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Posts Tagged ‘gourmet French cuisine’

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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Cuisine: Provençal French with Asian influence; gastronomic

Visit: August 2012

Price: High (although not too much for a Michelin star restaurant – €52 for a three-course discovery dinner menu)

La Coquillade – meaning the lark

Chef:  The restaurant is in hands of a Michelin starred chef Christophe Renaud. He uses mostly local ingredients and, as became recently very popular between chefs, he grows aromatic herbs and flowers in the organic garden of the Domaine La Coquillade. His previous experiences from restaurants in the USA and in the French Alsace region formed his cooking talent, which he now utilizes using Provençal ingredients at Le Gourmet.

Amousse bouche of melon gazpacho

Atmosphere: Nature with an eternally buzzing sound of cicadas create a relaxing environment. Wooden furniture, linen and beams inside and outside on the peaceful terrace remind you that you are in the middle of lush green countryside. During the day you can spot the flocks of vineyards surrounding the domaine and the hotel. Dress comfortably yet  not too casual since, despite being in the middle of nature, you are still dining at a Michelin starred establishment.

Food: Artistic, colorful and inventive. The chef blends Mediterranean flavors with exotic cuisines such as Asian. Most of the dishes include vegetable either playing the first violin or just tuning the other food instruments on the plate.

For the curious gourmets I recommend starting with L’Assortiment d’entrée – a tapas style assortment of three appetizers changing daily. They represent the breath of the chef’s cooking.

During the evening we dined there each of the starters seemed to come from a different corner of the world, at least in terms of flavors. The first – Beignet de mini carotte fane au cumin, sauce thaï – had an Asian twist. It was a vegetable tempura served with spicy, sweet-sour and soy-like varieties of sauces. It was a great snack with a glass of white wine I had as an aperitif.

Beef carpaccio starter

The second took mostly a French coat. The Rouleau de bœuf “Blonde d’Aquitaine”, croustillant au câpre, sorbet aux herbes fraîches du jardin – was an exquisite, genial and refreshing dish. A thin slice of beef wrapped in a fresh creamy sauce, all topped with crispy cheese cracker, fresh herbs sorbet and a tangy caper. It was one of the best beef starters I have ever had. Rich yet refreshing, bursting with different flavors, it was a bespoken and original recipe for Le Gourmet.

Another excellent tongue-teaser was the Sablé au parmesan, Baïaldi de légumes, marquereau mini-cuit infusé à la livèche – a parmesan biscuit, vegetable Baïaldi with mackerel infused with herbs. Delicate and surprisingly not as fishy as one would expect for a mackerel.

Sable au parmesan

The main courses usually include one fish, one meat and one vegetarian meal. I went for the fish – Poisson de petit métier de Méditerranée – from the à la carte menu. The flavor boosting crispy red mullet was served with red rice and vegetable maki and crispy rice à la rice popcorn. It was delicious and went well with a light red wine rather than white since the wine’s character might have been overpowered by the intense flavors of the sauce served with the fish.

Fish

For a desert you can either go for a discovery with La trilogie de desserts – selection of three daily desserts – or stick with the regular menu.

We have not had either since we had cheese and delicious hams from the nearby Gordes farmers market waiting in our room to be eaten with a bottle of red Aureto wine we got as a welcome present upon check-in at the hotel housing the restaurant.

Drinks: From the very affordable Aureto wines from the Domaine La Coquillade through other local interesting wines to the French icons, the wine list has little to offer from many French regions.

Contact: +33(0) 490 74 71 71

Address: La Coquillade; Demeure de Prestige; 84 400 Gargas; France

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