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Review: L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

r
rvd72 Jan 18, 2008 10:37 AM

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
Address: 7 rue de Montalembert 75007 Paris
Tel: 01 42 22 56 56
Metro: Rue du bac
Directions: exit the Rue du bac metro station and follow the signs that say "Musee D'Orsay". Walk up Rue du bac and you will see the road make a slight fork to rue de Montalembert. The restaurant is very easy to spot from the street.
Reservations: Yes, for the first seating only (6:30PM)
Date of Visit: January 12, 2008
Pictures: http://danpaik.com/gallery/4176717#244076216

On Saturday January 12, 2008, I had dinner at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon. I made a reservations about 2 weeks prior to the visit. They only take reservations for the first seating because dinner here can be short (an hour or two) or very long (3-4 hours) depending on what you order and your pace. Like most European restaurants, they do not rush you and they don't seem to mind if you linger for awhile after your meal.

The restaurant is divided into two sections. When we walked in at 6:40PM, there were some others who were just walking in and the host politely told them that they could not get a table unless they had a reservation. He did invite them to go to the bar though. The entrance is in the middle of the restaurant and the bar area is to the left and the restaurant is to the right. The restaurant is primarily counter seating only (similar to a sushi bar) and seats roughly 15 or so people. There is one table along the wall on the right side that seats 3 or 4 but those diners also sit along the table on one side and face the wall.

The service was excellent. Parisian restaurants don't always have the best service (it can be a little snooty at times) but the wait staff here was excellent. My French is not very good and my friend does not speak any French and they had no problem speaking pretty good English. It looked like about 1/4 or so of the patrons were tourists speaking English. We met a nice couple next to us from Barcelona.

The menu is divided into 3 pages. The first page contains appetizers. These are all small tapas style dishes. The next page contains 3 sections. The first is for larger appetizers, the second is for main courses of fish and beef, and the third section are the cheeses. And the third page is a fixed price section with an assortment of dishes.

Most of the small appetizers range from around 15-30 euros. The main courses range from around 30-60 euros. The fixed price menu was 115 euros per person.

For wine, they do have a decent wine list consisting of wines by the glass or bottle. They also had big bottles of white and red house wines for the evening. I had the white and it was very good.

The waiter explained the specials for the day. The best special was a spaghetti or ravioli with black truffles. He suggested that we split this dish into two for an appetizer. The price was 100 euros. He also had a special fish (Dover Sole) for 60 euros. There were a few other specials but I don't recall what they were.

For my appetizers, I ordered the foie gras and smoked salmon. For my main dish, I ordered the fish special (Dover Sole). My friend ordered the shrimp appetizer and steak. We also ordered the spaghetti with black truffles split into two dishes for another appetizer.

Le foie gras frais de canard cuit au torchon
As expected, the foie gras was excellent. It wasn't quite melt in your mouth soft but it had a very good consistency and balance of fat. The portion size was perfect.

La langoustine en papillote au basilic
The shrimp was excellent but a bit overpriced. The appetizer is literally one piece of shrimp for 26 euros. I would not recommend this dish simply because of the size (or lack thereof).

Les spaghettis aux truffes noires
The spaghetti with black truffles was superb. The cream sauce and truffle had just the right perfect balance of flavor without being overpowering. Yes, it is an expensive dish (100 euros) but it was most superb. This dish was the best dish of the evening.

Le saumon fume norvegien avec une gaufre
The smoked salmon was excellent. It was not too salty, not too dry, etc...just right. This was much bigger than I thought so I was geting a bit full by this time. This dish could easily be shared by 2 people.

La noix d'entrecote de Baviere ou de Normandie
The steak was a bit fatty (perhaps this was a rib eye?) but big and tasty. It was an excellent main course.

La Sole a la plancha ou meuniere
The fish was superb. It was huge and I was only able to eat half of it. The fish was seasoned with herbs that fully brought out the flavor of this fish. It came with a side of very rich and buttery mashed potatoes. This dish could very easily be shared as the main dish for 2 people.

