Report on L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Senderens, Gaya, Chamarre (Long)
My husband and I have just had major birthdays so we researched then splurged on four lunches at widely praised restaurants - they are much more expensive than our usual haunts, but not tops for price and luxury.
Yesterday we went to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - which is an excellent place for people who want to concentrate on the food and try a lot of dishes. To my surprise I liked the counter seating though husband did not. We shared five of the little plates (miniscule - hors d'oeuvres size), 1 main dish and 1 desert - with 2 rolls each it was enough food. We had the aubergine mille-feuille and egg cocotte with girolles mushrooms mentioned in Chowhound post. The aubergine was pleasant combination of aubergine, courgette, tomato confit, mozzarella and basil sauce - well done but surely a little conventional and could easily be concocted at home. The egg with girolles was mild and creamy and very much liked by husband. We also had a tartine of pig's foot - which was very good but then pig's foot usually is; a sublime creamy asparagus soup (normal size) with a chiffonade of raw sorrel- though the sorrel hardly tasted. We also had "langoustine en papillot au basilica" with ONE langoustine for 25 euros which shocked husband into realizing that whenever he chooses dishes with expensive ingredients, he gets very little so he vowed never to do it again. Our one main dish was chicken "en" bouillon with fois gras raviolis - we expected chicken but it was just a not very good chicken broth with 6 absolutely wonderful fois gras raviolis. The desert was some sort of pleasant coffee, cake and jelly mixture but we have found that restaurant deserts are rarely as good as patisserie from the best shops. Bread good but nothing fancy. Staff friendly and informal, decor black and sleek. For five little plates, one main, 1 desert and four glasses of cheapest wine we paid 148 euros. As it is August, although we arrived early the place never filled totally and there were still seats when we left at 2.30. We asked, and, as far as we could gather, for the rest of the year the only way to get a place is to turn up in person at 11.30 or 6.30 when you are given a time to return - anyone know better?
Perhaps our best lunch was at Senderens the other week, where we were given a fabulous mushroom cream amuse bouche. Starters: exquisite fried duck liver meltingly undercooked inside, and excellent but tiny lobster and mango salad (this was before husband learned about expensive ingredients). Main dishes (we chose quite conservatively but there isn't a huge choice) lamb with wonderful buttery veg. du temps and famous Salurs beef(good but not special)with lovely ravioli. Cheese courseconsisted of tiny cream cheeses with ginger.OK. We didn't adore the matched wines. Atmosphere informal and a little crowded. Decor is not succesfully updated Art Deco interior of the Lucas Carton restaurant. For two starters, two mains, 1 cheese, five glasses of wine and one coffee, the bill was 190 euros. We booked on line at the Lucas Carton website.
Another quite succesful lunch was at Gaya where we had good crab soup with exquisit horse radish foam; red peppers with "crustaceans" which consisted of a very small bowl of tiny squares of red peppers floating in not very good shrimp broth and an excellent very small bowl of mussels and bulots (large snail-like things)in a cream sauce. Main dishes: pleasant grilled rouget with a mush of fennel and chorizo, and an OK langoustine in pea sauce, plus an extraordinary tiny bowl of peas in a (caramel?)syrup which I liked but husband did not. Four dishes and three glasses of wine cost 140 euros. There was background music (not TOO intrusive) and we disliked the modern decor and table settings (praised by French food writer Lebey). The place was only half full for lunch at the end of July.
Our fourth lunch was at Chamarre which is supposed to have a Mauritius chef but there wasn't much exotic flavoring. On the whole who objected to the (once nouveau) portion control and rather precious presentation with several spoonfulls of food on each plate. Starters: squid salad which was nicely fresh because of basil and tomato, but tiny cubes of squid didn't add much; shrimp "croustillant" which husband objected to on the grounds they they tasted as though wrapped in shredded wheat. Main dishes: lieu (white fish common in French restaurants)with tiny piles of anchoide, tapenade,and veg; Plain chicken with excellent mushrooms and spinach. Deserts: stodgy praline tart with very good sorbet and totally disappointing slab of rhubarb in jelly. Decor and table settings ugly though, once again, praised by Lebey. Restaurant half full for lunch in July. We each had the 40 euro three course lunch and then spent another 40 euros for 4 glasses of wine.
Thanks for such a thorough, useful post. We had lunch at Robuchon and liked it well enough to be returning on our upcoming trip. (Hotel got us a noon reservation) Had dinner at Gaya and found it ok but not worth returning to this coming trip. What they had that we found very nice, were carafes and half carafes of good but very reasonably priced white wines. Kept the price down substantially without negatively affecting the experience.