Sunday, 5 April 2015

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - Three Michelin Stars

Hands down, my favourite cuisine is French fine dining.  A couple of years ago, I was able to fulfil a lifelong dream by eating at one of Paul Bocouse's many global restaurants.  It's a meal I will never forget.  If you've not heard of Paul Bocouse, then you need to check him out, he is one of three chefs to have been awarded 'Chef of the Century' by Gault Millau.  If you're into food though, I'm sure you've heard of the Bocuse d'Or, often called the world championship of cooking and named after the legendary chef.

One of the other legendary chefs awarded the 'Chef of the Century' tag is Joel Robuchon, who also holds the distinction of being awarded the most number of Michelin Stars globally, currently twenty five.  When I moved to Hong Kong, one of the first things that struck me was that I was moving to a city with a L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, one of the few three Michelin Starred restaurants in Hong Kong.  With accolades that seem to fall like cherry blossoms in spring, L'Atelier is also ranked as the seventeenth best restaurant in Asia by the San Pellegrino Asia's top 50 list.

I'd been fortunate enough to have visited Singapore's L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon last year (see post here), but that was a solo dining experience, so I was keen to take SC along to experience the ultimate fine dining experience.  I was travelling when I asked SC to book a table at L'Atelier Hong Kong and when she came back to me to say that we could only get a seat at the bar.  I had a little chuckle, "It'll be OK, just wait and see" was all I could manage.  

I didn't want to spoil the surprise, but the whole point of L'Atelier de Joel Robucon is to bring the diner into the meal.  Originally conceived in Tokyo, the restaurants serve French haute cuisine in a stylised environment, with most of the seats arranged around the central kitchen.  L'Atelier translates into 'workshop' and the style of kitchen allows the diner to witness the chefs at work - watching the magic happen.

The Hong Kong L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is located in the Landmark building, which is no stranger to exquisite restaurants and includes no less than three 3 Michelin Starred restaurants, along with a handful of single starred restaurants.  As we ascended the escalator into L'Atelier, the traditional black and red of the stylised restaurants became the focus of our world.  We were led to the dining room, which revealed itself to be a huge central kitchen with the now familiar bar ringed around the outside.  Our seats were sublime, right in the centre of the main area, giving us perfect views of the restaurant and chefs busy at work.

While the name of the restaurant is Joel Robuchon, executive chefs David Alves and Julien Tongourian are responsible for ensuring the restaurant maintains it's three Michelin Stars.  We had a perfect view of Julien Tongourian marshalling the troops in the kitchen while the impeccably dressed and ever so polite wait staff ran through the menu options with us.  There are quite a few options available, including a couple of chefs tasting menus and traditional a la carte.  One of the better options is a build-your-own-degustation option - a list of small plates of exquisite food that can be ordered at will.  We decided to mix it up a little and combined the small bites with some of the traditional a la carte.

Before our meal commenced, we were provided with a basket of bread rolls that was as diverse as it was large, including different types of French baguette, flavoured rolls and of course accompanied by a monogrammed round of soft butter.  Not wanting to fill up so much, I kept my bread intake to a mini baguette and some sour dough.

While we were munching on bread, an amuse bouche of white asparagus pannacotta covered with a punchy tomato coulis and sprinkled with bell pepper croutons was served.  It was a light way to commence the meal, with subtle flavours of asparagus not lost with the stronger tomato and bell pepper.  Like a little soup, it was accompanied with a very fancy toasted sandwich filled with ham and mushroom.  It wasn't a lot of food, but set the scene for the meal to come.  

SC's first course consisted of the very beautiful La Langoustine, truffée et cuite en raviolis, étuvée de chou vert; scampi raviolis with black truffle and foie gras sauce.  Elegant little parcels of scampi were covered in a foie gras foam then sprinkled with black truffle.  The whole effect was stunning, but it was nothing compared to the explosion of flavours on the palate.  The sweet scampi was expertly cooked and married perfectly with the sauce, with the truffle an added bonus.  There was a risk of being too sweet, but the addition of some pickled cabbage introduced some acidity to the plate and elevated the starter to perfection.

My starter was impressive in its composition and size.  The La Trilogie Asperge, en symphonie de caviar impérial avec son œuf coque sans coque aux morilles et en velouté au chorizo ibérique or trio of apsaragus was spectacular.  Essentially it was three entree sized asparagus dishes combined into one massive plate.

