Sunday, March 15, 2015

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon: St. Germain Review

This is for a series of posts related to a Paris 2014 trip including: 

Chef of the Century. The title pretty much speaks for itself. Mssr. Joël Robuchon's 25 Michelin stars is the most of any chef in the world, which is even more of a feat considering his empire spans a dozen restaurants throughout the world. And while in Paris, I knew that the GF and I had to stop by his "workshop" - L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon: St. Germain

Chef Robuchon came out of his brief and early retirement in 2003, in order to introduce the world to his new approach to haute cuisine, in the form of his L'Atelier restaurants. The St. Germain location was recently ranked #31 in the world by S. Pellegrino and maintains 2 stars from Michelin. Manager Anton Denisenko greeted us and was kind enough to grant us the best seats in the house, with a direct view of the kitchen and the pass.

Amidst the sleek modernist design, there were a variety of fresh produce and charcuterie adorning the walls. And despite the considerable activity occurring within the kitchen, there was order and relative calm.

Bread Service
Baguette, pain de epi 

Bread service included several rolls and baguette - both sliced and mini.

2011 Premieres-Cotes-de-Blaye, "Selection Joel Robuchon" [49 Euros = $62.89]
Le Bordelais, Chateau Perenne

We decided to try one of Chef Robuchon's specially selected wines, a Bordeaux from the Blayes district. A supple oak-aged blend, this wasn't overly dry and had nice elements of fruit and spice. 

Menu Decouverte [175 Euro pp = $225 pp]

Naturellement, the GF and I opted for the discovery menu to obtain the full experience. It's likely the best option as some of the mains (and even a few of the starters are priced around $75 a la carte!).

Le Crab Royale 

Our first course proper featured the innate sweetness of the crab, with texture from the daikon. A nice way to start the tasting.

La Tomate 
Tomato gazpacho, browned croutons, grainy mustard sorbet 

The tomato gazpacho offered more complexity, with the cold tomato broth offering acidic sweetness and texture coming from the seafood tuile and croutons. An even colder grainy mustard sorbet offered complementing flavors which only heightened the tomato essence.

Le Caviar
Caviar with hot-cold egg, salmon with citrus vodka 

The fatty salmon belly was clean, yet unctuous, with some citrus tang coming through from the vodka-based sauce. And thankfully, you come to expect caviar to be featured in one form or another in Chef Robuchon's tasting menus. Here, caviar was on offer in the form of egg-on-egg action.

Once mixed within the egg shell, a duality of temperatures and textures was highlighted. The crisp, salty, and briny caviar popped, while the warm and creamy egg custard provided richness. Delicious.

Le Foie Gras
Foie gras, cherries, almonds, hibiscus, gold leaf

Ah foie gras. The dish came with toast points, which provided the perfect vessel for one of my favorite bites. Expectedly rich and creamy, the foie paired beautifully with the acidic and sweet cherries, which provided the necessary countervailing element. The gold leaf was there for pure show, but highlighted the decadence of each bite. 

La Langoustine 
Grilled langoustine, Thai basil

The crustaceans were perfectly cooked and had great snap. The accompanying broth had intense seafood essence, with great undertones from the Thai basil.

Le Gyoza
Grilled chicken dumpling, Asian broth

The dumpling course was one of the GF's favorites. The Burgundy chicken was moist and the broth had Asian undertones, with bright sweet and sour elements. Clearly, it's not just the design of the restaurant that had some Asian influences.

Le Rouget
Red mullet, mushrooms, spring peas, yellow turmeric 

The fish was firm, yet moist, with its skin enjoyably crisp. Peas were showcased as is, with the halved peas nicely firm and al dente, along with a light pea and cucumber puree.

And with that dish, I noticed that there was a puree being stirred vigorously with a whisk. There was no doubt in my mind the famous pommes puree were about to be served. 

La Caille
Caramelized quail stuffed with foie gras, truffled mashed potatoes

For my main, I went with the quail, stuffed with foie of course. The quail was cooked perfectly - tender, with a lightly crisp skin that tasted like sweet BBQ. The richness of the bird was only heightened with the famous pommes puree.

Velvety, creamy, and buttery to the Nth degree, the two gossamer-thin slivers of black truffle brought it over the top. The accompanying greens did their best to provide the counterbalance, but truly, there was no getting past the richness of the dish. 

L'Agneau de Lait 
Lamb, thyme, mashed potatoes

The GF had ordered the steak for her main, but the kitchen mistakenly sent out the lamb. This misstep was redeemed when they quickly fired the steak and asked that we still try the lamb. This was obviously ideal pour moi as we were able to try all three mains! The lamb was grassy and sweet, served with roasted garlic and some more of that heavenly pommes puree.

Le Black Angus
Grilled black angus steak, shallot confit, black cardamom and tarragon sauce 

The GF's beef was well seasoned, though a bit on the chewier side. It came with some roasted potatoes and sweetly rich shallot confit. Frankly, the quail and lamb were much better.

Famous Mashed Potatoes

And with the mains served, the kitchen decided to send out an entire pot of the mashed potatoes to enjoy. I hear it's a 2:1 ratio of butter to potato so it's no wonder that each bite sent me into a delirious joy that even Paula Deen would be envious of.

La Parfum des Iles 
Scent of the islands, cream with passion fruit and banana, rum granita, coconut 

And with that, the GF's favorite part of any meal commenced. Truly a perfumed explosion on the olfactory senses, the rum was heady underneath, but mixed with the granite and passion fruit cream, it was a delicious melange. Texturally interesting with hard gold chocolate candy and sugar tuiles, the tart flavors of the passionfruit shone through each bite.

Le Chocolat Tentation
Chocolate temptation, chocolate ganache, Aranguani cocoa nibs, Oreo cookie 

Gorgeously decorated, the chocolate ganache was sweet, rich, and offered a nice close to the meal. The Oreo crumble within offered texture, and a hard chocolate candy sat atop the circular sugar cover. 

Chocolate caramels 

And with that came the check and a plate of mignardises - creamy, salty, and buttery housemade caramels.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon: St. Germain met our expectations for a 2 star restaurant. The courses were beautifully plated and the flavors were clearly thought through. Service was excellent, though at times, wine or water glasses were empty. It's not a 3 star experience like Chef Robuchon's eponymous Joel Robuchon in Vegas or Chef Alain Passard's L'Arpege, which we also visited on this particular trip. But that's OK. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon: St. Germain is a workshop in the best sense and a wonderful experience to peek inside the mind of a master Chef.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon St. Germain
5 Rue Montalembert
Paris, France 75007

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