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Zagat’s readers voted Le Bernardin as “The Most Popular Restaurant in New York in 2012” and the restaurant received 19 out of 20 points triumphing others and making Le Bernardin to become the only such highly prized restaurant in New York since 1996. The Michelin Guide honored the Chef Eric Ripert and Le Bernardin with its highest rating of three stars in 2005 and each year thereafter. Le Bernardin seems to keep its standard high. Moreover, the restaurant ranks 19 on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, which is quite an achievement in the global culinary scene. Knowing about all these flattering achievements one enters the restaurant full of extraordinary expectations, making it even harder for the restaurant to meet them. Well, I thought that my first encounter (and my wallet saving option) would be wiser to spend at the restaurant’s bar so I can figure out whether it is worth the waiting for the reservation and the food. My impressions follow.

Bar at Le Bernardin

Bar at Le Bernardin

Cuisine: Gastronomic French seafood.

Visit: February 2012

Price: Very expensive (Prix-Fixe $127 – 4 courses at the restaurant; at the bar the selection is limited, yet you get great food with some options; the City Harvest weekly changing 3 course-menu offered exclusively at lunch in the Lounge for set price $45 is a great deal if you have time for a two-hour lunch – $5 go for the City Harvest, the world’s oldest food rescue organization founded in 1981).

Eric Ripert

Eric Ripert

Chef: Eric Ripert has an unparalleled experience at Paris’ best dining establishments including the first purely seafood restaurant ever to achieve three Michelin stars – Le Bernardin. There he worked closely with its founder and chef Gilbert Le Coze and after the later’s death he continued to uphold the highest standards of Le Bernardin. Ripert is the success behind the Le Bernardin’s expansion to the US, where the restaurant quickly became a star of the gastronomic stage. He knows fish and seafood very well owing to his early experience in Antibes, South of France, that laid foundations to his culinary expertise.

Bar scene at Le Bernardin

Bar scene at Le Bernardin

Atmosphere: This is another review from my bar tour through the top New York restaurants. The atmosphere and approach in each of them though is different. Foodwise my personal winner was only by a pinch of salt Per Se, yet some would disagree and put Le Bernardin ahead. The bar at Le Bernardin was more lively and felt more cool, yet the more discreet Per Se can be preferred by these seeking privacy and romance. You ned to dress up smart and elegant, no jeans, t-shirts and hats. There are two types of seating, one at the high chairs at the bar, and another, more comfortable for most of us, at small tables sprinkled around the bar area.

Food:  The seafood is prepared using French cooking techniques. The chef captured its spirit saying:

 Everything we do in the kitchen—using subtle textures and flavors, seeking out the freshest ingredients—has the same goal: to enhance and elevate the fish. 

Of course you can go for oysters or caviar as these are very popular luxurious bar snacks available at Le Bernardin. These come with a very high price tag though and do not test the chef’s skills.

Peruvian Style Scallop Ceviche

Peruvian Style Scallop Ceviche

With a glass of champagne we started with the Peruvian Style Scallop Ceviche. Peruvian food preparation style has been in the fashion focus of recent years and Ripert could not escape being enchanted by the savory whims of this Latin-American culinary style. The scallops were utmost tender, melting softly like a bubble of silk, refreshed gently with the lime and spice sauce, just to add a gentle accent to the dish. Unlike in Peru, where the sauce pops out and twists your tongue in an anxious move from the acid attack it bestows upon you, in New York you get it soft from the chef Ripert (an unlikely turn in America where generally the palates seek excitement).

Moving to a glass of white wine (German Riesling) we dove to the Kanpachi Tartare covered by a layer of wasabi tobiko ginger and embalmed  in a coriander emulsion. The fish was fresh, tender and light. Wasabi colored and spiced up fish eggs (tobiko) added crunchy texture to the slightly chewy chopped kanpachi, zest and warmth from the spicy ingredients, and the coriander cast more depth to the dish on the spoon. Delicious!

Kanpachi Tartare

Kanpachi Tartare

The waiter was praising the Yellowfin Tuna from the restaurant menu so we got it after a couple of minutes of persuasion. Normally, the restaurant dishes are not served at the bar, but if you show interest in food you can get some starters. The Tuna is chef’s specialty and indeed, he prepares it well. The paper-thin slices of sublime tuna are layered on thin beetroot shavings (which you cannot see unless you lift the fish) and covered with chopped capers and chives in olive oil. This delicate fish has enough oil on it and has enough fat so it likes wines with high acidity that cut through the fat. My choice would be either a fresh and complex white wine (such as Burgundy – ideally mineral Chablis or Puligni Montrachet) or a light red with good acidity (Pinot Noir or the balanced Greek one I had – look below).

