Friday, March 9, 2012

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Hong Kong

The idea of visiting this 3 Michelin stars restaurant came just as I'd signed up for the Hong Kong Marathon. I decided to go for their more affordable lunch menu, which is not available in Singapore, on the last day of my trip. It was the first 15th day of the new Chinese lunar calendar and as I walked from Sheung Wan to L’Atelier at The Landmark, lion and dragon dances were seen on both sides of the road. The roaring drumbeats and clanging of cymbals enlivened the otherwise mundane surrounding.

- Lunch At Your Own Composition -

Amuse bouche
Appetizer - Crispy pork cromesqui, acidified condiments with arugula
Soup - Daikon veloute with black truffle and beetroot
Fish - Fine lobster veloute, Tarragone royale and Paris mushroom
Meat - Veal cheek terrine with black truffle, "boutons" mushroom and creamy sauce
Dessert - Chestnut mousse with raspberry meringue and chestnut ice cream
Tea and confectioneries

It's well-known that The Landmark is fashion-centric. Most visitors and employees dress beautifully, some strangely, here. There were also living replicas of the boutiques' display. I was, obviously, not one of them. In my worn cargo pants, sweater and patched backpack, I took the escalator to the top of the building that led directly to L’Atelier. At the reception, and without a second glance, I was ushered into the studio. They even sat my backpack next to me. It was a nice gesture, I thought.

I'd known that the bread basket would be a highlight at Robuchon, but was not informed of the size. It's important not to empty the basket before the dishes start rolling in. And that's not easy, for the wafting aroma of a variety of freshly baked bread had me wanting to try each and every one of them. My favourite was the thumb-sized cheese bun, which was light and fluffy enough to be called a puff instead. In fact, it was the reason I headed for Le Salon downstairs - to pack some home. Alas, they were not for sale there.

I had the most expensive prix fixe set that day but if my selection (or composition) of dishes was to be graded, I would have received a pass, at best. What was I thinking choosing 2 veloutes? I wasn't craving for cream that day, that's for sure. On the bright side, both veloutes were rather distinctive. The daikon veloute came subtle in taste, perfumed with a good dosage of truffles. Also, it turned out to be a rather good dip for the mini baguettes. The other veloute, the lobster, was a briny-addictive, coral pink ensemble, centered with an alternating arrangement of sliced lobster tail and minced lobster balls. And then, there was more cream from the veal cheek terrine. Luckily, it was not another bowlful of it, but rather, a light dressing for the terrine of tender cheeks. If I were to choose the most memorable dishes of the lunch, it would be the amuse bouche and appetizer. Served in a petite cup, the amuse bouche might not be visually appealing but the taste of the smoke-infused (most probably from the bacon crisp) thick white cream was a wonderful surprise. And a good complement to the milder, earthy taste of asparagus. The appetizer was a cromesqui, filled with finely chopped pork. I believe it's cooked in its own savoury juice because not much seasoning was detected. It being crispy and savoury, was best served with something sweet and sour, like their acidified vegetables. Dessert was a dense chestnut mousse paired with some contrasting tangy raspberries and wafer-thin meringue.

Throughout lunch, I was amused by the conversation between two Caucasian ladies who sat next to me. It has nothing to do with the topics but their fluency in both Cantonese and English was admirable and interestingly engaging. Their choice of dishes was also more diversified, and from their exchanges on the dishes, one can tell that they are regulars here at L’Atelier. They'd left when I was halfway through my dessert. The dark row was now left with a Chinese couple with a thick American accent and myself. As quietness set in, I began thinking about L’Atelier, and the Michelin stars. If three stars represent an exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey, was L’Atelier worth a special journey for me?

This lunch experience was indeed exceptional. Everything was top-notch; from the service to the execution of the dishes to the ingredients used. Even the price was attractive. And to lunch at this particular Robuchon after completing a run around Hong Kong made it even more special.

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
S315&401, The Landmark,
15 Queen's Road Central
Hong Kong


Kenny Mah said...

I really liked that they "sat" your backpack next to you; perhaps you were the kinda "normal" customer they are hoping for, after all those "fashion pages come to life" that they serve on a daily basis? Hehe.

choi yen said...

对自己完成任务的犒赏 :P

HairyBerry said...

kenny, oooh, I've never thought about it that way. Ei, I also belong to "fashion pages come to life" leh...the fashion disaster pages though...hahaha!

choi yen, 没错了! hehehehee.....

Unknown said...

I miss this place the last time we were in HK.

Oh... when i saw the photo it's like so much bread?! hehe...

HairyBerry said...

keropok man, check it out the next time you visit hong kong! haha, after finding out that you don't really like roti, i think the bread basket didn't interest you much, right? hehehehe.