The autumn menu at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon goes for game, goose and (why not?) escargot
L’ATELIER de Joel Robuchon, upstairs in Bangkok’s MahaNakhon Cube building, has a brand-new Michelin star as well as a new four-course menu for autumn available at both lunch and dinner.
Bangkok is the ninth location for the restaurant chain, which wears the glittering aura of the celebrated French chef whose name is attached to gourmet palaces in Las Vegas, Macao, Tokyo and Hong Kong that share a combined 31 Michelin stars - 32 with the Thai addition. No other chef in the world has that much “star power”.
Conceptually similar to a sushi bar, L’Atelier puts diners face to face in conversation with the cooks. The Bangkok outlet, which opened in late 2014, spreads 36 upholstered high stools around the front of the open kitchen and keeps the lighting dim, the better to relax and enjoy.
The “atelier” in the name – referring a workshop – seems fitting enough, but how many actual workshops have the visual interest of a Japanese sushi bar and the vibrancy of a Spanish tapas bar – and serve great French cuisine besides? It feels informal and convivial. And you can leave the “work” to the chefs.
If stool perches don’t appeal, there’s a broad dining area and even two private chambers – the Crystal Room big enough for four guests and the MahaNakhon Room to fit eight.
Royale of foie gras
“It’s a friendly restaurant where there’s no need to fear the traditional formality associated with Michelin-star establishments,” says general manager Quentin Arnould. “Here you can share large tasting portions to explore unfamiliar tastes, and you can talk to the chefs and the service team.”
The main man in the kitchen is Olivier Limousin, who’s worked for Joel Robuchon for 12 years. What he sends to our table is a generous series of treats for the nostrils, eyes and tummy.
First there is Royale de Foie Gras afloat in a shot glass layered with port and Parmesan foam, a dramatic Bt3,850 experience that’s on offer until January 10. On the side is a small ball of crisp quinoa topped with quinoa puree.
Next, a fat Burgundy escargot gets cooked fricassee-style with pine nuts and wild mushrooms in persillade sauce (parsley, garlic, herbs, oil and vinegar). It’s accompanied by toast topped with pesto sauce, Iberico ham and another snail.
Completing the starter set is a patty of seared, golden-brown risotto topped with a poached egg and shaved truffle and Parmigiano reggiano cheese.
Wild mushroom and escargot fricasse
On to the main course, Le Lievre a la Royale – a classic, full-bodied French dish that takes at least three days to make, as well as rare ingredients. The bunny rabbit – a wild hare, of course – is marinated in herbs and spices, stewed and served with a thick red-wine sauce containing some of the rabbit’s own blood.
I found the meat too dark and strong-flavoured and wondered how the Thai palate could ever get used to it.
For dessert there was a pear poached in citrus juice and a chestnut emulsion, alongside tangerine-bergamot sorbet.
Diverging from the autumn menu, the lunch sets include an amuse bouche, choices of starters, cheese and desserts, and a main course for Bt950, Bt1,450 or Bt1,950, depending on your selections and hunger level.
Chef Limousin also laid some Sologne imperial caviar on us, as a starter to the tasting menu, an exquisitely photogenic assembly of lobster puree topped with dots of cauliflower and chlorophyll cream, the caviar in the centre on a bed of crabmeat.
Poached egg, truffle and golden rice with parmigiano reggiano
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon makes terrific use of seasonal produce from the Royal Projects. For Bt850 you can have roasted crayfish in lobster bisque and a vin-jaune (yellow-wine) emulsion, with summer vegetables like carrots and cucumber.
An a-la-carte main dish well worth trying is roasted sea bass on artichoke puree with cubed foie gras and a chickpea emulsion scented with turmeric. That one costs Bt1,350.
A nice zesty dessert is the white chocolate formed into a lemon shape, sitting on a bed of a refreshing yuzu granita and quinoa. It’s Bt600.
BACK FROM THE HUNT
>> L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Bangkok is on the fifth floor of the MahaNakhon Cube building on Sathorn Road (BTS: Chong Nonsi).
>> It’s open daily from 11.30am to 2pm and from 6.30 to 10pm.
>> Call (02) 001 0698 or visit http://Robuchon-Bangkok.com.