YELLOWFIN TUNA

YELLOWFIN TUNA

From the warm snacks we went for the Warm Lobster and Truffle “en Brioche” since it sounded divine even on the paper. It was tasty and richer than our previous dishes. The fluffy Brioche was filled with warm tender lobster and black truffle shavings. Aromatic, intense yet still retaining its own harmony. The Brioche called for a heavier oaky Chardonnay or an intense white wine blend.

Warm Lobster and Truffle “en Brioche”

Warm Lobster and Truffle “en Brioche”

In the afternoon you can come to the bar and savor the french style with the “Café Gourmand”. You will get a tasting of a trio of mini desserts with coffee (it is a sort of take on the british afternoon tea – the French and the British always have to find something that would compete with the other’s inventions).

Drinks: Intriguing wines by the glass. I was pleasantly surprised by the Greek wine from the Domaine Economou located on the island of Crete. The wine undergoes 7 years of ageing in the barrels (100% French oak), tanks and in the bottles so it is ready to drink when it is released to the market. The local red grape varietals Liatiko (80%) is blended with 20% of Mandilaria. On the nose you get some fruity blackberry aromas and spices. The palate is mature Bordeaux-like with plum, spices, blackberries, jam, raisin and prune flavors. It is complex with supple tannins and long-lasting aftertaste. By-the-glass – you must try it!

Greek wine by the glass

Greek wine by the glass

Opening Hours: Lunch: Mon– Fri: 12 pm – 2:30 pm
Dinner: Mon – Thurs: 5:15 pm – 10:30 pm; Fri– Sat: 5:15 pm – 11 pm

Address: Le Bernardin | 155 West 51st Street, New York 10019, USA

Contact: Tel: +1 (212) 554 1515

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Lobster creation

Langustine creation

Cuisine: Gastronomic Brazilian

Visit: December 2012

Chef: The award-winning chef and local Tv personality Felipe Bronze said : “My work reflects who I am or how I think…“. The former student at the Culinary Institute of America in New York gathered culinary experience throughout the high-end restaurants in the US and later also back in Brazil (Sushi Leblon, Zuka, Z Contemporâneo). For his cooking endeavours he won a number of awards including the “Chef Revelação” (The Chef Revelation) in Brazil. He opened his ORO in 2010 and only months after its opening the restaurant has been widely acclaimed by the press.

Price: Very expensive, though it is quite flexible in terms of what you pay at the end as there are five menus ranging from 3 to 16 dishes. While the first is about 60USD, with the last 16-course chef’s menu priced at R$395 – almost 200 USD – it gets very expensive. Wine pairing is optional for an extra cost (look at “Drinks” below).

Open kitchen at Oro

Open kitchen at Oro

Atmosphere: Casual, fresh and fun as people sitting around you wonder over the creative dishes and often burst into laughs or whistle with sighs of admiration. The open kitchen concept lets you peek into the busy world of the chef and his helpers. The service is attentive, friendly and knows the dishes very well so all your peculiar questions will be answered. One would think to dress up, yet this is Brazil, the country far from conservative, so you can wear casual attire from jeans to white linen pants, almost like on holidays (just leave the Havaianas – Brazilian flip-flops, for the beach or a city tour). There is also a nice room upstairs that is suitable for private events and celebrations.

Food: Magic, fun and with an artistic presentation. The 16-course chef’s menu has to be reserved in advance. We went for the 5 dishes option where we got one snack at the start and then four different plates. The snack board consisted of cheese profiteroles, cashew nut confit and a stand of fruit and tapioca cones filled with something translated as a “pup” tartare. The menu is all in Portuguese so you have to rely on the waiter who is willing to explain you each dish in detail. Just to memorise it is quite an honourable effort (I had to record it how complex all the food was).

