How is L'atelier de Joel Robuchon?
Okay, I just came back from L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. My husband and I had dinner last week at the L'Atelier in Vegas. We both had the tasting menu and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to try the one in NY.
The NY location hasn't officially opened yet. Right now they are doing a soft tasting/trial run until it officially opens around Labor Day weekend. They are not taking reservations now but you can walk in for lunch and dinner. They are taking reservations for early September at this time. The restaurant is located in the Four Seasons Hotel upstairs, where 57/57 used to be. There are 20 seats at the bar and about 30 seats in the surrounding tables. My friend and I ate at the bar.
There were two different lunch tasting menus. One had two appetizers and a main course plus dessert for $60. The other had a few more courses and I believe it was around $160. Since both menus had similar dishes that I had last week at the Vegas location, my friend and I decided to order off the a la carte menu. The left side of the menu has the small plates. The right side of the menu has large, entree sized portions. We ordered everything from the small plates. This is what we had and shared:
1) Les Huitres de Kumamoto pochee dans leurs coquilles au beurre sale - Poached baby kumamoto oysters with French "echire" salted butter.
This dish was heaven. The warm oysters were fresh and one of our favorite dishes.
2) La Caille Farcie de Foie Gras et Camelisee et pomme puree truffee - Free-range quail stuffed w/foie gras and truffled mashed potatoes.
Unlike last week in Vegas, this was served with sliced truffles over the mashed potatoes. Outstanding!
3) La Morue Fraiche en imprime d'herbes aux sucs de legumes et basilic - Fresh cod fillet in a vegetable broth.
This dish was so light and flavorful. I forget what the cod was wrapped in, but it was a very thin layer which made the presentation absolutely beautiful.
4) L'Agneau en caree dore a la fleur de thym - Roasted rack of lamb with fresh thyme.
The lamb slices were perfect. It was so tender, like butter. It wasn't gamey at all. We were fighting for the last bites. It was served with a little, thinly sliced, rolled eggplant.
5) La Crabe en rouelles d'avocat a l'huile epicee - avocado slices, seasoned crabmeat and a mild spicy oil.
This was another Napoleon stacked wonder of thinly sliced avocado and crabmeat. It was so delicious.
6) We had another dish. I don't remember the name of it but it was lobster ravioli which was presented in layers, sort of like a thinly sliced sandwich.
We also ordered two desserts and I can't even begin to describe it. One was a chocolate plate that had bits of ice cream, ground pistachio, hazelnuts (I believe), and a molten chocolate cake. There were other parts to this but I don't know what the correct name and description is.
The other dessert was also wonderful but baffling. It was described as some sort of violet dessert which had a sugar ball in the center which looked like a large, shiny pearl the size of a baseball. We weren't sure if we were supposed to eat it but the waiter assured us that we did. We cracked it open and there was an ice cream type filling and lychee. It was indescribable. There were jellies and sauces surrounding this large edible sugar pearl in the large bowl.
Six plates, two desserts and 3 drinks. Our bill was about $260 including tax and 20-25% tip.
We really enjoyed the casualness and elegance of the restaurant. The food was truly outstanding. I think it will be awhile until I eat here again but I will definitely be back if I can get in! I loved the sushi bar feel while dining and having the waitstaff bring our dishes in front of us so they could describe what everything was when they presented it to us from the bar. We also enjoyed watching them prepare all the meals in the open air kitchen - oohing and aahing with other diners at meals being prepared. The restaurant is decorated with blonde wood and black placemats. The food and decor appear to be Japanese influenced. I would love to hear other reviews from other Chowhounders!
I went last night to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the Four Seasons, and overall, was very disappointed. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but my friends in Paris and those who have been to the one in Las Vegas had raved about the food. Perhaps also I had ordered the wrong dishes, but there were other problems beyond the food.
We arrived at 930 on Friday night, and the restaurant was half empty. In fact, by the time we left at 1100, we were the last diners there, and the wait and kitchen staff were huddled in the corner of the open kitchen waiting for us to leave.
Note: we sat at the counter, and ordered a la carte (tasting menu is $160 pp, which isn't outrageous but we wanted to try different items). Had 5 small plates and 1 large: iberian ham with bruschetta; sardines tart with parmesan shavings and baby basil; tuna belly with olive oil; cod in broth with vegetables and wonton skin; grilled vegetables with buffalo mozzarella; (large) steak tartare with hand-cut fries.
Here were the pros and cons of my experience:
1. Stale, old bread basket with mediocre bread, although they were cute and small rolls
2. The iberian ham was very dry, and although the waiter claimed that it had been sliced fresh, and pointed to the machine, I did not see anyone slicing any ham. The limes that came on a plate with our vodka tonics were also dry, as though they had been pre-sliced and sitting around for hours.
3. The hand-cut fries with the steak tartare were not very crispy, although I liked their unique shape.
4. The tuna belly was stringy -- it had very apparent white striations that remind me of bad sashimi.
5. The rest of the dishes we tried (sardine, grilled vegetables with buffalo mozzarella, cod) were okay, but not fantastic.
service and decor:
1. The Captain had only tried 2 dishes (the cod and the iberian ham), and kept saying, "Yes, actually that is one of the dishes I've tried..."
