I first came across the name Joel Robuchon when reading the excellent book Garlic & Sapphires by Ruth Reichl (still my all time favourite foodie book) and first tried one of his restaurants in Taiwan a few years ago. The food was exquisite, so when I was in Hong Kong earlier in the year, it was pretty much a given that we would make a trip to Robuchon’s L’Atelier in Central.
The restaurant is located in The Landmark shopping centre and on arriving at the reception area via escalator, it feels as though you are entering another world. The atmosphere is dark – dark carpet, dark walls, dark tables – so when you are led into the dining area, you are almost blinded by the light emanating from the magnificent open kitchen that dominates the space. Most diners are seated at the bar around the kitchen, which gives you a great view for people and chef-watching.
As someone who loves to try new food, I like the L’Atelier concept of offering a menu of small tasting portions which can be shared amongst your group. Before we get down to choosing our dishes, we are presented with the bread basket of your dreams. Some other restaurants give you a choice of maybe two or three different breads; here we are given at least nine (I was so wrapped up in trying all the different varieties, I completely forget to note them down). Off the top of my head, there were baguettes, sourdough, bacon baguettes (pick of the basket), spinach bread, mini croissants (crisp, flaky and buttery), buns dotted with salami (also great), brioche, orange and walnut scrolls (interesting) and buns with a melted cheese centre (best idea ever!). My sister and I had to stop ourselves from completely demolishing the basket before the ‘real’ food arrived.
The first dish to arrive was the sea urchin, combined with lobster jelly and topped with cauliflower cream, presented in a gold patterned egg on a sheet of gold leaf. The smooth and silky texture of this dish allowed the strong flavours to really shine.
Next was the braised beef cheeks with miso, which was tender and fell apart when you cut it with a fork. Not a hugely memorable dish, but still tasty.
Along with soft shell crab, foie gras is another of those dishes that I have to order if it’s on a menu. A few days earlier, on this trip, I had ordered foie gras at another restaurant, only to find that it did not have quite the texture I was craving. The seared duck foie gras at L’Atelier was what I had been waiting for. The crisp outside combined with the creamy melt-in-your-mouth inside was fantastic, and with the juicy pomegranate and kumquat flavours cutting through the richness, is a dish that I could have eaten all night.
Our next dish looked somewhat like a fancy version of a deep fried wonton. The wrapper was almost translucent, revealing a single basil leaf layered on top of a piece of langoustine. This was one of my favourites of the night, with the crunchy wrapper giving way to the tasty and juicy langoustine to create a delicious dish.
On the waiter’s recommendation, we moved on to the main course menu, however, to be honest, you could get full off just the small tasting portions (and the bread!). I was glad we tried the roasted lobster though, as I had been eyeing it off when I first checked out the L’Atelier menu online. It was beautifully presented with large chunks of lobster set in a pool of foaming Château Chalon sauce, sprinkled with a few gold leaves. It tasted beautiful as well; the lobster was perfectly cooked and incredibly tasty with the sauce. I’m not entirely sure what kind of flavour gold leaf adds, but at least they looked pretty!
Finally, for dessert, we went for the intriguingly named La Sphere which arrived looking more like a piece of art than a plate of food. A metallic-looking sugar ball sat amongst segments of blood orange and petals of blood orange jelly, with a quenelle of honey ice cream. Blood orange is too bitter for my liking, but the honey ice cream was lovely, as was the lemon cream. Overall, a pretty interesting dessert, although I don’t have any strong memories of it apart from how gorgeous it looked.
- Stunningly presented food, most of which tasted amazing – will definitely go back!
L’ATELIER de Joel Robuchon