Start-up

Start-up

It is like a show in the Circus du Soleil in a gastronomic sense. The Caprese quente/fria, burrata,pesto de baru, tomate e pão de milho – Caprese Salad hot/cold, burrata, pesto of baru, tomato and corn bread is so intriguing to watch as the top coat dissolves under the tomato sauce that is being poured over it. Patience … and you will find out what is hidden inside. The burrata was super-creamy as one would expect from this Italian delicate cheese, the pesto just adds nutty and oily touch, but the corn bread was a bit too “wet” to my taste as it got moist in the batch of tomato sauce.

Plate No 1

Plate No 1

Plate No 3

Plate No 3

Plate No 2Plate No 2

Another interesting and perhaps even tastier course was the Lagostin com creme de pistaches, alcachofra e pupunha crocantes – Lagustine with cream pistachios, artichoke and crispy pejibaye. The langustine was of a superb tender quality, the cream of pistachios I would sell in a delicatessen store and I bet it would kill the sales of peanut butter how much better it was, and the thinly shredded artichoke added crispiness as it was stir fried like tempura.

My next surprise was the Filhote defumado, feijão Santarém, leite de castanhas – Filhote fish smoked and pan fried served with crusty Santarém beans mash and a dash of milk from chestnuts. Incredible, what one can do with fish!

Fish

Fish

Desserts come on a large plate with lots of local influence – from nuts you have never heard about to fruits and flours used in some of the sweets. Nevertheless, there is an international core to the chef’s desserts with a number of options. From “Everything with eggs“, “Everything with caramel” or “Everything with chocolate” to a special desserts blend called “The grove“. In our menu we got so much that it could have been a dinner on its own, although entirely sugar-dominated. The pot of  Crème brûlée, baby flan, chocolate mousse, crunchy cocoa nuts in a paper box, a pot of  fried churros, a thick custard sprinkled with caramelised nuts and even his genial frozen millle-feuille – these all have foreign foundations. The mille-feuille has a veil of magic around it as the waiter breaks the crust and adds steaming liquid nitrogen so the frozen ice cream and its crust can be penetrated. Then you can dive your spoon into the crusty cave hiding the sweet chocolate ice cream.

'Magic' desert plate

‘Magic’ dessert plate

Drinks: There is an option of wine pairing with each of your dishes and we went for it. It is a surprise as each wine is revealed by the Mendoza-born sommelier Cecilia Aldaz with your next course. The price ranges from R$70 (34 USD) in the smallest menu (3 wines) to R$295 (145 USD) in the chef’s menu. Starting with a glass of sparkly Cava refreshed our palate and got it ready for the tasty dishes to come. My favourite two pics were the crisp and zesty Errazuriz Reserva Sauvignon Blanc from Chile and the apricot flavoured Austrian Grüner Veltliner from Weingut Brundlmayer.

Sauvignon Blanc from Chile

Sauvignon Blanc from Chile

Austrian Gruner Veltliner from Weingut Brundlmayer

Austrian Gruner Veltliner from Weingut Brundlmayer

Opening hours: Monday to Thursday: 7:30pm to midnight| Fridays& Saturdays: from 7:30 to 12:30 AM.

Address: Rua Frei Leandro, 20 – Jd. Botânico, Rio de Janeiro, RJ Brazil.

Contact: Tel: +(55) 21 7864-9622; email: reservas@ororestaurante.com

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Cuisine: Gastronomic modern French.

Visit: October 2012

Price: Very high (dining at any of the multiple-Michelin-stared Robuchon’s restaurant never comes cheap, although small eaters can save by ordering less plates from the small plate concept of L’Atelier or come for the more economical lunch menu).

Robuchon’s Caviar surprise

Chef: Joel Robuchon does not need any introduction for a majority of food connoisseurs. His innovative concept of modern fine dining with an open kitchen, preparing a wide range of innovative small dishes while keeping the quality on a superb level, first took off in Tokio in 2003. Since then his restaurant empire has spread around the world and earned him a record number of Michelin stars. His Hong Kong venture was recently (2012) awarded its third Michelin star. Judging from my dinner there the restaurant deserves it if I close my eyes over the at times too slow service.

Black & red at L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon

Atmosphere: Sexy, modern and elegant. L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong follows its design format of a sleek dark elegance. Black and red colours dominate the interior while a bright light casts emphasis on the open kitchen. It is entertaining to watch the cooks frantically moving from a stove to stove and counters chopping, whipping and mixing complex dishes brought to perfection. The restaurant is located in the luxurious Landmark shopping mall, yet it has its own escalator (a staple of Hong Kong) to bring you into this heaven of luxurious dining. Wear anything chic and elegant although you might get away with a more casual attire if you show your wallet is up to the Atelier’s expensive menu and wines.

