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Feb 22, 2013 01:50 PM

Question re Reservations at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (either location)

The website only accepts reservations for the 6:30 seating for dinner. I was wondering what happens afterwards?

Failing that, I will be dining solo late (10ish, so maybe not that late for Paris) on a sunday night in April and a sit-at-the-bar dinner type experience like the Ateliers would be ideal. Any comparable suggestions? most of the places I know of and would consider good for solo dining like Saturne are not open on sundays...

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  1. Its a few years since I ate there but the system is reservations at 6:30 or it's a case of putting your name on the list and coming back later.

    We lived around the corner from the St Germain branch so could pop down at 6:30 when the doors opened, but despite being first through the door the list was sometimes already full! We eventually became well enough known so we could put our name down at lunchtime and they would call us when the table was ready - usually at 8:30 but sometimes closer to 9:30 if the list is long. Its quite a frustrating system but seems to work for them: I suspect it suits North American early diners and works well for the later eating locals.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PhilD

      Thank you, that's how I thought/feared it would be. I will be going to Epicure at Le Bristol instead, its not the format I wanted, but this is a three star I otherwise would probably never visit and being open on Sunday maybe a sign that I should.

    2. Just returned from a Paris trip, during which we found out what happens if you don't start early at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. We were given a 9 pm reservation at the Saint-Germain location (through our concierge, we were staying at the Pont Royal next door). But this was clearly a fiction. We presented ourselves at 9 and were told without apology that "the service was not complete." They shooed us into the bar of the Pont Royal to wait, with a lot of other refugees. We were not seated till 9:40, and this was a harbinger of things to come. Yes, the food is good. But I've had better in Paris and elsewhere, and I would never willingly put up with their standard of service again--disorganized and inattentive. This is probably why the clientele was entirely tourists--who would go twice? Sorry I don't know the city well enough to help you to a good alternative for solo dining, but I can't recommend this one.

      16 Replies
      1. re: katarina88

        AFAIK, in the evening, there should only be reservation available at 18:30, and after that, you wait in line for an opening spot.

        Maybe they told you to come back at 9pm and start waiting for counter space to free up ?

        1. re: Maximilien

          I can only report what we experienced, and that is not what happened. Ahead of time, through our travel agent and hotel concierge, we were told we had a choice of a 6:30 reservation, or a 9 pm reservation. We asked for the 9 pm. With several links in the chain of communication, it is clearly possible we were misinformed. I would not have bothered to complain had we been blown away by the experience otherwise. But it's not as if everything was great once we were seated. We were ignored half the time, and our courses arrived at an erratic pace. Some of the food was great, some was good but outclassed by other experiences on this trip, one dish in particular very disappointing: a cheese plate that was not even as good as what I could assemble in my own kitchen, very bland choices. I just think people should know that there is a chance their experience will not live up to the hype. We had much better meals at La Truffiere (near perfect in every way) and Apicius (spectacular food, beautiful setting, service professional if perhaps not the equal of La Truffiere if you are not a regular).

        2. re: katarina88

          My plans 'flexed' a little so I called them directly on the day of and got a seat for 8:30, was promptly seated and had generally good service. I took the easy way out and ordered the tasting menu with wine pairings, which consisted entirely of Whites and included a couple of really good Germans. The food was mostly forgettable though. I dont regret going, but would not return.

          unhelpful aside: A couple next to me were allergic to 'sugar' in all its incarnations (thats what was communicated), and ordered the tasting menu with that caveat. The reaction was interesting. first they said "What?!", then they said "huh, ok, in that case, we can't serve you the tasting menu at all because all items have at least some sugar in the sauces or elsewhere, so order a la carte, and pray the items you like are sugar free". A few minutes later they came back and told them that it was all fine, served them the tasting menu with almost no substitution. Wondered what the thought/communication process was there. maybe I missed something.

          1. re: shekamoo

            Thanks for posting, I am glad you had a better time.

            1. re: shekamoo

              I think the "sugar allergy" is hysterical, my suspicion is the restaurant did as well and just served the food as it came.

              It is a bit weird to hear of people reserviing at anything but 6:30 which is the only time they take a true reservation. Could it be possiible that they "put you on the list" and said arrive at 8:30 (or 9:00 in the other example) and for you a slot opened up and for Katarina it didn't. I used to live around the corner and they would call me up when my table was free, sometimes it was roughly when they estimated at other times it was far later.

