Sunday, 22 June 2014

Singapore Series - L'Atelier Joel Robuchon Singapore

One of the major benefits of staying at the Sentosa Resort World on my recent trip to Singapore was the absolute abundance of world class dining within walking distance.  When you're talking about some of the greatest food dynasties in the world at the moment, many people think of Gordon Ramsay or David Chang or Jamie Oliver.  Where people should be going with their thinking is Joel Robuchon, who has a world record 28 Michelin Stars to his name and was titled 'Chef of the Century' by Gault Millau in 1989.

I'd been wanting to visit a Joel Robuchon restaurant for a long time, but given they are all in the Northern Hemisphere, it's been pretty hard to arrange, which is why visiting it was one of my primary objectives while in Singapore.  While Singapore doesn't have the Michelin Star system, the local L'Ateilier de Joel Robuchon has won the the best dining experience category in the Singapore Experience Awards for 2012 and 2013.  I was pretty sure I was going to be in for a treat.

Joel Robuchon had shocked the culinary world when he retired at a relatively young age of 50 but came out of retirement to develop a new concept where chefs can experiment and create while working on new ideas and fusing different concepts at each locale.  Each restaurant in the L'Atelier style is modelled on a dining experience that is immersive and invites guests to be part of the action with little separating diner from chef. The idea is to witness chefs create, prepare and cook innovative dishes right before their eyes - which in turn gives chefs the pleasure of watching guests enjoy their meals.

After being warmly greeted at the front door, I was whisked to my spot at the bar that had amazing views of the kitchen and preparation area.  The interior is a copy of the original Paris L'Atelier which was designed by world-renowned designer Pierre-Yves Rochon and is kitted out entirely in black and red furnishings.  It's an incredible and imposing layout but you're instantly made to feel welcome by the wait staff, who are an integral part of the experience and are also decked out in black.

My waiter for the night started to explain the options, which ranged from a decadent tasting menu where you could create your own degustation, to the incredibly wonderful (and expensive) looking a la carte.  My choice for the night was the discovery menu, which was a sample of the beautiful looking dishes as set out by Chef de Cuisine Lorenz Hoja, and comprised of nine courses wonderful looking French inspired cuisine.

My first taste of Lorenz's menu was the L'Amuse-Bouche which was foie gras custard with red Porto wine and parmesan foam.  Whoa!  It was simply amazing.  I never knew that you could make foie gras custard but now that I do, I'll never think about it the same way again.  The foie gras was incredibly smooth and rich but was balanced out well with a touch of the Porto wine and the parmesan foam.  There was a tang to the dish that left me wanting more but unfortunately, after several scoops from the glass, it was empty and I was left with a pleasant glow from the starter and a lingering taste on my palate.

My next course was Le Caviar Imperial - Imperial caviar on dashi jelly and green asparagus cream and unbelievably was lovelier than my amuse-bouche.  I loved the vibrant presentation of the stark black caviar quenelle on the green asparagus cream with splashes of colour from croutons and gold leaf.  The aroma emanating from the dish was delightful but was outshone easily once I had my first taste.  I was careful to get each of the components on my spoon for balance and was transported to French heaven, it was sensational. The saltiness of the caviar and the rich creaminess of the asparagus soup were a perfect match and again I found myself scraping my spoon an on empty bowl.

Next was the La Langoustine, deep fried langoustine with basil pistou and was perhaps my least favourite dish of the night, not because I didn't like it, but because every other dish was rich in comparison.  The subtle flavour of the sweet langoustine flesh shone through and the light tempura batter helped give the dish some texture.  I found the presentation of the dish to be a little strange, with a folded pice of paper included on the plate and I couldn't figure out its purpose.

It was around the langoustine course that I started to chat to the pair sitting next to me, who happened to be siblings getting together for a lovely dinner.  James was a local from Singapore and his sister Barbara visiting from Scotland for their father's birthday.  One of the best things about the style of seating at L'Atelier is that you can strike up a conversation with someone and speaking to James & Barbara turned out to significantly enhance my experience on the night.

Next came the L'epinard;  lightness of spinach veloute with soft poached egg and sweet onion which was another wonderfully presented dish that was again incredibly rich.  After the departure from richness that was the langoustine, the veloute was intensely flavoured and just when I thought the dish could not be any richer, I cracked into the slow cooked egg and once the yolk joined the veloute, it was elevated to a new level of deliciousness.  I was devouring the dish and thinking to myself that this was precisely why I love fine French cuisine.

I'd been having some great conversation with James & Barbara by this time and had discovered quite a bit about them, mostly that J was a regular at L'Atelier and that his father was good friends with Chef Lorenz.  It was also at this time that my cover as a blogger was blown and I started to chat to Lorenz about the restaurant and food in general.