Sea urchin with lobster jelly

Food: Complex, inventive with a local twist. The food at the Hong Kong’s L’Atelier is different from anywhere else I have dined so far (London, Paris, New York, Monaco). I always start with the popular small portions – tapas-style – dishes as these present the chef’s craft so well. Moreover, ordering these is a great opportunity to try a wide range of different dishes on one occasion.

I love the Robuchon’s lobster ravioli at Hong Kong presented as the Maine lobster in turnip raviolis (LE HOMARD en fines ravioles, navet au romarin à l’aigre-doux). So delicate as they melt in your mouth with a surprisingly varied rainbow of flavours. Rosemary adds depth and freshness and lightens up sometimes this too butter-dominated starter (in Paris I had them too buttery). Here in Hong Kong the ravioli were superb.

Lobster ravioli

I wanted this evening to be a great adventure so I went for some dishes that were new to me. I was curious what was hidden in A surprise of Osciètre caviar (LE CAVIAR IMPERIAL servi en surprise, fine gelée cardinalisée). As my picture above shows you had no idea, not after you dipped into the caviar tin. What I revealed was another savoury, fresh and delicate product of sea – crab meat softened up by a fine jelly. Amazing with a glass of bubbly or refreshing white wine.

Being in Asia moved (as usually) my tasting boundaries. My next dish the Sea urchin with lobster jelly, cauliflower cream and broccoli purée (L’OURSIN dans une délicate gelé, blanc manger de chou-fleur) was surely different from most of the dishes I eat in Europe or America. Again, the dish was turned into a culinary masterpiece. Balance, depth, wide span of flavours and nothing too quirky as with lots of exotic ingredients like the sea urchin – the chef and his team mixed and whipped it all well. A slightly oaky Chardonnay would be my pick with this creamy delicacy.

On a similar Asian note was the Sea urchin risotto with spiky artichokes (LE RISOTTO ‘MANTECATO‘aux langues d’oursin à l’artichaut épineux). Yes, I did not have enough of sea urchin so I had to get one more dish with it. This time the soft, liver-like texture of the sea urchin was more potent as it was served on the top of the creamy artichoke risotto. Decorated with edible gold leafs it was visible that this is not a cheap dish, definitely it would find many fans between the rich Chinese businessmen inviting their potential partners as they traditionally like to host others generously.

Sea urchin risotto

Always impressive yet served in a new coat were the Pan seared sea scallops with caviar, fregula pasta and shellfish emulsion (LES SAINT-JACQUES les noix poilées/caviar, risotto de fregola et émulsion de coquillages). Again I would say they were more luxurious than in other locations I ate. Addition of caviar crowning the crisp pan seared scallops and gold leafs makes a powerful statement. The caviar was worth pairing though bringing in a new dimension of fresh and slightly popping texture. The scallops were soft like a feather pillow and the rise shaped fregola pasta made into a creamy risotto blended well with the sea shells emulsion. This could be a smaller main course for some of you as it is quite filling.

Sea scallops with caviar

To lighten it all up you can get the Tomato “mille-feuille” layered with crabmeat, avocado and green apple (LE CRABE en mille-feuille de tomate avec coulis verjuté). It is refreshing and light enough to have a glass of a crisp white wine with it.

Tomato mille-feuille

Robuchon makes the best mini-burgers on the planet (sorry for the excitement, but I always have to order them and I have never been disappointed so far).  The Wagyu beef and foie gras burgers with lightly caramelized bell peppers (LE BURGER au foie gras et poivrons verjutés). The secret of this dish is the top quality Wagyu beef cooked into an ideal juicy and flavour-bursting burger. Foie gras adds softness and caramelized bell peppers are the best stunt for onions. Original and better than any burger I have ever had. The bread is fresh and tip-top, not like the chewy plastic copies of bread used for burgers elsewhere.

Drinks:The wine list is stunning. With twenty wines-by-the-glass you might be seduced to opt for these instead of a bottle. Old world as well as New world wines are represented with the likes of a 2006 vintage of deep and rich Kistler Chardonnay from California or a red 2004 Château Pavie from Bordeaux on the list. The sweet wine afficionados will find Rivesaltes Cuvée Amédée de Bescombes, Bescombes-Singla from France in its 1945 vintage by-the-glass tempting at the end of the dinner (or lunch?).

