L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

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L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Master chef Joël Robuchon ended his retirement to launch L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. The restaurant opened on May 7th, next to the Hotel Pont Royal near the Rue de Bac métro station in the seventh arrondissement. Curiously, reservations are not accepted. Initially, people were supposed to be able to call one hour in advance to reserve a table. But when I stopped by the restaurant shortly after the opening and inquired about this policy, I was told that they were no longer answering the phone – the short-term reservation system overwhelmed them with calls. I asked for the restaurant’s card, but there were none left. Better luck next time… Several days later, on a Sunday afternoon, I went to L’Atelier to check out the menu to plan what I would order when and if I was ever able to get a seat. I was surprised to find it open. I looked at the menu in depth and was delighted to find prices as low as six euros. An American looked over my shoulder said that he had just spent more on a beer at a nearby café than some of the starter prices. He went on to say that he was a guest at the Hotel Pont Royal and had frequently seen a long line to get into the restaurant. We wished each other luck on getting a table and went our separate ways. It dawned on me that there was no line in front of the restaurant at that moment, so I walked up the steps. The doors were locked but the hostess opened them for me and I asked her in my most polite French if there was a seat for one. There was, she took me to it. Sitting at the counter, I could see a piglet roasting on the spit in the kitchen, which is in the center of the restaurant. The staff is dressed in black, and the chefs wear black vests. The restaurant is dark; black marble from Zimbabwe and dark cherry-colored Ballesandre wood from the 18th century line the counters, the seats are red and the prints on the wall have a minimalist Asian feel. The direct overhead recess lighting is excellent. Although slow, the service is very friendly and informative. The doors remain locked during service hours. I wanted the salade de poulpe au citron vert (salad with octopus and lime) but there was no poulpe that day so they replaced it with shrimp. The salad was small, acidulated and delicious. It included whole shrimp, a brunoise of kalamata olives, bell peppers, chives, a few thin slices of onion and a healthy dose of lime juice. I had a glass of Rueda Basa, a Spanish Sauvignon which was a delicious match – it was dry, fruity and refreshing. After looking at my neighbor’s plate, I decided to order the vegetable millefeuille, a small stack of grilled zucchini, tomatoes confits, and eggplant with mozzarella, basil coulis, course grain salt, and a little vinegar served warm – absolutely simple and sumptuous. Finally, I ordered the gaspacho aux croutons dorés as a main course (you have the option of ordering it and some of the other starters as main courses). It was light and flavorful – ripe, in-season tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and golden croutons on top made it the perfect treat on a hot humid day. For dessert I had the nage de fruits frais with a sorbet au basilic et citron vert. A small quenelle of lime and basil sorbet topped strawberries, pineapple, and melon cut into geometric shapes and served in a delicately sweet basil sugar infusion. The sorbet was a revelation and the combination of flavors was light and refreshing. For non-smokers, L’Atelier is a godsend! The entire restaurant is non-smoking and this rule is strictly enforced. While I finished my dessert, a client lit up a cigarette and started a small scandal. Four of the servers and the sommelier came over to request that he put his cigarette out, other customers also asked him to leave or put the cigarette out. The man paid his bill and slowly put out his cigarette while starting a conversation about the rights of smokers in nonsmoking restaurants, the debate was friendly but the message was clear, no smoking. As I finished my coffee, the last clients paid and left. The sommelier, Antoine Hernandez, offered me a second cup and asked if the smoking customer bothered me. I said he didn’t. I asked if management considered the reservation and door policy a problem. He said the current system is inconvenient for clients and service but that changes would be made soon for everyone’s benefit. Fortunately, I did not have to wait to get in this time, but given the quality of food, I would be willing to stand in line – for a little while – to eat at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Bon appétit! L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon5, rue de Montalembert75007 ParisTel: 01 42 22 56 56M° Rue de Bac Lunch is served 11 AM to 3 PM, unless there is a long line of people, in which case the lunch hour is extended. Dinner service begins at 6 PM. —Klancy Miller is a pastry chef and freelance writer. She has been studying French since the age of 13, and visiting Paris for the past twelve years, since she was 16.
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