2. The other wait staff did not know what they were serving, e.g., when I asked what was on a piece of bread with the iberian ham, they had to get the Captain to come over to explain (a hunk of butter); same thing with the wonton skin on top of the cod
3. There were fingerprints on several plates, and more atrociously, on the butter for the bread! This could be a function of the lighting at the counter, but still.
4. The service at the counter is overwhelming, to the point that I felt as though they were being intrusive and in fact eavesdropping on my conversation. (Which they were, because when I was expressing my displeasure (quietly) to my boyfriend, the waiter came over to ask what the matter was.)This was likely because we were the only people in the restaurant.
5. The decor is not my style -- too eighties and black. But that's purely personal preference.
1. The waitstaff, I believe, recognizes that there are glitches, given how new the restaurant is. They were very open to receiving feedback, and were gracious about it.
2. We saw IM Pei and his wife there, as well. That was pretty cool.
I hope that these problems were just a function of a bad (slow) night, and new restaurant jitters. However, for those prices, I would rather go elsewhere (or have 2 great meals at less pricey places).
It's strange that This Atelier seems to be notably more expensive than others (tasting menu: Las Vegas $85, Paris 98 euros vs. NYC $160) when by all accounts Robuchon used Ducasse's fiasco of an NY opening as a template of what NOT to do here. Are the economics here such that they have to charge so much, thereby raising expectations and the failing of them?
So far among friends and these first reports on CH, the impression is that the food can be pretty good but way way overpriced. $20 for a dessert course? Seems high considering the casual atmosphere (ie. counter seating, walk-ins) they are aiming for.
I had dinner at Atelier on Sunday night. I arrived at 8:00 and waited about 20 minutes because I wanted a seat at the bar. I was seated at the far end bar that had a great look at the cold line. The only drawback was that my seat was also right where the servers rang checks through. The middle of the bar has the best view that looks straight through the cold line to the hot line right behind it. The only bad seats are the ones where the bar turns, where it is difficult to see anything that is going on in the kitchen.
I decided to go with a few small tasting plates because I wanted to try a bunch of different things. The appetizers and the entrees are a little too expensive for my taste. The steak tartare entrée with fries was $35. The quail entrée was $48 and the hanger steak was $39. The tasting menu is $160 and I was told that it was a great value, but I was a little skeptical that there is value in a 7 course dinner for $160. I was wrong on that part. The tasting menu is 7 large portions (two people next to me were having the tasting menu). On the tasting, there’s capellini dressed with fresh tomatoes and Ossetra caviar which is regularly priced at $78. Taking individually, the courses on the tasting menu would total around $200.
My first course was layered foie and smoked eel ($24). It was a 2x2x1 cube of alternating layers of eel and foie with a top layer of bruleed eel. It was served cool and was very tasty, but it was under salted which seemed to be a reoccurring theme with my dinner.
The second course was the frog legs. Three legs arranged in a line each with a small dab of garlic puree and parsley coulis ($17). They were fried to a perfect golden brown. The legs were tender, but the breading was bland and had separated from the legs by the time it reached my seat.
The third course was the Iberian ham with bruschetta ($19). This was by far my favorite course. Tigger 2 said theirs was dry, but mine was great (I guess that can be chalked up to inconsistency which is sad to hear). I saw them slice it right before it came to my table. The bruschetta was wonderful. The hunk of butter on a piece of toast was baffling and served no purpose. The ham was also served with some chorizo that was also very flavorful. It was also a sizable portion for a tasting plate. Each piece is hand sliced so the slices are slightly thicker than they would be if they were cut by a machine.
My final course was the most disappointing. It was quail with foie and potato puree ($25). The breast was rolled with the foie in the center. The skin on the quail was too soft and rubbery. The foie inside was unremarkable. The FAMOUS potato puree with black truffles was terribly under salted and disappointing. The saving grace was the leg and thigh that was cooked perfectly with a slightly crispy skin.
All in all, the food needs some work. I should not be too hard on the food because it still is the soft opening period. My main problem with the place is the “casual fine dining” theme which I think is slightly ironic that it is in the Four Seasons of all places. The place is billed as affordable, but desserts are $20! I had four tasting courses with one drink, tax and tip came to $130. I know this is NYC and things are a little more expensive, but I would not call this affordable. If you do not sit at the bar, then it is like any other restaurant except that they encourage you to use your hands.
re: Darth Foie
But, who billed it as affordable? If someone not involved in the restaurant said that, it's one thing, but it's not fair to attribute that to the Atelier folks. It sets up an unrealistic expectation.
I have seen nothing that would remotely suggest that L'Atelier is holding itself out as "affordable."
People may argue that it's not a good value or overpriced, or just not good, but I don't think JR is trying to create the impression that Atelier is a dining experience that's affordable.
As Puppster pointed out, the tasting in Vegas is almost half the price and the tasting in Paris is about $40 cheaper (rough estimate).