              The food can be very good if you order wisely but a lot is average. I never liked the service - far too fast for me.

              1. re: PhilD

                Of course, I can't speak for the restaurant and state what their reservation policy is. I will note that they did consult a list and find our name on it when we arrived at 9, and that a lot of other folks arrived at the same time, and were also shunted into the hotel bar next door (which was overwhelmed by the sudden influx). It seemed like a second seating that went awry.

                It wouldn't surprise me if things went better for regulars, because that seems to make an especially big difference in Paris. But I don't have a lot of respect for that attitude, especially if it's too obvious. Treating all comers well is the real pinnacle of hospitality.

                1. re: katarina88

                  I would not respect the attitude either, when they first let you understand that a reservation had been made, and in fact none was.
                  I wonder if it is also a short-hand understanding between hotel concierges and restaurants.
                  I imagine hotel concierge calling JR: "Client wants table."
                  JR: "Send them along at 9."
                  JR did not commit, and hotel concierge could consider job done.
                  Result: Concierge can always blame the resto, and resto gets the client any way, after abusing him.

                  But I don't think restos like JR discriminate against non-locals. What is perceived as favored treatment may have a number of factors:
                  - Locals do not go through hotel concierges. Hotel concierges are a great deal less reliable than everyone thinks.
                  - Calling directly, a local with no language barrier may detect bullshit better, and won't accept something like "show up at 9 and we'll see". More questions would have been asked, more clarification demanded.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    I think your reconstruction of what happened is probably quite accurate, Parigi. It just came as an unfortunate surprise because it was our fourth (and final) night in Paris, and all our other concierge-booked dinners had gone just fine. Oh, well--maybe that's what I get for taking the easy way out. My French is OK, I'll make my own phone calls next time!

                    1. re: Parigi

                      8:30 to 9:00 is when they ask those without reservations to return for a table. The names on the list are the order people put their names on the list - and I agree the bar isn't great.

                      I admit it does sound like a reservation for a second sitting, and I agree its a pretty weird system. That said its a pretty standard experience in Paris to wait a little for a later table - often with a free drink at the bar to soothe the punter during the wait for the previous diners to finish.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        Years ago when L'Atelier first opened in St. Germain, they didn't take reservation at all. When I showed up around 7pm, they told me to come back at 9. No problem so I returned at 9 as told and was asked to wait at the bar. An hour later, the hostess told me that there is no more seating for the evening. Not even a smile or an apology. And no glass of wine while waiting which I didn't expect.

                  2. re: PhilD

                    I think I agree, I never bothered to find out whether it is in fact possible for a living human being to be allergic to sugar (I have absolutely no idea), but then if that was the thought process, they were either iron clad certain that the allergy claim was bogus or were just gambling a little!! I thought the whole interaction was more interesting than the food anyways.

                    I do realize that is probably because I ordered the tasting menu which really did sound boring as described on their carte, but I figured I was in a Robuchon joint so how bad could it be?

                    1. re: PhilD

                      regarding the reservation time, I called them on the day and asked, in English, if they had availability for 1 person anytime after 8:00 (I prefaced this by saying that I realized how they did not really accept reservations after the 6:30 seating and was calling anyways to try my luck)? They said yes no problem we have a spot for one person at 8:30. I arrived 8:20, they checked and said yes you have a 8:30 reservation, it will be available soon. It opened up in 5 minutes and I got seated.

                    2. re: shekamoo

                      Insane that people want the tasting menu but obviously don't want to "taste".

                      1. re: Parigi

                        ok I googled it, Amercian Association of Family Physicians says:

                        Myth Number 3: Some people are allergic to sugar

                        Fact: A condition is called a food allergy when the immune system (the part of the body that fights infections) thinks a certain protein in a food is a “foreign” agent and fights against it. This doesn't happen with sugars and fats.

                        Ok then, maybe the kitchen knew this! Awesome!!

                        1. re: Parigi

                          Too many people have come to this board saying they have this or that allergy, and it turns out not to be an allergy but a food preference, that I have utter respect-fatigue.
                          Not to mention those who say they are vegetarian except for chicken and beef.
                          I suppose bullshit is a human right. And so is food preference. In that case, one clearly does not want to have a tasting, but a gun must have been pointed to his head forcing him to choose the dégustation menu.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            Being allergic to sugar is like being allergic to steroids, if that was true you'd be dead.