Caymus Vineyards 2001

The bottles have ratings from Wine Spectator (WS) as well as the Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (WA). Beware of a 10% service charge at the restaurant even on wines!

A magnum of Petrus 1961 is listed for stunning HK$380,000; so you do not need to worry that Robuchon’s head sommelier has not been thinking about wines for a very special celebration (it differs from person to person). There is also a magnum of 1992 Screaming Eagle, the Californian cult wine, for HK$220,000 or the sweet icon from Sauternes – Château d’Y quem 1921 vintage for HK$130,000 (all prices as of October 2012).

We were celebrating something that night, but we are not billionaires so we selected a Californian red hero from Caymus Vineyards 2001 vintage. The wine was smooth, balanced and rewarding with long finish – ideal for our style of celebrating.

Opening hours: Lunch: Mon-Sun: 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. (Last Order); Dinner: Mon-Sun: 6:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (Last Order)

Great news for your wallet -The HK$280 Happy hour at LE JARDIN-OUTDOOR GARDEN from 18:30 to 19:30 daily lets you to taste multiple canapes for one price.

Address: L’ATELIER de Joël Robuchon,  Shop 315 & 401, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong

Contact: Tel: +(852) 2166 9000

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La Mere Germaine in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Cuisine: French traditional bistro style; Southern Rhone cuisine

Visit: August 2012

Price: medium (three-course lunch menu €23; four-course dinner menu €37)

This vibrant and friendly restaurant was first opened in 1922 by Madame Germaine Vion, who was previously the chef at the Élysée Palace in Paris. Thus the name of this iconic Chateauneuf-du-Pape restaurant was born. Recently it was renovated and reopened by its new owner Andre Mazy, who also monthly selects special local wines for wine enthusiasts visiting from all corners of the world. During my visit, there was a large Chinese group wine tasting in one of the rooms, but the wine tasting area is separated from the other dining rooms and we had a relaxed lunch with tremendous views of the vineyard-dominated Southern Rhone landscape.

Terrace at La Mere Germaine

Atmosphere: Casual, artsy and fresh. There are three dining areas. The first has been infused with art as paintings hang, sculptures stand and wine is being tasted there. The second has huge old windows and a mirrored wall allowing the natural light from outside to lighten up the room. The last is a terrace protected from the Mistral wind by windows built into arches, so you can savor the sun and fresh air without your napkin flying all over the place. You can wear anything you want except a swimming suit. It is a very casual place where locals cross with foreigners. Although the entire menu is in French, the friendly staff will explain to you what each dish is about.

Restaurant inside & view

Food: Traditional yet innovative with daily change of the lunch menu so one never gets bored by the food there. There is usually one fish and a number of meat courses, vegetarians will have to request something special unless there is already something suitable on that day’s offer. The food is honest, the portions generous and it is intensely tasty – no salt and herbs was spared on preparing these meals.

Since the food is changed daily, I will try to give you an idea, what it could be like from the dishes we had during our Monday lunch at La Mère Germaine.

We tried all the three appetizers on offer. They were all delicious and each of us went for something appealing to his/her palate.

Fish Terine

The Terrine de Poissons Aux Herbes, Tartare de Tomates was delicate, full of flavor and quite a light starter. The fish in the egg-based terrine was freshened up with herbs, and zesty chopped tomatoes on the side added juice to the otherwise dry terrine. It was perfectly balanced and excellent with a glass of a medium-bodied white Rhone wine.

The cantaloupe melon was in season and most of restaurants in the region included it in their menu either in the classical melon with ham or in a more sophisticated starter. At La Mère Germaine they have adopted the later. The Fraîcheur de Melon et Caillette, Gaspacho de Melon was a complex starter. With a side of a small cantaloupe gaspacho, the chopped melon slices with herbs and vegetables made into a salad and a meat terrine there was a little bit of everything. The gaspacho was refreshing and not too sweet, the salad with melon resembled more Asian style of fruit and veggie mixed salads and the terrine was a based on a great quality meat. With a dish like this though one struggles to choose the right wine to pair it with. I would say, that anything medium-to full-bodied should work. Just avoid feeble or crisp white wines.