Dessert was "Le Chocolat Sensation" and a berry and chocolate dish (Le Multivitamine ganache au Chocolat Jivara). Both desserts were superb. The chocolate sensation included 3 types of chocolate.

For wine, we had their house wine which was a Reisling Trimbach. We also ordered a few glasses of the Traminer 2005 as well. We also had 2 glasses of champagne (Champagne brut 1er, Bruno Paillard).

As I mentioned earlier, the service was excellent. Our waiter was very friendly and we had some pleasant conversation about where we're from, etc. When I was eating the fish, my friend really liked the rich and buttery mashed potatoes so I gave it to him. They noticed that and brought out 2 more of those dishes when he cleaned the bowl. I was also taking some pictures so they offered to bring out the raw fish for me to take a picture of the fish before they cook it.

Overall, it was a very pleasant experience. We over-ordered a bit so our check was a lot higher than it could have been. Dinner for 2 including everything was 406 euros. If we had not ordered the spaghetti with black truffles, the champagne, and gotten a less expensive fish, etc...it would have been around 200 euros.

Pictures are available at http://danpaik.com/gallery/4176717#24...

 
 
 
 
  1. ChefJune Jan 18, 2008 11:11 AM

    <It came with a side of very rich and buttery mashed potatoes. > Oh my! you had one of JR's all-time signature dishes. I remember those mashed potatoes from the old days of Jamin! They are divine. and the recipe is in "Simply French" the book Patricia Wells wrote with him. It's fun to serve them every now and then.

    I know you spent a bundle, but wasn't it worth every penny? It sounds like it was truly a fabulous meal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChefJune
      r
      rvd72 Jan 19, 2008 12:32 AM

      Yes, it was worth it. It was about $600 with the current exchange rate and that's a lot to spend for 2 people but we did feel like we ate and drank like kings.

      Wow, I didn't realize that the mashed potatoes were one of his signature dishes.

      RVD

    2. d
      Docsknotinn Jan 18, 2008 11:30 AM

      Great review! The spaghetti with black truffles sounds incredible as does the dover sole. We have been talking about going to Paris next spring so your review was very interesting to me. It will be our first trip to Europe. :)

      1. t
        theskyflyer Jan 18, 2008 03:23 PM

        Great report.
        I've been to AJR a couple of times, but never noticed a bar. Where is it?

        Also, does anyone know why they don't have handle on the outside of their main door? Last time we had to wait close to 5 minutes for someone to open it for us.

        3 Replies
        1. re: theskyflyer
          r
          rvd72 Jan 19, 2008 12:34 AM

          When we walked in, another couple walked in ahead of us so the door was opened already.

          The bar section is on the left side when you walk in. It looks pretty much the same as the right side though.

          The bathroom is kind of funny. The door is flush black along the wall so it's tough to see. When you come back, there are 3 doors so it's tough to figure out which door leads you back into the restaurant. A waiter out there told me "la porte ce la" and let me know.

          RVD.

          1. re: rvd72
            PhilD Jan 19, 2008 12:46 AM

            I think you misunderstood the layout of the restaurant. The door in in the middle, and there are two almost symmetrical rooms either side, both serve the food at a bar. The bar for drinks is through the back door in the hotel, this is where they send you to wait.

            I suspect the door doesn't have a handle in order to control access as they don't want people simply walking in and sitting down. I parked my car in the underground car park next to the restaurant and was always amused by the queue of, well dressed, hopeful diners milling around on the pavement at 6:30 every night. A mixture of those with reservation and those hoping to put heir names down.

            1. re: PhilD
              r
              rvd72 Jan 20, 2008 09:34 PM

              ok, you're probably right. i wasn't really paying attention except that the 2 people who walked in before us who did not have a reservation, walked over to the left side so i made the assumption that it must be the bar area or something.

              but yeah, come to think of it, i think both sections were symmetrical and it probably was just an extension of the restaurant over there.

              RVD.

