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May 30, 2012 08:08 PM

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon has announced to close...

The rumour was right...
I am so sad that it is closing. It has been one of my favorite restaurants and I've been going there at least once a month.
After June 30, New York will be sans Robuchon, which eight (or eleven by next year) major cities in the world has...

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  1. >After June 30, New York will be sans Robuchon, which eight (or eleven by next year) major cities in the world has...

    As you know this is a very competitive restaurant city. I suppose the NYC-centric view (which I don't really share) is summed up in the song lyric: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. There's no corollary that says if you can make it in eight major world cities, you can make it here. Different cities, different tastes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: squid kun

      I've eaten at the one in Paris- sublime! There is something wrong though when the Las Vegas one stays open and the New York one closes - after all New Yorkers are fantastically sophisticated eaters.

    2. Ha, I always thought you were a lady.

      1. Honestly, I'm not terribly surprised. You never really heard anyone talk about Robuchon much. Possibly that's because unlike his Haute French contemporaries in town - Daniel, JG, Ripert, Bouley - he's just not around. Those guys live and work here. Robuchon showed up, stuck his name on something, and then ran off to open another place. We like our own, here, and have never been terribly kind to outsiders with extraordinarily expensive menus (Ducasse @ Essex, Romera...)

        Now, admittedly, all four of the above were outsiders at one point (well, Bouley's from CT, so he's sort of local) but all of them really established themselves as New Yorkers. All of their restaurants are unique, as well. There's only one JG, there's only one Bouley, one Le Bernardin... but L'Atelier is a chain. A very expensive, very fancy chain, yes - but who wants to eat at a chain restaurant when you could go somewhere unique instead?

        15 Replies
        1. re: sgordon

          Right. What sealed the deal was that every September, when Robuchon would visit Atelier for a few days, he did nothing more than work the room -- even though he was always hyped in the food press as "cooking" at Atelier during those visits (he didn't even bother to engage in the subterfuge of putting on whites).

          This is somewhat unfair. Robuchon hired some really excellent people to run that kitchen (where have you gone, Gregory Pugin? [I mean, I KNOW where he's gone -- but I wish he still were in New York.]). But New York historically has not taken well to branch restaurants of international high-end chains.

          1. re: Sneakeater

            I had an exquisite dinner at Le Cirque LV in mid-March where Chef Pugin is doing a brilliant job with the cuisine.

              1. re: ellenost

                +1. I had dinner at Le Cirque LV in late March and it was extraordinary.

              2. re: Sneakeater

                I'm sure it was unfair to some degree - although I think they were staggeringly overpriced, based on my limited experience there.

                That said, to a New Yorker it might as well have been Mesa Grill or Neely's BBQ. Fancier, for sure, more refined, but still... a chain. Maybe had he given it a unique name with a unique identity - even something as simple as "Robuchon NY" - it might have fared better.

                We ARE tougher on outsiders than we are on our own. Cheaper and mid-range places can do well, especially with an ethnic theme that stands out or something that feels somewhat new to us - Andy Ricker seems off to a good start, and Refslund at Acme (though he has a successful local team behind him) - and we'll see how the Mission Chinese guys do. The ones who start small seem to fare better. It fits the current unpretentious zeitgeist.

                But higher end, it's tough. We ask a certain degree of humility from chefs who've been established elsewhere. That they're here to SHARE something - not SHOW us something (lookin' at you, Susur Lee... and Romera... and probably GastroArte and Hakkasan this time next year...)

                And $30 appetizers (or whatever JR was charging these days) don't quite fit the mold we're looking for. You can't do Vegas pricing in NYC. You don't have a steady stream of roulette winners looking to burn their winnings before they leave town. You HAVE to appeal to the locals as well as the tourists to survive here.

                I think there are very few chefs we'd welcome with open arms for a high-end place excitedly - it worked for Keller, but he's one of the rare exceptions, and he gave Per Se it's own name and identity. I'm trying to think of an outside chef who could just waltz in and have a solid, lasting high-end hit at THAT kind of price point - the higher end of the high end, $100+ prix fixes and $50+ entrees... takes a lot of chutzpah to even attempt that in the first place.

                1. re: Sneakeater

                  >There's only one JG.
                  Well, Shanghai has JG, Beijing and Montreal have Daniel (although the name is Maison Boulud, they proclaim "fine dining").

                  Just curious. What will be the difference between Thomas Keller running Per Se, French Laundry and Bouchon vs. Robuchon running L'Atelier? Jean Georges Or Daniel Boulud running a number of restaurants in New York, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, London, etc? Difference in number of restaurants they operate? Wouldn't they be 'American-born chain restaurants"? Yeah, I agree Robuchon runs far more restaurants worldwide.

                  I agree with sgordon in that New Yorkers seem to be tougher towards international "chain" restaurants. As a result, some internationally famous brands do not exist in New York (they either never have or do not any longer), while they exist in lots of other foreign cities (Tokyo and Singapore, for example) nowadays. As a person who loves New York so much, I feel sad because I have always thought one of New York's charms is 'to have it all' and that doesn't seem to be true any more.

                  1. re: kosmose7

                    I think if Daniel Boulud or JG had eight restaurants in Montreal or Shanghai or wherever and then opened one here, they'd be viewed warily. Even moreso if they didn't have a "home base" but simply a bunch of restaurants dotting the globe. It's one thing to make NYC your home base and then expand from there, as they did - they may not be from here but they're our adopted sons - it's another to establish yourself elsewhere as a brand and THEN come here, then you're seen as an interloper. Especially if you come with chutzpah-level prices.

