Trip Report a Tourist’s Perspective (Part 2: L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon)
All the same caveats and personal insights from “Part 1” hold true for “Part 2” – but I won’t repeat them here ;)
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
For the tourists:
5 rue de Montalembert
Cost 485 euro for 2 people, food/wine pairings/glass of champagne to start things off
Reservations: Yes you will need them but as we were told they only take 6:30 reservations. I have no idea if this is true or not but that is what we were told. 6:30 in INSANELY early to eat for Parisians but what I think must happen is that the second seatings are either locals, regulars, or people who were lucky enough to just show up at the right time. Unlike with Spring, we arrived at 6:50 – I refused to be punctual but I could only be 20 minutes late before the punctuality anxiety was all I could take – and honestly 80% of the restaurant was seated by then. So they show up on-time here unlike at Spring.
The restaurant is all bar counter seating. Everyone sits along the same bar on stools with small backs on the stools. There are essentially two bars (one on either side of the restaurant) with the kitchen in the middle. So it is a take on the open kitchen and I do enjoy watching them cook in the kitchen
Would I recommend it? Yes
I have eaten at other JR restaurants (The Mansion in Vegas being the most expensive at $500 per person, we did the 16 course tasting) and this food was much better than what we had in Vegas (though Vegas wasn’t “bad”, this was just better on this night). The crowd was easily 50/50 “Americans”/”Europeans” (I’m using quotes because I wasn’t close enough to hear all the accents but it was a good mix of all types). I will say, it was some of the best food I’ve had in a very long time. I LOVED IT. The menu was all in French but the staff was good at translating and if you are concerned about those things, you should be fine here. It is well frequented by the American traveler.
For the Foodies:
I loved the restaurant and the food was excellent. We did the tasting menu.
They made two MAJOR service mistakes in my opinion and in all fairness they are my two biggest pet peeves that I just have trouble accepting in this level of a restaurant.
First, the courses came too quickly for me. I would literally put down my fork from the last bite of one course and the next course was delivered. While I am amazed at the timing and efficiency in the kitchen that is required to make that happen, I would like maybe 5 minutes in between courses to reflect before the next one is placed. We asked that they slow down the pace – which they managed to do for one course and then we were right back on the fast track.
Second, since the food was coming so quickly when my husband had to use the restroom (it happens people) we both knew that he would have to go as soon as he took his last bite if we were to have any hope of him returning before the next course (and this was after we asked them to slow down). As he was gone, they came to serve the next course (they should have noticed he was not seated before they even brought it over), served me mine (huge mistake in my opinion), put his back under the heat lamps (open kitchen, easy to note), and then when he returned it took us maybe 4 minutes to get someone’s attention and ask for his plate (we actually had to raise our voices to get their attention since they were not making eye contact). That is a HUGE service mistake in my opinion and unfortunately one that will forever taint the overall experience.
But on to the food . . . . (again, presented to us in French - our choice - so some of this is the best that I could translate and/or figure out from tasting)
Amuse: Shellfish broth with crab topped with a cauliflower puree
EXCELLENT. A great rich seafood broth that was – say – room temperature so it was gelatinous (not the best word to use but you get the idea) and went so well with the cauliflower puree. It was so good and I will definitely make this myself (though I’m not sure it will be as good). Again I was amazed at how much I like cauliflower and seem to never make it enough at home.
First course: Lobster Carpaccio
Wow, this was good and something I would never have considered. I eat a lot of lobsters (spend a lot of time in Maine) and have never thought to eat it raw. I eat so many other things raw so I don’t know why not but the thought never crossed my mind. Beautifully plated and just a very clean flavor. Not at all like cooked lobster.
Second course: Fava bean and Pea Soup
Okay this was insanely good. It honestly just tasted like fave beans, peas, and butter – in the best way possible. Light, warm but not hot, and just tasted like spring to me. I will be trying to recreate this for sure.
Third course: Foie Gras
Full disclosure, I dislike foie gras (take a deep breath, it’s okay). That said, this was INCREDIBLE. I have had foie many times from reputable places and it always has this “mouth drying” horrible “liver” taste to me. I have never experienced what everyone else describes when they eat foie . . . . until that night. It was “butter-y” for lack of a better description, melt in you mouth, excellent. It was served with warm roasted cherries and I loved it. (usually I give mine to my husband to eat)
Fourth course: Poached Egg in Milk with Mushroom and Mushroom Foam
Another EXCELLENT course. It was served in a martini glass, parsley puree on the bottom, then the milk with a whole poached egg in the milk (I’m guessing the egg was sous vide but could have been actually poached in the milk), the smallest most mushroomy mushrooms and then a mushroom foam on top. You stuck you spoon in, broke the egg yolk which was perfectly runny, and get some parsley, milk, egg, mushroom . . . . it was awesome and something I will also try to recreate.
Firth course: Turbot
This was good but not memorable – in fact right now I can’t remember how they did it at all . . . . I don’t’ take notes during meals. I do remember my husband’s had a bone in it (which I can forgive but something unexpected at this level – not a pin bone, a pretty good sized bone).
Sixth course: Lamb/Quail
I had the lamb chops - those perfect little lollipop sized chops (served well before my husband’s quail). It was excellent, that perfect lamb taste without being game-y at all. It was served with a roasted garlic clove a lovely thyme sauce . . . . and honestly I can’t remember what else. My husband’s quail (while a bit over cooked from sitting under the heat lamp for an extra 5 minutes) was very good. His was served with a black truffle potato puree, which he talked about for a long time.
First Dessert: Strawberries with a Jasmin sorbet
This was lovely. But I wouldn’t say earth shattering at all. But I do love the lightness of it after that long of a meal.
Second Dessert: Coffee Sabayon
Again, lovely but nothing insanely memorable. But after all the memorable savory dishes I was okay with that.
I would say the savory courses far surpassed the desserts but I don’t think I was expecting great things from the desserts. With the exception of the major service errors, one of the best meals I’ve had.
Few reviewers call out the service errors but they are common here. We had dishes arriving before some had finished but as we lived close by (so went a few times) we eventually managed to manage them and achieve a good balance.
Yes, it's reservations for the first sitting only. If you want to put your name on "the list" for the second sitting do so early (6:30 is good) and come back at 8:30 then sit at the bar. However, the list isn's democratic so don't be surprised to find names ahead of yours at 8:30 even though you thought you were first on the list. We eventually got to the stage that they would call us when our table was ready so we could come down from our apartment.