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Okay, I promise this is the last French restaurant I’ll talk about in this Japan instalment of my blog. In fact, it’ll be the last fine dining restaurant too. Funnily enough though, this restaurant – L’ATELIER de Joel Robuchon – calls itself a ‘casual dining’ establishment. I compared to the other Joel Robuchon restaurant in the world (there are heaps), the L’Atelier ones are considered less formal.
The Tokyo one in particular gets diners to sit at the long counter so they can watch the chefs prepare their meals and chat with them. Sure, the overall atmosphere is still pretty refined and up there (you can’t rock up in bum clothes, for example) but it was definitely the most relaxed Michelin-starred restaurant I’ve been to so far – and L’Atelier has two stars.
I had a pretty big one the night before, involving lots of drunken karaoke with random Japanese folk at a bar, sharing a bottle of whisky with a fellow Australian from whisky and getting locked out of my hotel room and being forced to spend the night in a love hotel (don’t ask). So when I rocked up to the lovely Roppongi Hills restaurant, I was still feeling a little seedy; ordering that wine was probably not my best idea to date.
For lunch, there is the option of going two courses for ¥3050(AUD32), or three for ¥4050(AUD42). You also get to choose from three different dishes for each course. Again, my decision to go for three courses was not my brightest given my state at the time.
Still, I managed to act respectable and finish everything I was given – it wasn’t too hard, the meal was delicious. First up, I had some lovely pork rillettes served on crackers.
A bread basket was placed in front of me and if I wanted more bread, I was told to help myself. I liked this idea – it saves the waiter from having to be all like “any more bread, madam?” five times during the meal. I love bread like the next person but I didn’t want to fill precious stomach space so I just stuck to the one piece of delicious warm white bread.
My entrée was a very generously sized (and filling) cream mushroom soup. I wouldn’t say it was anything special; it was just a really, really good bistro-style mushroom soup that ticked all the right boxes – wonderful smell, great flavours and depth – and not that there’s anything wrong with that.
My main was another rich one, a beautifully cooked sea bream drizzled in a sauce made with white wine, champagne and butter. Ooh yeah, baby. The sauce was also infused with clams from France, giving it that lovely extra depth while the potato wafers on top provided a lovely crunch.
I chose this dessert, not knowing what to expect (and the only reason why it was chosen was because it sounded like the least richest dessert on the list). Imagine my delight when I saw it plated up so beautifully and whimsically like this.
The pale pink quenelle is an apple sorbet and the white blobs are bits of coffee mousse. As for the toffee apple-looking thing?
Why, it was a pink chocolate shell filled with frozen maple syrup mousse and apple compote. The playful presentation and the taste of all the elements (not too sweet, yet the flavours were still pronounced) made this baby one of the better desserts I had on this trip.
After such a rich (yet delicious) meal, I was ready to call it a day. However, I still needed enough energy to get my ass from Roppongi Hills to my hostel in across town so I accepted the offer of a black coffee. It didn’t taste any better than a Starbucks long black but that was to be expected.
I don’t remember exactly how much I paid for the meal but factoring a glass of wine, service charges and taxes, it was still less than AUD100 which I thought was pretty good given the high quality of service and food being presented. And although I’ve never been a big fan of chain restaurants, I enjoyed my first experience at a Joel Robuchon – in fact, it left me wanting more.