Monday, December 03, 2012

french: i strongly recommend L'ATELIER DE JOEL ROBUCHON

at Bellavita
No. 28, SongRen Road, 5FL, Xinyi District
(02) 8729-2628

MRT: Taipei City Hall

hours: 11:30AM- 2:30PM; 6PM- 10PM 


Kid friendliness: not sure if there is a no kid policy, but have never seen kids there. 

Visit reviewed: 10/25/2012

When I saw that Chef Joël Robuchon was going to be in town for a week at the Taipei L'Atelier, I made reservations about a month before the dinner.  I had heard about him being in town before, but never managed to plan ahead, so I was excited to book enough seats for a group of friends dining there for the first time. After all, if you're going to splurge on a meal, it might as well be when the most Michelin-starred chef in the world was in town and everyone in the kitchen should be hustling to deliver.

Opened in 2009, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon was the first restaurant opened in Taipei by a Michelin starred chef. It kicked off the wave of Michelin starred chefs in Taipei that followed- STAY at 101 by Chef Yannick Alleno, La Festa by Chef Igor Macchia, or visiting chefs like Chef Trincado or Chef Batavia. When it first opened, I honestly wondered if there were enough people in Taipei who would want to (and could afford to) dine at Robuchon to keep it in business. I heard good things, but the price tag somehow kept me from going until I felt like there was a special enough reason to go.

Each of the L'Atelier de Joël Robuchons around the world (Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Singapore and London) feature sushi bar style counter seating in front of an open kitchen, said to be inspired by Robuchon's time spent in Japan. The Taipei branch has dramatic red and black decor, from the moment you step out of the Bellavita elevator onto the 5th floor.

You could sit at the tables along the wall, but it's not as fun as being one of the diners that have a front row seat to the bustling kitchen.

On this night, we were asked to look at three different set menus and choose in advance, to expedite service since the restaurant was fully booked and we had a large group of 9 people. Half of us decided on getting the six course Menu Plaisir (NT$4280), and the other half ordered the eight course Menu Decouverte. Luckily, I got to taste both menus by splitting with a friend, as well as drink the bubbly that was ordered. Everything was divine and there is nothing better than sharing good food with great friends. We oohed and aahed at the plating, the flavors and the company. I was probably the most excited about getting the night's menu signed by Chef Robuchon and our group photo with him.

So here's a look at the Menu Plaisir. Hope the photos from the 4s capture the dishes... I wanted to be quick, so I didn't use my DSLR that night.

L'Amuse Bouche- foie gras mousse, port wine gelee and parmasean foam. Served warm, the sweet and savory flavors mingle together to start the meal. 

L'Hamachi - hamachi tartare with tomato juices and mustard seed. 

Le Potiron- pumpkin soup with country bread crouton and olive oil

Le Cabillaud- pan seared cod in a vierge sauce with a brandade croquette and mashed parsley

Le Boeuf- red wine braised beef cheek with polenta puree. This was pretty amazing.

I was a bit annoyed to find out that despite making reservations a month in advance, and asking for the best night that we did not get the "gala" night and menu, so L'Atelier graciously upgraded those of us with the Plaisir menu with the chocolate sphere instead of the pineapple dessert that came with the set.

It's always exciting when there's pouring action.

Let's crack this baby open...

Yum. Perfect ending to wonderful dinner.

For an all out splurge, go for the Menu Decouverte tasting menu (NT$6880) with 8 courses. There were definitely dishes on this that I felt wowed by over the other menu when you put them side by side. Since I had ordered the Menu Plaisir, and sharing the Decouverte, there were definitely dishes that I wish I could eat the whole plate instead of only half, like the scallops and the foie gras.

La Noix De Saint-Jacques- sea scallop carpaccio with caviar, lemon dressing and chives. Perfection.

Les Palourdes- "Lorighittas" pasta with clams, bottarga and tomatoes flavored with basil concasse. This was really nice. Fresh pasta, not too heavy. The braided shape was unusual and gave for a nice bite.

Le Homard- Steamed lobster ragout with girolle and peas in a bisque

Le Foie Gras- Roasted duck foie gras with carmelized seasonal fruit and almond. 

Yes, thank you.

L'Amadai- Shallow fried Amadai in a fine yuzu flavored daikon consomme with lily bulb.

At first glance, I thought the fish was covered in panko crumbs, but the server explained that it was actually the skin of the fish. 

When fried, the paper thin scales crisp up for a crunchy contrast to the perfectly cooked, tender snapper.

It was quite a trip, trying it for the first time. Definitely more exciting than the cod in the other set.

Le Porc- Pan seared iberico pork with shishito and shallots confit. 

I didn't love this dish, probably because I'm not a big fan of shishito. I ended up eating more of the beef cheek from the other set.

Le Pamplemousse- Fresh grapefruit sorbet with lime jelly. The beginning of the end.

La Vanille- Madagascar vanilla in profiteroles with rum flavor and bitter chocolate sorbet. 

This sculpted dessert was gorgeous, but how can you beat a dome of chocolate? 

Le Cafe Express- Coffee or tea with a macaron.

I had a much more memorable experience this time than I did last summer, when I had a three course lunch and felt slightly underwhelmed by the service and the food, perhaps having too high expectations for my first visit (comparing it to my meals at Abu Authentic and Tutto Bello). I think to dine at a place like L'Atelier, you have to indulge in a tasting menu to get the full ride.  The vibe was also different with the energy of a full house, in contrast to last year where my dining date and I noticed one of the chefs doing a little yelling at the other chefs, one downfall of an open kitchen, I suppose. 

For a mini Robuchon experience, diners can also try SALON DE THE de Joël Robuchon (Bellavita, 3F) which has a more casual menu and afternoon tea, as well macarons and breads available to go. 

Au revoir until we meet again.
Don't forget to vote for your favorite Taipei restaurants in this year's Readers' Choice Poll!


Pandalicious said...

my favorite restaurant in the entire world! wish they would open one in LA. I've been to the ones in NYC and LV, and loved it.

your post makes me miss it! great read.

Alex - Fine Dining Connoisseur said...

I went here after reading this Post on This website.
after trying it,
I have to say:


I paid 12,000 NT for a meal for 2.
and it was worth maybe...1,500.


who want to eat GOLD? that's retarded!

the actual taste and quality of the food DID NOT live up to the fancy looks and and fancy plating.

waste of money, strongly NOT Recommended.

and the service was just...over-staffed.

too many people *not* working, and staring at us.
no customers in the restaurant (almost empty)
but like 20+ workers...that was creepy.

I will never give this place another chance.

with their stuck-up french attitudes.


joanh said...

Thanks! You're lucky to have been to the ones in NY and Vegas!

joanh said...

Alex- that sucks you didn't have a good meal. I felt a little like that on my first visit, it was pricey and small portions and not that amazing. But their chefs change and it's better when big boss is there. Thanks for sharing your experience