        2. Joe H Jan 18, 2008 03:30 PM

          Interesting to read your post. I wrote this four and a half years ago, a week or two after he first opened: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/262765 Since then he has taken L'Atalier literally around the world. Then, he/they did not accept reservations. Rather, you got there and stood in line until there was a seat available at the bar/counter. Since then I've been to several other L'Ataliers and neither was as good. I've wanted to go back and try to recapture what I found in '03 but have been hesitant. There was something special in seeing Joel Robuchon actually standing on the other side of the counter watching his guests and their reactions. I'm not so sure I would feel the same with him not there.

          It is also particularly interesting to note some of the prices mentioned in your post and in mine: E 26 for a single shrimp. I had a single shrimp with phyllo pastry for E12. Noting the range of appetizer and entree prices along with the prix fixe pricing (which did not exist when they opened) compared to what I experienced. In general, in Euros, L'Atalier seems to have essentially DOUBLED in price. For an American, with a horrendously weak dollar, the Euro was .90 in '03. Today, it is $1.48. The E 400 meal that you just had might have been, literally, a third to a quarter of this in '03.

          Still, I am fortunate to have been able to dine at his restaurant in the early '90's when he was still in the kitchen. Even in '03 it had nothing in common with the glory that he knew then.

          1. f
            fishskis Jan 20, 2008 06:33 PM

            I am not sure why, but I feel compelled to comment on "La langoustine en papillote au basilic" or "shrimp". I ate at Atelier Robuchon in New York (with Mr. Robuchon in attendance), and had a mixed experience. In general, I found it enjoyable, but overpriced, under-portioned, with good to very good food (nothing spectacular). It felt more like a snack than a meal, and I have not had a desire to return since. Perhaps the Paris location is different and/ or better....Now to the shrimp....I had that single shrimp dish, and found it to be fine tasting, but certainly nothing special - and significantly overpriced (though I don't recall the exact price in New York, it was certainly lower than in Paris). It seems to me that $40 dollars for a single (somewhat average) shrimp is beyond absurd - the food cost on this dish is probably about $2.00, and I do not find the preparation particularly complicated or special. I have no problem spending whatever on a great meal at Gagnaire, Arpege, L'Astrance etc. - but it seems that the value equation with L'Atelier Robuchon might be a little off.

            4 Replies
            1. re: fishskis
              r
              rvd72 Jan 20, 2008 09:36 PM

              I agree in that the single piece of shrimp (or prawn) wasn't worth the $40. I didn't taste it but I can't imagine it being worth it. My dining companion didn't seem that excited by it either.

              I thought the rest of the meal was pretty good though.

              RVD.

              1. re: rvd72
                ChefJune Jan 21, 2008 04:14 AM

                I'm a big Robuchon fan, but for that much money, shouldn't the meal -- EVERY meal -- be better than just "pretty good?"

                1. re: rvd72
                  Joe H Jan 21, 2008 09:51 AM

                  From five years ago just after they first opened in Paris:

                  "The one great dish is his take of langoustine wrapped in phyllo, deep fried and served with droplets of basil oil. This was delicious! Just incredible. Everyone at the table raved about it. It was also US $14.40 for one (12 Euros) langoustine. (Prices in general seemed fairly reasonable with groups in the 6 to 7 Euro range and 12-15 Euro. Second courses were quite a bit higher with groupings in the mid 20's with many in the high 30's and 40, others higher which might include, say, lobster. Most importantly: most of the servings were quite small, again Tapas sized.)"

                  ____________

                  The Euro was about $1.20 to the dollar then. Two years before it was .835.

                  1. re: Joe H
                    ChefJune Jan 21, 2008 12:30 PM

                    and now ONE euro costs around $1.50!

              2. 2
                2FlyingYorkies Jan 22, 2008 10:59 AM

                rvd72, I'm very glad you posted on your experience at L'Atelier. I'm going to be in Paris in a couple of months, and L'Atelier was on my list of places to try. But after seeing your pictures of the food, I'm going to pass on it. The prices seem rather exorbitant for what you get, both in terms of quantity and in terms of presentation. I'm not saying that it didn't taste good, which I'm sure it did, it just isn't what I was expecting to see for the prices they charge. I would have been disappointed. I guess I was expecting more complicated dishes and presentation than what you got, i.e. something that I can't make and present at home without great effort. Anyway, thanks again for posting and saving me several hundred Euros!

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