L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile is located right on the Champs Elysee within the Publicis Complex, quite a nice department store in its own right, and is one of Joel Robuchon’s many restaurants around the world. He is the most awarded chef on Earth by Michelin Star standards and from the majority of comments on twitter and Facebook and other reviews in both traditional media or on blogs it’s no surprise why. However I must say that my experience was not overwhelmingly positive. I’d like to say that the hype is what caused me to be disappointed but overall I think ultimately there were a few contributing factors.
I think my disappointment began when mum, a non-alcohol drinker, asked what non-alcoholic drinks were available. Just a couple of days before at L’Avenue she had been offered a virgin mojito, so you’d think a two-Michelin-starred restaurant would be able to make up something similar, right? Wrong. The choice was pineapple, orange or apple juice. Bottled at that.
My disappointment continued with the menu. When I skimmed the website I thought that what turned out to be the lunch menu, was actually the menu for dinner. There were three selections and with each price increase was another course or two. I thought this seemed like a splendid deal as there was something to please each of our tastes and the price was fantastic. When we were seated by the very lovely staff (a definite bonus here – and there are more plusses to come, it’s not all negative!) we were handed the a la carte menu which was very different. “It’s like tapas” we were told, with the first page being a range of ‘share’ plates or “petites portions”, the second page a variety of skewers and the third page some mains. This “tapas” would begin at 17 euros with the most expensive priced at 51 euros. You could also order a mini burger with chips for 33 euros. After being read the whole menu in English (just to be sure we knew 100% what we would be choosing from) I tentatively ordered the foie gras at 25 euros. This was the cold foie gras (as opposed to the hot foie gras also in this section of the menu) served with toast. While the foie gras itself was lovely and fine the overwhelming charred taste of the toast (I’m assuming on purpose) was too heavy for the liver and when I ran out of toast and put the rest on the bread we had been served at the table it was infinitely better.
I’m sure I know the chefs know a lot more about matching flavours than I do but my taste buds know what they like!
For her first course mum ordered the chicken skewers and I knew immediately that she didn’t like them when she cut a large portion off one and offered it to me. I thought they were ok but in a restaurant of this calibre you expect more than just ok. To even serve chicken skewers in this kind of restaurant was baffling in the first place. There was, however, an accompanying soup which seemed to go down easily as there were no complaints from mum. I managed to take a photo of one of the adorable mushrooms in it, too. The cuteness made up for the chicken.
As you probably know from reading other food posts on my blog I don’t eat seafood. Mainly because my mother and I are allergic so I didn’t grow up eating it. My allergy is not so bad that I’ll die if I have any, so I have tried it a bit in the past few years, but I’m just not attune to the taste. My dad on the other hand loves seafood and for the sake of enjoying the whole experience he decided to order the ‘Menu “Decouverte de Saison” at 165 euros p/p (not including wine). This was actually quite good value as he was served 8 dishes including amuse bouche and the occasional extra course was handed to mum and I as dad was receiving his – another generous thing they didn’t have to do.
Dad struggled a bit with his first course. While he likes the taste of seafood, it’s the textures that put him off. When he saw lobster jelly he almost lost it. I was trying to reason with him and explain the cooking process but then I realised that if someone offered me chicken jelly I’d be freaked out too. Just because I like something in its whole form doesn’t make it cool when it’s in the form of jelly! The dish was very pretty, though, and once he got over the initial qualms, dad was happy with the dish overall.
The next course in the seasonal menu was described as a cheesy smoked salmon and caviar dish with wasabi. I must admit, even as a non-seafood eater, this looked pretty nice. The pastry-type shards you can see are actually fried cheese and the orange cubes around the bottom, the smoked salmon. Dad absolutely loved this one and you can see why.
The third dish was a pea soup. I didn’t manage to get a photo of it before the actual soup had been poured over the top of the ingredients in the bowl so, unfortunately, the photo is not very pretty.
For my main I ordered lamb. In retrospect it was a silly choice as Australian lamb is so delicious but I think I was a bit thrown having been presented with these dishes I didn’t think I’d be choosing from that I just went for something safe. My mum, after hearing the selections from our waitress, ordered veal.
