L'Atelier Joel Robuchon is not only a heavenly dining experience in Paris but a conspicuously different one as well. Although I had only been to Paris on one other occasion, I did remember the Parisians getting pretty gussied up for dinner. Since it is basically easier to find a smoke free environment in Paris than to score a reservation (and they do take reservations) at L’Atelier I speculated and agitated over what to wear to dinner.
We had a reservation for 8 people at 6:30pm (how bourgeois!) which was actually perfect because, having just arrived that day, some good food and wine would help to put me to sleep and get me on track for the remainder of the weekend’s festivities. We arrived at Atelier at 6:29pm and, embarrassingly, could not figure out how to get in. Alas, they do not even open the door for dinner until 6:30pm so we were made to stand outside.
Before I had time to get annoyed we were ushered in to our seats at the bar. The bar, you say? Yes, the restaurant is set up in two squared off U-shaped bars surrounding the theater style kitchen. The seats are giant red stools and, in fact, the predominant colors throughout the restaurant are black and red giving the whole place a decidedly Japanese feel. So much for my fancy jacket and my contemplation over what to wear. This was no old-fashioned suite and tie French establishment. This was the new guard — and a hip looking, designer jean-wearing new guard at that.
Now down to brass tacks. The waiters were all very friendly and quick to help us navigate the menu (très important) and get the Champagne flowing (le plus important.) Even though we had some pretty stellar French speakers in the crowd, we needed some help with food translations (I for one did not care to end up eating brains.) Everything sounded so delectable that we ended up going for the tasting menu. A great choice! I can’t even remember how many courses they served us but the portions were good sized (another French stereotype shattered!) and they were all absolutely delicious.
We played a little game with the wine ordering, which is to say that we started with the ‘exceptionnel’ section of the wine list and worked our way down to the ‘régulier’ selections. Surveying the crowd we had only two restrictions — all red and no Pinot Noir. The baton was first passed to me and I was thrilled to be able to order from the ‘exceptionnel’ list. I ordered the 1995 Chateau D'Armailhac, a Bordeaux from a solid vintage and a wine I tend to like. We were off to a great start. The next wine ordered was a 1998 Chateau Montrose and, although ’98 was a variable Left Bank Vintage, this St. Estephe was drinking beautifully. Our third was a 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape. This would not have been my choice as I have a certain disdain for ’03 Rhones but, as the decision maker noted, “YOU try and find a wine at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon for under 100 euros!”
All in all, Atelier was a memorable experience. Next time you are in Paris, get a hold of a reservation, don your True Religion Jeans and enjoy. Oh, and leave your cigarettes behind — this is a no-smoking environment.
Hôtel Pont Royal
7, rue de Montalembert / 75007
Chef Joël Robuchon
Phone: +33 (0) 1 42 22 56 56
PS: We are having trouble uploading pictures which is killing me!