                    I think there are a few chefs from elsewhere who could stake a claim here - I think Bayless would be a prime example of someone who NYC would welcome with open arms. For a couple reasons: one, he's an unpretentious as they get. Second, I doubt he'd open a place serving $50+ entrees, probably something more in the "normal" high-end $30+ range. And third, he'd be offering something we don't currently have - Mexican cuisine on a level we're not used to (though Stupak is bringing us some game on that front, now...)

                    Robuchon did none of those things - he came into town like he was giving us a gift, then took off with a wave to open another joint somewhere else. It was very impersonal and kind of haughty. His prices were extraordinarily high. And his cuisine style was, frankly, something we already have quite a lot of.

                    There were other problems as well - I know a number of people hated the room and ambience. I've heard tales of stiff, spotty service as well. Honestly, I'm kind of surprised it lasted as long as it did - probably he just had a long lease or contract to fulfill, or it'd have closed a few years ago.

                    I don't know why Keller was such an exception - again, it could have been in part that he gave Per Se a unique identity seperate from TFL. Personally he comes off quite likeable, and he did spend a LOT of time in the city doing PR and personal appearances when they opened.

                    1. re: sgordon

                      With Keller, I always thought it might be that he got his start in New York, so Per Se was in a way more a return (if not a homecoming) than some foreign "dignitary" swooping into town to grace us with his culinary presence.

                      1. re: sgordon

                        Pricewise, I don't think L'Atelier is particularly far more expensive than other fine dining restaurants in New York though. As you can see, their appetizers are between $25 and $40 in average, entrees around $40, desserts at $17. So if I choose one from each category to create a three course dinner of my own, it would cost approximately $100.

                        At Daniel, three course prix fixe is $108 with some supplements. Le Bernardin's four course dinner costs $125. Per Se Salon menu is priced between $30 and $40 per dish (service included).

                        1. re: kosmose7

                          Those menus are outdated. I peeked at their menu last weekend and desserts were $19. No doubt prices have risen in other parts of the menu as well. I suppose prices are in the same ballpark the 4-star places once you add up the whole meal, but other than the food, is the rest of the experience up to par?

                          1. re: deprofundis

                            deprofundis, you are right. I chose the photos at random and they happen to be about six months old. Since I go there every month, here are more updated prices from last month. Appetizers are between $30 and $40 in average, entrees around $50, desserts at $19. So a three course would be roughly around $110.

                          2. re: kosmose7

                            No, it's not higher - but it's in the highest echelon of prices in the city (aside from, say, Per Se and Masa) - and, frankly, it didn't live up to the experiences people had at Daniel, JG, EMP, Bouley, etc. None of those are chains, either - the chefs may have other restaurants elsewhere, but they have different names and different identities. Each one is the flagship of their creator. L'Atelier is Robuchon's "second-tier" resto, at least on paper. To some people, that comes off like charging Armani prices at Armani Exchange.

                            Obviously it failed for SOME reason. We're just theorizing as to why...

                            1. re: sgordon

                              Yes, but lots of L'Atelier's dishes overlap those of Joel Robuchon fine dining, so I wouldn't call it Armani Exchange, sgordon. LOL. Perhaps same Giorgio Armani sold at a boutique vs. outlet?

                              I fully understand some people feel uncomfortable with a setting like sushi bar when we talk about upscale dining. It's just a matter of preference I guess. I am personally very sad to see it go... Because I love L'Atelier as much as I adore Per Se, JG, Daniel, and EMP.

                      2. re: Sneakeater


                        As we've discussed elsewhere, it was truly criminal that Sifton (or was it Bruni at that time?) didn't re-review Veritas when Pugin took over the kitchen. His cuisine was sensational! But then along comes Hazen, whose cuisine I found to be rather mediocre, and Sifton gives it three stars. OY!


                      3. re: sgordon

                        This is the most plausible explanation.

                      4. Interesting!!! Robuchon in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Tokyo but no New York!! Guess where the money is and who is still suffering from post-recession??!!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          I don't think this is a recession issue. NYC has supported numerous high-end places throughout many a downturn. Heck, Keller keeps raising his price at Per Se and they ain't closing anytime soon...

                          1. re: sgordon

                            It was always fascinating to me how Atelier JR never became part of "the discussion" among serious food people in New York -- even though it was always clearly one of the best restaurants here. It's not just a matter of price: Per Se and LeB soldier on.

                            To be fair, their absolutely horrible -- even offensive -- wine program couldn't have helped.

                            1. re: Sneakeater

                              I stopped at L'Atelier for dinner tonight. I ordered the hamachi, langoustine, amadai, quail, and le sucre. The food was outstanding - unquestionably on par with any of the top places. That being said, the prices - all around, but especially on the beverage list - are offensive. A cappuccino is $12. Cocktails were I believe $22. Wines by the glass for like $30. Do they know what prices are like in the rest of the city?

                              1. re: deprofundis

                                Agree with everything everyone has already said re: the amazing quality of the food, the high prices, and the reasons why NYCers were hostile to it. I also think that there was a disconnect between the type of food being served vs. the location (East side, Four Seasons). Sad to see it go because the food is spectacular.

                                Re: Per Se, he only has two high end restaurants, which have live feed views into each other so he can monitor both at all times. There have been a few times we've eaten at Per Se and he's been there, cooking in the kitchen...