When Joël Robuchon opened his L’Atelier in
All of these ingredients and its splendid location on Rue de Montalembert have made L’Atelier a great favorite of ours. L’Atelier is nestled in the Left Bank district of short blocks between the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the
After a few years of success in
To the food: in ordering at L’Atelier in
The amusé bouche was a foie gras parfait served in a shot glass. The strangely dense liver sat leadenly at the bottom, hiding from the bland foam that covered it. The first savory dish consisted of three sashimi-style pieces of bluefin tuna, topped with fleur de sel, fragments of sun dried tomato (which conjured thoughts of affluent suburban kitchens, circa 1987), coarsely ground pepper and maybe some truffle oil. Hiroji Obayashi would have disapproved of the quality of the tuna, whose flavor was nonetheless superseded by the pepper’s power and the sun dried tomato’s distinctiveness.
A scallop cooked and served in its shell and accompanied with seaweed-infused butter followed. I prize this dish for its presentation, thoughtfulness, and of course its great flavor. Like much else at the Paris L'Atelier, our first sampling of the dish was epiphanic. For this scallop lover, the dish’s deceptive simplicity as served in
The next two failures were much more acute and demonstrated the rudderlessness of this outpost of the Atelier chain. First was the oeuf cocotte, which resembled a mad scientist's sundae and in this interpretation was a baked egg yolk served with a very light, creamy mushroom foam, a puree of blanched parsley and garnished at the top with pieces of three types of mushrooms. We had l’oeuf in
The same problems affected the next dish, seared foie gras wading with chestnut confit and bacon in a bath of foam. Marcel Vigneron was not here, but his worst tendencies were clearly felt. I liked the chestnut confit, the only redemption for this incoherence. The bacon might have been microwaved.
As we shifted from the overrated Far Niente chardonnay to the pleasant if unexciting Broadly Vineyards pinot noir, the warm and cuboidal, slightly smoked salmon sitting atop potato confit stabilized this listing ship. If I had eaten this dish in
The final savory course on the tasting menu--and a great success--was the miniature caramelized quail stuffed with foie gras and served with truffled mashed potatoes. I indulged greedily. The basic inquiry of whether Vegas was as good as the original is not worth considering when you’re facing a small plate of caramelized quail with foie gras and a glass of Willamette pinot. My colleague’s thin hanger steak with fried shallots was also outstanding. He was lucky that he was a prized client; otherwise I would have snagged his dinner.
Being a complete chazer and with the meal at a crescendo, I observed the kitchen preparing a Robuchon specialty—Le Rumsteack en Tartare et ses Frites à L'ancienne. When my colleagues decided to split one more order of Le Thon Rouge, I pounced at the opportunity to partake in Robuchon’s famed thick, imperious steak tartare, which was stellar as always. Once through it, I turned my attention to those waffled fried potatoes, so ethereally crispy and light. But these potatoes reminded me yet again that I was only in