The whole point about Atelier is that it is supposed to be affordable fine dining. I consider an $85 tasting affordable. I don't consider $160 for literally the same thing affordable.
Am I looking for it to be $50 for 10 course? Absolutely not, but what I am saying is that for the amount of money I spent I could have had a 3 course dinner at Daniel.
re: Darth Foie
I don't get when 'casual' became conflated with 'affordable'. Obviously JR has deftly determined the absolute limit of what the NY market will bear...the place is full even at these prices. I can't afford it (or rather I would prefer to eat out three or five times at some other fantastic places instead of once there)...thank you all for the reviews so I can live vicariously.
The photo-laden review on this blog seems to be a fair assessment of the place:
Augie(land) dines at these amazing places so I don't have to drain my bank account...what a public service!
Agree. This is the point I was trying, perhaps inartfully, to make.
Casual does not equal affordable.
I cannot empirically compare prices/values between the Ateliers in LV,NY & Paris (having only been to the Paris Atelier), but I thought prices in Paris were comparable to many of the ** Michelin places there. That's pretty expensive. Whether the NY Atelier is more expensive on an absolute or relative basis, I don't know, but none are inexpensive.
Whether or not any of these are "affordable" seems largely a question of one's means.
"Affordable" is not the correct word to debate; it's "value". What are you getting at that price point, not just in food, but in service and atmosphere? L'Atelier promotes itself as more casual (the walk-in policy, counter seating, the servers' minimal interaction) but at the same price point as the most expensive restaurants in town (PerSe, for instance) that give you full service (more interaction from servers & sommeliers, more formal table service), being able to sit for hours at one's table, as well as full courses (serving size as well as all the extras, amuse bouches, etc.)
Is L'Atelier worth it? I guess that depends on the individual, but I do find it odd that a restaurant based on a template (ie. all the L'Ateliers are set up exactly the same) has such discrepancy in pricing.
PS. From reports, the place is NOT full...so far.
Don't forget that you don't have to have the tasting menu so it is casual. There were quite a few of us, myself included, who just ordered some small plates. The woman next to us ordered two and was satiated. Or you can have just one entree. So in that sense, it is affordable.
I ate at the vegas branch twice in late july this year and had the 9 course tasting menu both times. It was $125 pp.
As long as I am posting here, I would like to mention that when I returned for my second meal, they were extremely accomodating. They gave me almost an entirely new meal with many dishes that I had not had the first time.
I rank both dinners as two of the finest meals I have ever had anywhere and am looking forward to trying the nyc branch.
I had dinner at JP at the Four Seasons last night. We went with some friends staying at the hotel...which seems to be the way to get a seat now. The place was all tourists. There were 4 of us and we opted to go a la carte. The place is beautiful, although the red plates on the otherwise black tables/place mats, etc. gave the place a dramatic "Chinese meets brothel" look. Next time I'd like to try sitting at the bar.
The server went through the menu, telling us that small appetizers with the "stars" were especially good. What about the ones without? We had 6 small starters (starred and otrherwise): gazpacho, Iberian ham and sausage, hamburger/foie gras sliders, oysters, vegetable fondant, and lobster & turnip ravioli. The oysters and burgers stood out as "wow". The gazpacho was delicious, but not unusual. The lobster/turnip was probably 3rd on the list and something I would order again. For mains we had the lamb, the Kobe beef, and quail with foie gras (times 2). I had the lamb and thought it was tasteless. The Kobe beef was delicious and a big portion (but then again, they charge by the ounce). They bought out a huge chunk of beef and you specify the thickness you want. The quail was really good, but very rich. For desert we had the grapefruit sorbet and the molten chocolate "thing". Both were very very good. The amuse bouche and "pre-desert" were also very tasty...although I can't remember exactly what they were.
Over all, we liked the experience and the food. At $140 per person, including, wine (we had 1 bottle of the house red, a 2002 Bordeaux, which I think was $95 a bottle plus some individual glasses of wine later in the meal) tax and tip, it is expensive but not absurd. The tasting at $175 must come in at nearly $300 pp when all is said and done. The food was, by and large, very original. A little too much "foam" on the food (I thought that fad was over) for my taste and they will need to keep updating the menu to keep people coming back.
I was struck by the small size of the place; probably ten tables and maybe a dozen seats at the bar. Given all the help, it is hard to see JR making money despite the prices. But how much more than $20 for desert and $10 for a cup of tea can they charge?
I had lunch at l'Atelier a few weeks ago. Overall, it was delicious and great. The service was good, a little hover-ish since we were at the bar but better than being ignored.
I recommend the poached egg w/ eggplant and the langostine rolls. Cocktails were a tad over treated; I had a belini martini but should have just had white wine or champagne.
My dining companion loved the sea urchin dish but the accompanying lobster gelee was a little too "of the sea" for me.
We each also had the quail (good), grilled vegetables (fondant?) (great), and another plate that I cannot recall. My friend had the chocolate cake after I'd left for a meeting and said she was disappointed.
JR was there himself and spent a lot of time speaking with us (he only speaks French, fyi). He was on his way to Las Vegas and will be back in NY in early November if you want to time your dining appropriately.