The third starter of Foie Gras Confit, Chutney de Melon Jaune, Cake à la Verveine was another story in terms of finding the right wine match for it. An aromatic even slightly sweet white wine would do perfect and even a fruity and juicy red would cut through the fatness of the duck liver. Another great use of cantaloupe in this dish. (I almost think they must have had over-production of melons this year in France). The sweet character of the melon chutney combined with a verveine (verbena) infused cake instead of the commonly used bread was a unique and surely very tasty accompaniment to the delicate Foie Gras.

Foie Gras Confit

From the main courses we went for the Filet de Cabillaud Roti, Matignon de Légumes et Coques, Fleur de Courgette Farcie. The roasted cod filet with vegetables, cockles (small mussels) stuffed in a courgette flower had not a fault. It was an interesting way how to prepare cod in an engaging fashion. White wine is a must as seafood combined with fish and green vegetables rarely go with red, unless there is a rich sauce such as tomato or a meat juice.

And finally, the real carnivores would be delighted by the Gigot à Agneau Rosé, Pommes Croustillantes, Légumes Sautés, Tomates Confits. The traditional chunks of cooked veal were served with potatoes, sautéed vegetables and conserved tomatoes. If one was still hungry after eating the big thigh of veal, then a dessert would fill the gap. We had space only for a cup of coffee and tea and a wine tasting in front of us so we had to preserve our stamina for the afternoon happenings. Judging from the neighbors’ plate, the sweets looked delicious, so if you are not in rush, just savor one of them without hesitation.

Veal Filet

Drinks: The wine list is specialized on the Rhone Valley wines for great prices at a restaurant. The Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines are listed by vintage with the oldest wines reaching over 40 years back. The owner offers a special local selection of great-value-wines each month. Nevertheless, there are some Burgundies, Champagne and other lesser known wines from around France. We drunk first a local white wine from Domaine Lou Devete 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc Les Poéses de Marie.
It is a blend 50% Grenache Blanc and 50% Clairette aged for 6 months in barriques (small oak barrels). The production is quite small. Depending on the year it usually reaches about 1.300 bottles. It was refreshing yet deep and ideal with our appetizers. Later we ordered another lesser known red from Domaine du Lampourdier 2010 from the nearby Côtes du Rhone appellation. It was intense with a hint of spice from the Syrah in the blend. Great and juicy wine with the beef, but a bit too intense for the fish main course.

Contact: +33 (0) 4 90 22 78 34

Address: 3 Rue Commandant Lemaître; 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape; France

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The French Chef Joel Robuchon holds the record 28 Michelin stars bearing his name in the increasingly global and competitive world of cuisine. There is no other chef to date, who would achieve such a high distinction from the most famous restaurant guide on the world – the Michelin Guide. As he spreads his brand globally I had an opportunity to dine in a number of his restaurants including the more casual Le Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris, London and in New York as well as at the more formal restaurants. Over the years I have learnt one very important think about these places set up by one chef in different locations across three continents. Even the holder of “The Best Restaurant in the World” title, which Robuchon earned by IHT (International Herald Tribune)in 1994 for his restaurant in Paris, can disappoint. A chef putting his name on a restaurant is putting himself under a great risk as he needs to trust the teams, however skilled and dedicated, that they will consistently deliver what the customers expect. Unfortunately, many diners travel extensively and have the same opportunity as I do to try various restaurants of one chef in different places, thus having a point of reference when eating at one or the other. I used to love The Atellier in London in its first years, but it went downhill as it started to be inconsistent.

Mashed potatoes a la Joel Robuchon

Mr Robuchon has a number of signature dishes such as the Lobster Ravioli or the super smooth Mashed Potatoes and these stay in its excellency rating for me anywhere I dine. Yet, there are many other more seasonal and locally adapted creations of his that, for the insanely high price, are seriously disappointing to that level, that one cannot finish even the tiny portion from his “small dishes” selection. Therefore, if you plan on eating at one of his restaurants be prepared that you will not be getting value for your money and stick to the most popular dishes by asking a waiter what is great on that certain night. Then you will enter the heaven of taste relishing in the best Joel Robuchon’s legacy has created.

Chef: Christophe Cussac is heading the kitchen at Joel Robuchon Metropol

Cuisine: Gastronomic French (Mediterranean) with Japanese and Spanish influences.

