What makes a great restaurant I have asked myself over and over. Ingredients? Skill? Creativity? Sitting in a 2 starred restaurant just two days ago, I ate food that was of many sorts. Delicious, normal and even boring. Yet even the most boring of dishes did not feel lacking in ingredients, skill or creativity. Nevertheless, time and time over, one restaurant have seemed to maintain their standards. Starting with a two star reputation on my first visit and now the proud holder of its final third star, L’ Atelier de Joel Robuchon has been a magnificent dining experience.
The start is a clean entrance to the restaurant where you are greeted by your hostess, brought to your sit and offered bottled water. But do not fret, you have a choice of tap too. The waiter then takes over and explains the meal and various dining experiences for this night.
When you are finished with the orders, out comes the best bread basket I have eaten. Ever.
This was the bread basket for 3. Your are spoilt for choices. Easily, most diners at L’ Atelier have been quoted saying that they feel a need to finish it, but are worried about the coming courses. Indeed you should. Easily there are over 5 types of bread. Maybe 6 or even 7. If you are a bread fan, you would be sold. But more importantly, there is something for everyone. My favorites of the lot were the twists, croissants and the fruity roll. It was simply sublime for something no penny is paid for.
Amuse bouche was a little parmesan biscuit with tomato and ham accompanied by a shot glass filled with a cream of artichoke with ginger and carrot. Something so small yet so much impact. The light parmesan biscuit was really airy with a delicious slice of ham and some tomato. Imagine a biscuit and ham from the cold platter but a 3 starred version with a lot of substance and ingredients :)!
The combination for me was spot on. It was still that lovely creamy taste! That slices of carrot did not do too much but the hint of ginger throughout the cream was a pleasant surprise for some like me who did not like ginger. But something about the warm chestnut soup I had earlier in 2012 makes me crave for that more.
For the soup course:
Corn veloute, beef jelly and caviar. This was a decadent little bugger. To be honest, I hated corn soups until now. In fact, I never understood how does one enjoy corn in any soup! Even in the Chinese ones as the corn tend to overpower everything. But in this case, the corn flavor was really subtle. Something typical in cold soups where the taste of the main ingredient tend to be less intense but slowly picks up in flavors over ones tongue. The beef jelly was a great addition to the soup as it slowly melted to the heat in your mouth. Caviar, pop corn and little croutons were textural wonders for this little soup! A great surprise!
The little darling got a little more posh with her starter.
Chicken broth, black truffles, parmesan net served with a side of black truffle toastie. Seriously. Who serves black truffle puree in toast. This was really yummy. I could not help myself but dig into the little darling’s soup. It was yummy. One can really get a good feel of flavor and aroma of the black truffles in there. Sort of makes an ordinary experience into a gourmet one. Nice!
For the darling, she did not deviate from what she had during her trip here before.
Black cod fillet with smooth daikon cream and olive oil. The fish for starters were cooked to perfection. Flake by flake it fell apart. However, the daikon cream albeit being smooth was a bit of a turn off for me. It had a bitter aftertaste which the waiter say is typical. For me, that is the difference of whether it was cooked well or not. I have eaten daikon and every time it turns out bitter, it is sad when one insist that it is the natural way it should be. Maybe a pre boil? This could have been an awesome eat!
My main presented before me again, looked very artsy. Pork flap with greens and other edible leaves. My expectation was something rather tough. Perhaps somewhere around the ear haha. Ear flap lols. I have never eaten flap meat before. But this was just spectacularly moist. And its accompaniment the mash (bottom pic) was legendary. Obviously butter was a big player in this delicious mash but hey! Once in a while!
Who says mash cannot be brought to a whole new level!? One of L’ Atelier’s bragging rights.
The little darling’s final course was something I recommended to her based on my liking. She happily went with it.
Kagoshima beef and foie gras burger with lightly caramelized bell peppers. If you thought the wagyu sliders at Merrywell was good. This was even better. It was reach creamy and woah! The perfect fast food meal. Really a once in a life time thing considering how rich this was. In fact, if you read one of my post about how I have eaten various foie gras which went from dry to creamy to rich. On a scale of 0-100. This was 101. See the post on Sage here. In fact, when the little darling tried to press in down, the foie gras literally smashed into a puree. It was a class act. Shoe string chips were crisp but it was no killer side. But hey? Burger and chips are probably the marriage in the world! Nom nom nom nom!
My final course was the lobster risotto! Lobster flesh was succulent being cooked just right. Risotto sauce carried a decently strong flavor like a bisque. But thicker. As an avid fan of most shell fish, this was slurps! The risotto was silky, each piece still separated not like some really bad ones that turned out gluggy. Another thumbs up! Picture will come up once the little darling sends it over :)!
Last bit of the night were the desserts which I will let the pictures do the talking :)!!
The Chestnut which was part of my dinner set menu.
The Pear which was darling’s choice for the night.
The Apple which was my dining companion’s choice.
The final complementary course of the night besides the amuse bouche and bread were the Petit Fours. Small oven creations from the Robuchon kitchen are another magical part of the evening. Faultless.
At the end of the night, I cannot thank L’ Atelier enough for being a great host once again. Plate by plate each put together so meticulously with the emphasis on perfection. I could barely fault with anything except the daikon cream that darling had with the black cod. Otherwise, this meal was great. However though, my dining companions who were not the keenest of fine dining found a few dishes to strong for their palate. One such instance was the sea urchin with lobster jelly which was way too strong in seafood flavor. I had a taste of it myself and found that it was a little heavy on the heavy side.
A meal at Robuchon like mine cost approximately $HKD780 while if you picked 4 individual dishes including a dessert, that would set you back approximately $HKD1000. This really is no small sum of money. On the streets, great feed start as low as $HKD30. Not everyone likes fine dining and would compare it to being able to eat tones of street food. Some like it, some hate it. With a hate mentality like that, it is hard for one to appreciate the finesse revolving around effort of one putting together a plate of art with the hands of many. Nevertheless, the few decadent meals every year does not revolve around the need for luxury, but rather a treat.