L'Atelier de Jol Robuchon--Taipei
5th floor, Bellavita luxury department store
28 Songren Rd
When I heard that Jol Robuchon--currently the most decorated Michelin starred chef in the world--was opening his latest restaurant in Taipei last November, I immediately called my dad and asked if it was true. It was. The next question was, "Can we please eat there the next time I'm in Taipei?" We can. We did.
For the opening of his newest restaurant, Robuchon assembled some of his best staff from his other restaurants. Robuchon has restaurants in Hong Kong, Las Vegas, London, Macau, Monaco, New York City, Paris, Tokyo, and now Taipei with a total of 25 Michelin stars between them. The executive chef at the Taipei L'Atelier is currently Yosuke Suga--previous executive chef at the New York City L'Atelier. Although the night we had dinner happened to be Chef Suga's night off, the meal was still phenomenal. On a subsequent lunch visit, I met the chef himself...but that's for another post ;)
Our dinner at L'Atelier was everything I had hoped it would be. Being the meal that I was most highly anticipating during our trip to Taipei, it had a lot to live up to. Every dish was above and beyond what I was expecting--with only the flavor outdoing the presentation. Plate after plate of beautiful dishes arrived in perfect timing.
The champagne and wine that my dad brought with him only elevated the meal even more. We had a bottle of 2000 Dom Perignon that was the perfect start. I am only now realizing how rare and amazing the 2001 Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes we had was. My dad had told me it earned a full 100 points in Wine Spectator but it didn't really register in my mind at the time. I really wish I knew more about wines so that I could fully appreciate them. I knew it was delicious and the best sweet wine I've ever had but only after research do I now know that
"For centuries Yquem has been unchallenged as the finest example of Sauternes and the most famous sweet wine in the world. A dramatically rich wine of dizzying complexity and extravagant depth, it is capable of aging effortlessly for several decades."
We started off with the most amazing basket of bread. There must've been at least seven different varieties including croissants, miniature baguettes, and a pain de epi studded with smokey lardons. They were all perfect and delicious. Just the variety itself was satisfying. I loved that they were all in miniature form. I was able to try at least a bite of every kind without being too full for the rest of the meal.
Steamed Egg Custard with Chicken, Wasabi Foam
The little glass it came it was piping hot and the texture of the custard was basically identical to that of a Japanese chawanmushi. There were bits of chicken that provided a nice little surprise. The custard mixed with the wasabi foam created a wonderful sensation in the mouth--with the wasabi providing just the right amount of it's characteristic heat.
and then the meal really started...
Menu Decouverte [NT 5,880]
Spiced crab meat with red bell pepper mousse and tomato water jelly
So beautifully presented. When they lifted off the gold-leafed glass dome of the little bowl I swear I let out a little gasp of delight. The servers cleverly reminded us that the tiny pearl sitting on the rose petal is strictly ornamental--not for eating. The red bell pepper mousse was distinctly just that but not so much that it overpowered the incredibly sweet pile of crab meat. We were advised to just dig straight down into the bowl to get a little bit of everything on the spoon at the same time. It was sound advice. Each bite was delicious.
Fresh herbs mixed with seabream and scallop tartare topped with cavier
Again the presentation took my breath away. The caviar provided a nice briny saltiness, the cucumber a subtle crunch, and the yogurt sauce a nice creaminess, although the seabream and scallop tartare was already perfectly seasoned on its own. The purple leaves--I'm assuming they are radicchio sprouts--provided an interesting peppery and bitter bite. Such a perfectly light, yet rich dish.
Cream of cauliflower soup with pancetta wrapped Breton oyster
The soup course started turning on the richness factor a little more. The cauliflower soup was delightfully creamy. The single piece of charred cauliflower was perfectly cooked--not at all mushy. I saved the pancetta wrapped oyster for my last bite and it was sublime with the black truffles. The juicy oyster burst in my mouth and the salty pancetta only made the oyster that much sweeter. Delicious.
Seared lobster with stewed morel and asparagus
I love lobster--especially well-cooked lobster. Overcooked lobster can be the worst. The morsel of meat inside the claw was amazing--slightly undercooked but perfectly so. The tail meat had more of a chewy texture but also delightfully so. It was so sweet and tasted like the ocean. Again, the preparation was light and not at all heavy. The morels imparted a surprising, yet nice, woody flavor to the dish.
LE BOEUF DE KOBE
Australian Strip-loin steak with foie gras, slow-cooked daikon, and miso-ginger sauce
This is one of the best preparations of hot foie gras I've ever had. The pairing of the rich liver with a simple piece of sweet daikon is genius. Eaten together, the daikon cuts the richness of the foie gras and makes it perfect. Top it off with some truffles and I'm speechless. The piece of steak was also perfectly cooked. I asked for medium rare and a beautiful medium rare was what I got. It was wonderfully marbled--it cut like butter and melted in my mouth like butter. However, I will have to say I am not at all a fan of Robuchon's famous pomme puree. The pureed potatoes tasted too much like butter and overpowered the dish it was only supposed to accompany. The only bite I took was the bite in the picture.
Selection of fine imported French cheese
I can't remember the names of the cheeses. The server presented them in Chinese and I can't remember what they said at all. The blue cheese might've been some kind of Roquefort? I'm not sure but they were both nice and pungent and paired well with the nut and raisin studded bread they were presented with. We also enjoyed the Sauternes with the cheese.
LE PARFUM DES ILES
Passion fruit mousse with run granite and coconut foam
I always enjoy the flavor of passion fruit and this was no exception. The coconut foam was also very nice. However, the run granite was a little too strong for me. Eaten all together, this was like a miniature tropical frozen cocktail in a shot glass--appropriately entitled "the flavor of the islands"
Red berry sugar sphere with milk ice cream and blackberry sauce
This dessert was truly a work of art. I couldn't stop marveling at the delicate sugar sphere. I had no idea from the description in French that this was what we were going to get. Afterwards, I saw some photos on the internet of similar sugar spheres but with other flavors from other Robuchon restaurants. Perhaps it's one of his signature desserts? Anyways, once I worked up the courage to break the sphere, I was rewarded with a delicious berry cream/foam and fresh, perfect specimens of berries. The crunchy texture of the sugar pieces with the creamy berries and cold milk ice cream was a perfect combination of textures and flavors. The milk ice cream tasted literally like frozen milk--it was not overly sweet or creamy. So orgasmically good.
LE CAFE EXPRESS
Coffee and pistachio macaron
The pistachio macaron and Americano coffee ended a perfect meal. Robuchon's macarons are divine! We sat there enjoying the little macaron--completely satisfied and awed.
The bathroom was almost as nice as the restaurant...
My signed menus were printed on shimmery gold paper and tied with a black Robuchon ribbon. Luckily Chef Suga stopped by to check up on things on his day off and was able to sign the menus for me :)
This meal was spectacular not only in terms of flavor and presentation, but also the atmosphere and service. We were able to enjoy the food and each other's company so much throughout the meal. A meal is not just about the food itself--it's the whole package, and this is definitely a meal that will remain in our family memories for years to come.