Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hong Kong - L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

In the wake of the financial crisis - the falling of Lehman Bros and the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, it was indeed a historic week, in proportions possibly only topped by the Great Depression... perhaps this was why we were able to get reservations at Robuchon's at short notice, albeit only at the counter - which turned out to be the best seats in the house, since you can see the buzz in the open kitchen and the processed wizadry in the creations.
The menu was divided into 3 parts - a tasting menu (which did not look too exciting and was a bit much food), the tasting portions menu and the entrees section. The Tasting Portions menu was the most exciting and we decided to order a selection from there to get a good feel for the place.
The amuse bouche was a yummy layered concoction of goose liver mousse at the bottom, and topped with a cappucino of creamy foam, and laced with good aged balsamic vinegar to cut through the grease. Very good!
We ordered the following:
1. sea urchin in a lobster jelly, topped with cauliflower cream - good sized sea urchin of the Hokkaido/Canadian variety, very sweet and its flavour brought out by the lobster jelly, then ending off a sweet note with the subtle cauliflower cream.
2. baby squids stuffed with chorizo and accompanied by vine tomatoes. The freshness of the squids cooked just right (still tender) combined well with the spiciness of the Chorizo and the baked vined cherry tomatoes were so naturally sweet, they made biting into the next squid that much more delicious.
3. Steak tartare and hand cut fries. The very good quality steak held well together, probably with an egg, had bits of gherkin to add a dimension into the beefiness of the tartare. The hand cut fries were so fresh you could literally taste the potato it was cut from.
4. The foie gras and Wagyu beef burger continued along the same lines with more fries! Yeah! But this was no fast food. The foie gras and burger were each high quality pieces and were cooked just right - about 70% to give a crisp yet runny bite between the 2 mini buns. The accompanying sauce was a bit too reminiscent of a sweet Thai chilli sauce for my liking so I avoided it. If you really need to, Heinz ketchup would be better.
5. Although we were quite full by this time, we decided to go one more into the entree section to try the deep fried whiting fish. And while not spectacular, it did not disappoint. The whole fishies, deep fried to a light crisp served with the creamiest mash in the world, were excellent. Each bite of fish, with a home-made tartar sauce and a dash of mash, made for a burst of textures and flavours.
6. Dessert was their signature souffle - served with almond ice cream. While very competent, cooked just right, it was not spectacular and we vowed to try the chocolate concoctions the next time we visit.
The espresso cappucino was disappointing since the beans were a little burnt but the petit fours were excellent - with perfectly made macarons and fruit jellies. Yums.
All in all, a very satisfying meal and not overrated for the place that it is. We were already planning the next visit as we were exiting, to try the other yummy creations from the tasting portions menu. Remember to get a counter seat - you can't get to eat that part of the menu otherwise!
Robuchon's is at the 4th floor of the Landmark mall, down at Central, Hong Kong - best accessed by the escalators.

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