15 April 2008

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

The Four Seasons Hotel
57 E 57th Street
New York , NY

Having dined at various Joel Rubuchon places in Paris over the years, when L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon opened nearly two years ago at The Four Seasons Hotel we were first in line to get a reservation. But given the initial hype and way too much attitude it had at that time, it took a long time to really want to dine there for a meal to savor.

When we learned Rubuchon would be in New York for a week in April, which he does at least twice a year, we booked a reservation at the counter. And while there are tables, the counter is really the only place to sit to really experience the L'Atelier experience, be it in Manhattan or Paris. The 20 counter seats surround three sides of the open kitchen area, and provide an intimate insight into French haute cuisine preparations. While the remainder of the dining area is pleasant the grand scale of the I M Pei designed hotel open space is a bit overwhelming, as is the sameness of the dining area to the entrance area to the dining room and the adjacent bar.

While food is the reason to come to L'Atelier, the service makes it all that more enjoyable. General Manager and chief sommelier Stephane Colling runs a tight ship. At the counter the waiters are always within close proximity and they provide outstanding service, as do the bussers who make each course presentation a special event, multiple times per meal.

The outstanding modern cuisine is best enjoyed via ordering the small plates, which diners can mix and match to create the meal of their own design. There are so many highlights it is difficult to recommend any one over the others. Rouchon's signature langoustine dish is prepared to perfection, sweetbreads are heavenly and the steak tartare is memorable.

We were fortunate that not only Joel Robuchon was in the kitchen and the dining area during our latest meal, but his two top Parisian chefs (Philippe Braun and Eric Bouchenoire) were overseeing the kitchen. Braun who oversees L’Atelier in Paris is lively and spontaneous as is his cooking, while Bouchenoire is intense and committed to the finest preparations as he demonstrates at La Table Joel Robuchon. With these three top chefs in the kitchen, the New York kitchen was performing at its absolute best.

The wine list developed by Colling is first class containing hidden treasures, including wines from small boutique French wineries that are unknown outside France. If you are unsure, check with Colling and he will guide you to a perfect wine. Further his wine pairings are well selected and served.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - Highly Recommended

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