While chatting, the next course of Le foie gras de canard, seared duck foie gras with rhubarb and hibiscus nectar was presented.  This was a case of the level of intense and fatty food being ratcheted up to a new level with the seared foie gras testing the limits of my palate with its utter deliciousness.  It was lucky (or well planned) that there was some slightly acidic slow poached rhubarb to take the edge off, otherwise I might have had a coronary right on the spot.  It was again a beautiful but intensely rich dish that didn't last long on my plate.

Lorenz's menu was perfectly timed and relief was at hand when the next course helped bring down the level of richness that had so far been elevating with each dish.  The Le cabillaud; roasted cod with artichoke pickle and tomato juice looked beautiful and was delicious but a little more savoury than the previous dishes.  The cod was expertly cooked and wonderfully paired with the tomato soup, which had just a hint of bite.  It was a pretty dish but in a rustic way and the pickled artichoke gave the dish a well balanced set of flavours.

There was a choice for the 'main' course of the discovery menu, either the duck or the wagyu and I wisely chose the Le canard; roasted duck fillet with peas and smoked breast.  I'm a big fan of duck and when it's done well, its simply magical.  The L'Atelier version was not only visually stunning but it was impeccably put together, with perfectly sous vide duck breast that was finished off with a lovely crispy skin with the fat rendered to perfection.  There was a freshness on the plate from the peas and pea puree but the thing that brought the dish together was the incredible jus that was equal parts sticky and full of flavour.

It was at this point that Lorenz deviated from the menu after asking if my stomach could cope with some additional dishes.  Of course my response was yes and shortly after I was presented with one of Joel Robuchon's original dishes, the foie gras stuffed quail with mash.  Sigh.  Everything that I'd had to that point simply faded into the background, this was a dish that had clearly helped Joel Robuchon rise to the very top of his profession.  It was beautiful, rich, flavoursome and did I say rich?  The quail was wonderful and the mash that accompanied stunning, probably the best I've ever had.  Come to think of it, this dish would have to rank in the top couple I've ever had too!

The next dish that Lorenz brought out was a creation that he'd been mucking around with that day and was a piece of halibut in a paprika foam sauce and it was beautiful.  We don't get much halibut in the southern hemisphere but it's considered one of the most exclusive types of fish in Europe and I can see why.  Its a firm white fish with a distinctive flavour that was significantly improved with the paprika and chorizo broth that it came in.  If Lorenz was testing my limits of endurance for fine dining, he was doing a good job and I had to tell him no more.  After-all, I still had dessert to contend with. 

There were two desserts and the first was Le pralinas; yoghurt and praline smoothness with fresh pineapple and lemon sorbet.  I'd had a laugh with Lorenz that I came from the pineapple capital of the world and would know good pineapple when I came across it.  The dessert was essentially different textures of pineapple, with the yoghurt and praline all being pineapple flavour.  It was quite a savoury dish with just a hint of sweetness and it was a fantastic break from all of the indulgent food that I'd consumed so far.  The textures all worked well together with the creamy yoghurt being a standout on the dish.

The slightly savoury pineapple dessert was designed to lull you into a false sense of security to hit you with one final rich and decadent course.  The aptly named Le sensation; creamy araguani chocolate with cacao sorbet and oreo cookie was almost the last straw!  I'd been stuffed full and almost didn't have room but I didn't want to appear rude <grins>.  The tempered chocolate covering the dessert was lovely and crunchy but the intensely flavoured and wonderfully creamy chocolate underneath was a real highlight and thankfully also not too sweet.

I have to say, and you can probably tell from my description of this meal, that my experience at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon Singapore was one of the best meals of my life.  It was definitely enhanced because of the new friends that I made, but technically speaking, it was a fine example of haute cuisine.

It had been a long meal too, I was one of the first into the restaurant and one of the last to leave.  I loved the interior and layout of L'Atelier, which was both intimidating and inviting at the same time, with the approach to being so close to the action being a fantastic way to enjoy a meal.  I'd loved meeting James, Barbara and Lorenz and the open way in which the all embraced the evening and were willing to make new friends was much appreciated for a solo diner.

The meal at L'Atelier has whetted my appetite for fine French cuisine and I'm super excited about travelling to France next year for a food safari.  I'll definitely be trying to hit up the Joel Robuchon restaurant while I'm there and if I'm really lucky, hopefully my new friend Lorenz can help me meet the great man himself <hint hint>.

Don't worry about getting a piece of bread.  You get your own bread basked with many different types to enjoy throughout the meal
I've never liked quiche but this little bite came over from Lorenz and it was great.  Maybe I only like ultra fine dining quiche!!
Close to the action in the kitchen
It was great watching the team in action
There was a glass display right in front of me which had lots of kooky items to watch
Lorenz is a genius in the kitchen but I suspect that this would be a minimum standard in a L'Atelier
Some of the tables that were not so close to the action (and the customers long gone)
Entrance to culinary heaven


  1. I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and want you a good continuation. Wishing you the best of luck for all your blogging efforts.

    1. Thanks Parker, I appreciate the kind words :)


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