When the dishes arrived I was a bit confused to see a plate of lamb chops and nothing else. Wonderfully cooked, beautifully presented lamb chops, but lamb chops all the same. I think the disappointment in this case is partially my fault for ordering the wrong thing. As I said, there was nothing wrong with it but you just want more when you’re dining somewhere special.
Mum had two large pieces of veal on her plate and as she cut into the first she commented on how tender it was. Not even tender but smooth and buttery, unlike any veal she’d had before. The taste, she said, was a bit unusual but she went in for a second mouthful. This time she noticed it was gamey and not what she was expecting so she cut the other piece on the plate. It was here, with this same soft texture that she realised it was veal but more specifically, veal liver. I asked the waitress – this time in French – what part of the veal this was and she confirmed it was indeed liver. Mum strictly does not eat offal (aside from the occasional chicken liver pate or foie gras) so she said she just wouldn’t eat it – not thinking any more of it. Respectfully and unexpectedly, the veal was removed from the bill (I’m not suggesting that you go in, have a mouthful of everything and send it back but I just wanted to point out the high level of service we received).
Dad’s also a little funny about offal so the hot foie gras course was another obstacle. I found it amusing that even the design on the plate looked like it was taunting him. Ner ner ner ner ner!
He got through that (I love how I say that like it was some form of torture and not a two-Michelin-Star meal!) and it was all happiness from there on. His next favourite dish was Saint-Pierre fish (which I think is John Dory in English) with gnocchi and then the same lamb dish I had for my main albeit in a smaller portion.
Dessert time saw my only challenge of the night for where my parents don’t eat seafood and offal, I struggle with banana. Yep, seriously. One of the additional dishes for mum and I which was part of dad’s order was Pina Colada type dessert with rum and coconut. The banana layer really got to me as it’s the only fruit I have never been able to stomach. I’m cool with banana bread and ice cream but any other form and I near vomit. For the record this dish did not make me want to vomit – it was actually beautiful – it was just my own weirdness making me feel this way.
Luckily I had my own dessert to get the banana taste out of my mouth: a super-rich chocolate concoction with Oreo biscuit. It was so decadent I didn’t want to break the gold disk but once I finally did it was a chocolate lover’s heaven – perhaps even a little bit too rich for me by the end of it. Or maybe I would have preferred the bottom, richer layer to be on top and the lighter, moussier part to end the dessert with?
Mum had the soufflé which she said she didn’t like but I think after her meal consisted essentially of bottled pineapple juice and some mashed potato she was a bit over the whole thing, so it’s hard to judge how pertinent her opinion was.
Dad’s second dessert was cheese and pineapple and looks spectacular!
I can’t even remember how he said this tasted. Maybe he didn’t even eat it because it looked too pretty. I know I would have had a hard time messing it up.
Well that was a very long post so let me recap in brief…
- Nice, attentive staff who perhaps need to fine tune their English (or maybe patrons also need to learn their “hard limits” in French) to avoid confusion – trust me, I ordered everything in French for everyone for the rest of the trip to avoid anymore liver situations!!
- Very well presented dishes
- The seasonal menu was very good value and if you have no allergies/turn offs then I would say go for it and don’t even bother with the rest of the menu!
- Dad told the sommelier he trusted him to choose wine for each of his courses and the sommelier didn’t abuse this “trust” and provided him with wines that were around the 15 euro/glass mark where he could have gone crazy.
- Not a sufficient amount of non-alcoholic drink options
- Sitting at a bar, although comfortable, is a bit awkward with three or more
So while dad still talks about his meal and I had no problem with mine I just can’t rave about L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile the way I thought I would when I booked. I’m certainly glad that I’ve been but especially now after the dining experiences that followed this one I would not be rushing back.
I think I’m quite alone with these feelings because, as I said earlier, the general consensus online is that Joel Robuchon’s a genius. I was looking at photos on his Facebook page just the other day and the creations look magnificent so maybe it was an off night – he’s also not exactly in the kitchen himself – but you’d think the chefs would be some of the best in the world to reflect his own passion so this should translate into all the meals. Anyway, I’d love to know what you thought of it so please let me know in the comments section below.
Seven glasses of wine, 1 pineapple juice, 1 seasonal menu, 1 serve of skewers, 1 “tapas” entree, 1 main and 2 desserts cost just over 500 euros.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile
Did you have the time of your life or did your meal at Etoile fall flat like it did for me?