am to pay top dollars nowadays, I better get a life changing experience. And I just didn't get that at L'Atelier. Sorry Mr. Robuchon, it looks like even you cannot live up to the expectations you've trained your customers to have.

2 comments:

  1. hope youre having a gorgeous time. have lots of champers. x

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  2. I had the exact same experience... good but not great. Didn't feel worthy of a Parisian experience!

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