L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Taipei, Taiwan)
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Bellavita Mall 5F
No. 28, Song Ren Rd, Xinyi District
Dining date: 2/9/14
I’m not sure how it really originated, but I’ve made it a point to dine at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier wherever there is one where I’ve traveled. My first visit was to the original Paris location seven years ago now (a restaurant that has maintained a top 25 spot in the highly-subjective Pellegrino Best Restaurants in the World list all these years), and have visited locations in Las Vegas, London, Tokyo and now Taipei.
The decor at this location, located in the upscale Bellavita mall, is very similar to the others – red and black color-scheme and an open kitchen surrounded by bar seats. We dropped in for a leisurely weekend lunch; fixed menu options range from 1260NTD/~42USD up to 2880NTD/~96USD. We each ordered different menus and I went somewhere in the middle.
The bread basked is a great one with a variety of options – basil, milk, country, bacon epi, mini baguette. However, I thought offering 2 pieces of each kind for a party of 3 seemed stingy for this type of place.
Foie Gras Mousse port wine sauce
This was almost exactly the same as an amuse bouche I had in at the London location two years ago. A rich foie gras flavor was evident in the mousse, contrasted with a hint of sweetness in the port wine layer.
Le Oeuf de Poule crispy polenta with fried egg and shaving of Parmesan cheese (black truffle supplement)
This item sounded awesome on paper and I decided to go the extra step with a black truffle shaving supplement on this one. When this was initially served, the egg yolk was fully cooked through and the kitchen was more than happy to redo the dish. However, I’m pretty sure they moved the polenta and shavings aside and reused the original components while they re-fried an egg. The polenta lost much of its texture, and the shavings got soggy and lost much of its flavor while waiting for the second egg. Ultimately, I appreciated the kitchen’s desire to make this dish right but it was a true failure in execution even on the second attempt. What resulted was a very flat dish, missing all of the nuanced flavors it promised.
Les Champignons mushroom soup with roasted shiitake and bacon cream
Rich earthy mushroom flavors were at the forefront of this soup with just a hint of bacon.
Le Risotto pan seared foie gras with parmesan risotto
This next dish was much better with a rich and creamy parmesan risotto. The rice was barely al dente while the foie gras was deliciously creamy. It wasn’t quite at the same level of the one I had in Tokyo, but it was a very good dish nonetheless.
Le Bar seared sea bass with caper dressing and buttered cabbages
The fish was cooked beautifully with a moist flesh and crispy skin. The caper dressing was slightly tart with a good amount of acidity to complement the fish.
Le Canard pan seared duck filet glazed with spice and turnip; mashed potatoes
My last savory course was this slice of duck breast, which was sliced then seared rare. Kind of chewy. The skin was as crispy as expected with some depth of flavor from the spices. Tender pieces of savory turnip were a nice complement, but the overall dish was fairly unmemorable. The mashed potatoes, however, were buttery and delicious.
La Banane banana and milk mousse with coconut ice cream and honey caramel chips
Le Marron chestnut mousse with pudding with rum jelly and caramelized hazelnuts and milk ice cream
We ordered a duo of desserts – I had the chestnut one. It definitely wasn’t lacking in chestnut flavor, with the nutty, slightly sweet flavor accented by this rum jelly. Hazelnuts provided texture while the delicious milk ice cream made for some refreshing bites.
Every meal at L’Atelier ends with a choice of coffee or tea and some sweets. I got a latte.
In all, this was probably my weakest experience at one of Robuchon’s L’Ateliers (unfortunately pairing with perhaps my worst Robuchon dining experience overall, downstairs at the Salon de The). The meal was far from terrible, but couldn’t justify the price tag (all-in, my meal was ~$160 without alcohol). Few of the dishes really stood out, with the most memorable likely being the poorly-executed polenta with truffles. This isn’t enough to stop me from trying other L’Atelier restaurants, but I have no desire to return to this location if I’m back in Taipei.