The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 5 March 2010

Revisit: French @ L'Atelier, Tokyo

It's not very often I get to say I've visited the same Michelin-2-starred restaurant twice. And I certainly didn't think I'd even be allowed to step into a restaurant like this with a 17-month-old toddler in tow. Yet here we were, at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, enjoying not only exquisitely prepared food, but wonderful hospitality by the staff who really looked after our little boy. To his credit, the boy was very well-behaved all throughout our lunch, which helped add to the pleasantness of the experience. We were here on this occasion to meet up with one of hubby's aunt who was in Tokyo for her annual work on a forum. She always brought us to lovely restaurants whenever we visited her in Hong Kong or Perth, so we always try to do the same when she visits us in Japan.

Happy boy on Daddy's shoulder at the end of the meal - he was well-behaved during the 2.5 hours at the restaurant, despite the fact that his morning nap had to be cut short to make it for lunch:

It has been more than two years since our last visit to L'Atelier, and I'm happy to report that everything was as excellent as I remembered it to be, from the perfect service right down to the gorgeous presentation of the food. It was also as popular as it always has been, and reservations are recommended especially on the weekend. There were more menu options for lunch time than there were on our last visit, giving more flexibility to suit the diners' wishes. Hubby and his aunt ordered the 4-course Menu de Jour (menu of the day) where all the courses except the main course were fixed. I went for the 3-course option where I could choose all courses from a limited selection of dishes. Unlike last time, I don't have a copy of the menu for my reference, so the following are based on my memory.

Amuse bouche of pork on toasted baguette - the toddler loved this! And the basket of fresh bread - so good but so carby!

The appetiser on the Menu de Jour was Salmon Tartare with Saffron Toast, and this was artfully presented in a glass bowl with the vapour of dry ice swirling around the pieces of fresh salmon and the salty crunchy spheres of ikura (salmon roe).

The soup course on the menu of the day was warm Chestnut Soup with Foie Gras, which was deliciously creamy and contained chunks of chestnuts and fatty foie gras. The soup also had the slightly peppery taste of endives. I chose the Cauliflower Soup with Jamon Iberico, and the salty jamon slices added a flavourful dimension to the cauliflower soup base. The jamon slices were no doubt the star ingredient of the soup.

The soups - chestnut with foie gras and cauliflower with jamon iberico:

For their main course, hubby and his aunt chose the same dish: Confit of Pork Cheeks. The cheeks were lovely and tender, and the broth was rich in porcine flavour. I got the L'Ainame with Aubergine, which is a type of white-fleshed fish that had been perfectly cooked with crispy skin, served on top of grilled aubergine (aka eggplant) and garnished with peppery arugula leaves. Simply delicious.

Pork cheeks; and ainame:

The dessert on the Menu de Jour was L'Arabica, coffee mouse with chocolate biscuit and garnished with flecks of gold leaf. It was very nice, but the Le Tendence Chocolat was even better! Underneath a thin disc of gold-flecked chocolate sat a ball of oreo-covered chocolate sorbet in a bed of rich chocolate ganache interspersed with crispy chocolate biscuit-like spheres. It was a taste sensation as well as a textural delight for the tongue. Both desserts were beautifully presented, as you can see below.

The coffee and chocolate dessert:

Our lovely hostess asked if our boy would like a vanilla ice cream. Now, I don't usually give him treats, but I didn't think it was fair that we should enjoy all these exquisite food yet he should miss out, especially since he was such an angel during our meal. He was served lovely creamy ice cream with black flecks of vanilla seeds dispersed throughout, complete with a sugar leaf. Unfortunately the boy did not like the fact that the ice cream was icy cold, but that was okay because it meant that I could have it instead!

Vanilla ice cream:

Good tea and coffee are served here too, and I think that L'Atelier would be a good spot to come just for dessert and coffee. This was yet another great dining experience at L'Atelier, and it gets even more brownie points for being so accommodating to children (not that they need more accolades to add to Robuchon's already long list of awards!). Hubby's aunt promised to bring us to the L'Atelier in Hong Kong, and I'm looking forward to it!

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