A momentary pause to inspect the meal came to an end when I selected the green asparagus and jelly with Sologne Imperial caviar as my initial target.  Put together with infinite care and patience, the delicate dish had large asparagus heads covered with caviar and sitting in a bed of green jelly, with the ubiquitous gold leaf also present.  There was a tartness from the jelly which contrasted nicely with the slight sweetness of the asparagus and the saltiness of the caviar.  

Next was the green asparagus with soft boiled egg and morel mushrooms, a simple sounding dish, but with the biggest asparagus spears I'd ever encountered.  Sitting atop was the egg, a light foam and Iberico ham and once I cracked open the egg, the velvety yolk mixed with the wonderful sauce, elevating the plate to unbelievable heights.

I'd left the fine green asparagus veloute with chorizo for last, and while the veloute was as incredible as I could have hoped for (velvety and full flavoured), there was a cheese tuile covering the soup that was way out of place.  I wasn't sure if you were to dip it in the soup, but it didn't really work for me.

Our next course was a case of same same, but different.  We'd both ordered the La Caille, caramélisée au foie gras, pomme purée et salade d’herbes; free-range quail and foie gras, served with mashed potato.  I'd ordered from the degustation menu and SC from the a la carte, which mean that SC's was twice the size of mine!  Luckily I still had a main course to come.  I'd raved about this dish to SC from my visit to L'Atelier in Singapore and it was time for SC to experience perhaps one of the finest dishes in the world.  You start off with impressively cooked quail, which is stuffed with foie gras and accompanied with a sticky jus that is mind blowing.  You add the most incredible mashed potato imaginable and end up with a dish of the ages.  If you've not tried it, it's worth-the-price-of-admission alone!

I had an OMG moment when my Le Canard de Challans en duo de foie gras aux fruits de saison; slow cooked Challans duck breast and foie gras garnished with seasonal fruits was served.  Apart from looking spectacular, there were equal measures of succulent and perfectly cooked duck breast with foie gras.  The seasonal fruits included mango and chilli, which were needed to balance out the richness of the proteins.  It was an impressive piece of cooking that went right to the border of madness, but held back and provided a great deal of satisfaction.

We were stuffed, literally.  But I always leave room for dessert and, while SC contemplated just sitting in a food coma, she also decided she could not finish the meal without trying some dessert.  We both wanted to try the soufflé, however there was a choice of two.  I went for the signature Le Soufflé, caramel soufflé with fresh mango and vanilla ice cream.  After the allotted wait, my soufflé was presented and had risen perfectly, in fact, it had risen so far it was at risk of falling over.  The hot caramel was poured into the centre and so commenced my debaucherous and shameful finish to the meal...  To say it was spectacular was an understatement.

SC on the other hand decided to try the L'oeuf de Poule, egg souffle perfumed with Tahitian vanilla, warm and smooth yolk with vanilla ice cream.  SC's had a darker, more cake-like appearance, and was not as sweet as the traditional souffle, however she enjoyed the slightly savoury dessert.  

SC's egg souffle 
The last time I'd been to L'Atelier de Joel Rocbucon in Singapore, I'd chosen the tasting menu and had experienced a meal of the ages.  On our visit to the Hong Kong L'Atelier, we'd chosen from the a la carte menu, picking all of the richest items on the menu.  It had an effect, while each of the individual courses were beautifully cooked and delicious in their own right, the whole meal was a bit too much.  I think we really needed to plan a more balanced meal that didn't have so much foie gras and gave some respite from the intensely rich food.

That said, we could not at all fault the food, just our decisions.  I can understand why L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon has three Michelin Stars, it's an astounding meal and an impressive experience.  From the impressive support staff to the layout of the restaurant that gives all a view of the action, L'Atelier is an experience.  SC struggled with volume one (yes, there are volumes) of the wine menu, which must have been over a hundred pages and had some of the best wines on the planet available.

As I said at the beginning, I'm a huge fan of French cuisine and now that we've eaten at restaurants from two of the "Chefs of the Century' there is only one thing left to do.....  We need to track down a restaurant by Swiss chef Fredy Giradet!  A trip to Europe is in order!

The monogrammed butter - there was plenty of butter for that massive basket of bread
I don't think I've had as much foie gras in the one dish before!
Of course there was a plate of petite fours
SC's champagne was perfect and there were some refills!
The bar is where the action is!  A dark room filled with red and black - it's very cool
The chefs in action!
The kitchen is right there for all to see
Empty when we arrived, but packed when we left
Of course you can get your own slice of Joel Robuchon

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...