I hemmed and I hawed. I’ve been eating so much lately, I didn’t really need to go to the new l’Atlelier de Joel Robuchon, where I knew I would want to eat beaucoup. Then again, I’m in Paris for only 3.5 more weeks. Why wouldn’t I go??
As soon as I arrived, it was special. Especially since I saw M. Robuchon there in the open kitchen. Quel chance!
The host greeted me by name, “Amy!” (I guess they don’t have many single girls making reservations for one…), guided to my corner at the bar, and seated between two pairs of men.
“Une coupe de champagne?”
“Oui!” I enthusiastically accepted. Pourquoi pas? I was at l’Atlelier de Joel Robuchon! M. Robuchon was right there! I’m only in Paris for a few more weeks!
Having never been to any of his restaurants, I wanted a good cross-sampling but I wasn’t up for the Discovery Menu. No matter. There were dozens of options. I had a feast.
I started with a basic salad, which was anything but. Endive, walnut, Stilton, apple: we’ve all had it, but not like this. It was light and effervescent. Super.
As were the procession of other small plates: John Dory with coriander, lime and a tomato compote, black cod with daikon, and salsifis—a root that I was totally unfamiliar with, but was given to me by M. Robuchon as un cadeau. It was served skewered on brochettes, topped with a creamy Parmesan and slivers of fried potato. Sigh.
The two pairs of men I was seated between included two Michelin reviewers, and two older gentlemen. The former two told me the latter two are part of The Club des Cent, “the dark power behind French gastronomy.”
I enjoyed speaking with them all. The reviewers were middle-aged and quite down to earth and friendly. They pointed out other people in the restaurant I should have recognized. Like the actors Jean Reno and Charles Aznavour and the former prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
The “dark power duo” were also quite charming though reserved until the end of the meal. They’ve known Joel Robuchon for 40 years and assured me he is the most loyal friend and collaborator; known to be lovely to his clients and tough in the kitchen. Indeed, M. Robuchon was lovely. He chatted plenty with me, “Mademoiselle Amy”, and everyone else, on both sides of the bar/kitchen.
After seeing one of the reviewers get the caramel soufflé for dessert, well, guess what I had to finish the meal?
Except my (delicious and light) soufflé wasn’t the end. By that point, most everyone in the restaurant was gone and there I sat, befriended by the staff, if only for the day. Antoine poured me a glass of wine and Patrick insisted I have another dessert that the pastry chef, Francois Benot, wanted to share with me; a mélange of banana, passionfruit, rum, granita and cream that they developed in the Seychelles.
By the time I rolled out of there, with many handshakes and “enchantées” and smiles, I was beyond sated, beyond charmed, just… beyond. It was just perfect.