Visit: May 2012

Price: Sky-high expensive (many appetizer-style “small dishes” in the €30 and above level)

Joel Robuchon restaurant at Hotel Metropole in Monaco

Joel Robuchon restaurant at Hotel Metropole

Atmosphere: In a beautifully decorated and elegant room you will feel almost majestic. Very comfortable chairs, soft carpets and attentive service make the dining experience here a joyful affair. The clientelle is mostly coming from an affluent background so you will be seeing ladies being gifted by a stunning jewelry for their birthdays, elegant ladies with Hermes Birkin bags on their sides as well as elder gentlemen sharing some old vintage Cognac after their dinner. It feels very comfortable here despite the high-end fuss. After all, you are dining at a five-star hotel in Monte Carlo.

Food: Lovers of great Iberic ham will not be disappointed by LE JAMBON IBERICO DE BELLOTA thinly sliced and served with toast. Robuchon love of Spanish food brought this appetizer to the regular menu.

For anyone liking soft and delicate scallops with slightly crusty touch the Scallop in its own shell with crunchy vegetables and hint of paprika will be an ideal choice. It is a flavor-bursting and subtle piece of seafood mastered perfectly by the great chef.

Scallops served on their own shell (taken at London’s Le Atellier)

An absolute winner from the starters for me are the Lobster Ravioli. They will hit your budget slightly as you will pay a bit over €50 for this small dish. LA LANGOUSTINE en raviolis truffés à l’étuvée de chou vert is served with truffles and cabbage and I fell in love with it the first time I have tasted it many years ago. The delicately cooked lobster is so tender and so interesting with green cabbage and truffles that it always charms everyone who has ever eaten it with me on the table.

Smoked Mackerel

Eager to experiment I have again burned myself with the choice of Smoked Mackerel with Asparagus, new to me on the menu. The mackerel was so fishy and unpleasantly slimy that I could not finish half of it. Even the tender asparagus served with it did not make up for my total disappointment by this dish.

I gave a chance to another fish dish, this time in red wine sauce with fried onions, mushrooms. It was nice, but not outstanding. I can have a better fish in Mediterranean at many cheaper restaurants.

To fix my taste, I was happy to order another tasty dish I knew from past – the purple artichoke with chorizo and thyme cooked in Morrocan tajine style. Covered by a conic top L’ARTICHAUT VIOLET à l’encornet au thym et au chorizo en tajine is a tasty blend of exotic spices unveiling themselves as the lid is taken away. An intense and playful dish great with a full-bodied white or juicy red wine.

Purple Artichoke with chorizo tajine

It not only looks bite-fully good, but it tastes like that. I am talking about the above pictured dish of beefy Miniburgers. Served with hand cut French fries, these beef juicy nibbles will enchant not only the burger addicts, but everyone appreciating quality. No need to mention – intense red wine like a Bordeaux brings this experience to a heavenly perfection for ones taste buds.

Mini beef burgers

Staying in the meat realm the LE VEAU en paillard aux feuilles de riquette et artichaut poivrade – veal with artichoke is another mouth-watering option for carnivores. The veal is tender as it is cooked just right and the artichokes lighten it up.

The desserts trolley is provoking everyone in the room for the entire night as the waiters whizz it from table to table. Whether you are full or not, you will probably end up getting one the seductively looking cakes and sweets. The chocolate cake, the crumble cake and mouse with vanilla cream I had were all great. I know, three desserts sounds quite too much, yet it is impossible to get one from the over 20 choice!

Dessert trolley at Joel Robuchon

Drinks: The wine list is amazing. You get anything from big names to a lesser-known, yet outstanding producers. The head sommelier has done a very good job finding real wine gems. The chef has a penchant for wine and that shows in the restaurant’s choice of wines. I was pleasantly surprised to see a bottle of white wine from Clos de Vougeot which is quite a rarity. The property in Burgundy is huge, compared to others, yet it has just a tiny proportion of Chardonnay planted on it since majority is red Pinot Noir. What more on the list they had the outstanding 2009 vintage so we could enjoy this complex Chardonnay as our aperitif and with some of the first courses.

Loire sweet wine

Another nice surprise was a Loire dessert white wine Beaulieu from Chateau du Breuil, which the sommelier treated us (for free) with our desserts. It was lovely, not too sugary, yet honeyed tones were playing with fruit and flower flavors like a bee savoring these delicacies of nature before the honey is created.

Opening hours & contact: Every day all year for Lunch: 12:15-2:30pm; Dinner: 7:15-10:30pm; Tel: +377 9315 1510

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