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

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Lunching @ the original L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Saint Germain (Paris)

One of the things we had to do in Paris was go to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, since we are big fans of Robuchon's restaurants and we just couldn't miss the opportunity to have the L'Atelier experience in his home country! We love the exquisite food at L'Atelier in both Tokyo and Hong Kong, and we were eager to try out the very first L'Atelier restaurant in Paris. I just read somewhere that Robuchon first ambition was to be a priest, and when that didn't work out because his parents couldn't afford to keep him in the seminary, his next ambition was to become an architect. Unfortunately - or rather, fortunately for the dining world - the architect ambition was also out due to financial reasons, and at aged 15 he became an apprentice chef at a local restaurant. This guy is a genius in the kitchen, because he has since gone on to become the chef with the most Michelin stars! Robuchon actually retired in 1995, but made a comeback in 2003 with the opening of the first Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris - the same one we ate at!

The bar seats are the best as we can look into the kitchen and watch the chefs work their magic:

I made reservations via their website for an early lunch time on a Monday, hoping that it was an un-busy time for the restaurant since we were dining with a 4.5-year-old. The restaurant confirmed the booking, and we turned up at L'Atelier after spending some time at The Louvre. We were greeted warmly and were shown to our seats by the counter around the open kitchen. This L'Atelier had the same familiar dark and sleek interior as the ones in Tokyo and Hong Kong, and the service was professional but very amicable. We were the first in the restaurant, so we got the staff's undivided attention for at least a half-hour before other diners arrived for lunch - long enough to get our questions answered, and then place our orders. There were prix fixe courses which were more affordable options than the a-la-carte menu, but we decided to order a few dishes from the Small Plates menu like the last time we ate at L'Atelier in HK. Then we sat back and enjoyed the meal and kitchen action!

The bread basket - not as varied as the ones given to us in the L'Atelier restaurants in Tokyo and Hong Kong, but these were good with crusty crusts that is characteristic of European breads. The boy would have eaten just bread for lunch if we'd let him!

Hubby ordered Le Gyoza à la plancha, farcie de volaille, dans son bouillon au parfum d'Asie (grilled gyoza with chicken stuffing in Asian-style broth, 25 euros). This was the most expensive gyoza dish we've ever had, but also the most delicious. The slightly spicy mint and sesame broth was beautiful on the palate:

I ordered one of the off-menu special of the day: Le Carpaccio de Dorade (sea bream carpaccio, 30 euros). This was quite pleasant to eat, the fish was firm yet not unpleasantly chewy, and the infused oil was great with the bread:

I also got the L'Aubergine confite en mille-feuille à la mozzarella et au basilic (aubergine confit mille-feuille with mozzarella and basil, 19 euros). I got this for myself because hubby is not a big fan of eggplants. The eggplant had a beautiful silky texture, the tomatoes were sweet, and the mozzarella was top-notch quality. All in all, a good vegetarian dish:

Our son was recommended Les Spaghettis à notre façon (spaghetti "our way", 29 euros) from the Starters menu, with the choice of a tomato-based sauce or carbonara sauce. The boy didn't care which one, so we chose the carbonara. The serving was huge for a starter! It was very good as far as spaghetti carbonara goes, with huge hunks of good quality fatty bacon and a rich creamy sauce. The boy ate it with gusto, but could get through only about a third of the huge serving (the rest went to the parents' bellies):

One of our favourite food to order at L'Atelier: Le Burger au foie gras et sa sauce aux aromates (foie gras burger with herb sauce, 35 euros). The sauce was different to the ginger-infused tomato sauce served in the Hong Kong restaurant, but the fries were the same - fried in duck fat. The foie gras burger is always such an indulgent treat, that one bite is usually enough for me (though hubby could easily have downed both mini-burgers without trouble):

Close-up of the foie gras burgers:

Another of hubby's order was L'Agneau de Lait en côtelettes à la fleur de thym (lamb chops with thyme, 29 euros) - simple but delicious:

I was very excited when we all each got a little pot of Robuchon's perfected signature dish: la purée de pommes de terre, aka the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten! (Please note I do avoid using superlatives, unless I genuinely mean it.) Apparently it contains only four ingredients - potato, butter, salt and milk, which is exactly what I use in my mashed potatoes at home, yet mine is never as smooth-textured, tasty and creamy as Robuchon's:

Dessert is what the French does best, and desserts are always excellent at L'Atelier. Hubby got Le Chocolat Tendance ganache onctueuse au chocolat Araguani, glace au grué de cacao, biscuit Oréo (chocolate ganache with creamy Araguani chocolate, chocolate ice cream with cocoa nibs and Oreo biscuits, 18 euros). Underneath the thin chocolate disc was a ball of oreo-covered chocolate sorbet in a bed of rich chocolate ganache interspersed with crispy chocolate biscuit-like spheres. Incidentally, we had the same dessert more than three years ago in Tokyo:

Our chef/waiter's second favourite dessert (after the chocolate dessert above) was Le Parfum des Iles crème aux fruits de la passion et à la banane, granité au rhum, légèreté à la noix de coco (passionfruit cream and banana, rum granita and coconut, 18 euros). This was actually quite a light and refreshing dessert, albeit a bit boozy with the rum. I quite enjoyed it:

All L'Atelier meals end with complimentary petit fours, and we were served delicious sweet madeleines and salted caramels:

This meal at the original L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris lived up to our expectations, but hubby and I still like Hong Kong's L'Atelier more - perhaps because we have had more opportunities to dine there with beloved relatives.

5 Rue Montalembert
6th Arrondissement
75007 Paris
Tel. +33 1 42 22 56 56

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