mercredi 14 mai 2008

Paris, Robuchon: Table or Atelier?

When in Paris, there are two ways of tasting Robuchon branded-food: one is the most famous Atelier, which I reviewed a few months ago. The other is the more discreet and conventional La Table, in the 16th. It is more conventional because, as the name suggests, there are tables. And you can get a reservation. And there is service. Some pretty excellent service, actually. I think what impressed me most is when they brought an extra pair of spoons, having noticed that we were tasting each other's courses. Oh, and also, they don't rush you out by sending you everything you have ordered at the same time.

Another significant appeal of La Table is the best of all Robuchon traditions: a very affordable lunch menu, including wine, water and coffee (and service of course) at 55 euro. Because I would do anything for you, I volunteered to try. It started with a very well done amuse of foie gras mousse, porto reduction, and parmesan mousse. It's testament to their style: great ingredients first, simple but subtle preparations -- back to basics.

Then there was a soup of green peas with three goat cheese raviolis inside. The dough of the ravioli was so thin that it was barely noticeable, so the course was really pea and cheese. It's an interesting pairing, underlining the light acidity of the cheese, playing on a contrast of temperature as well. But it is mostly interesting because of the perfect soup, a "velouté" they call it, and velouté it is, incredibly onctuous. Indeed they do it as should be, meaning that they actually peel the peas one by one. And they blend it over and over again. And they have some very nice crème fraîche, that can't hurt. In any case, it is a demonstration that was is precious about haute cuisine is the skill and the labour more than the ingredients themselves. In general, this menu is a brilliant demonstration that top cuisine doesn't need expensive ingredients. So much so that, quite frankly, I'm not sure I even want to try their "regular" fine dining, lobster and veal chop and all.

Then came an absolut Robuchon classic, the Merlan frit Colbert. It's just that great and simple -- hardly different from l'Atelier, though maybe even lighter. The fish flesh is melty and almost immaterial, the very thin crumb only protect the flesh, seasons it and, of course, crisps. Fried parsley is on the side is not lighter than air but lighter than thin paper. And the infamous Robuchon purée came on the side, as with each Robuchon course these days. There again, it felt less ridiculously buttery than at l'Atelier, where, as I wrote, it is more a sauce than a side.
My codiner, I should mention, has a codfish course that was very perfect as well, and that felt so healty that I suspect that eating it can replace fitness.

Dessert was a textbook clafoutis, not unlike the one at Jamin back in the days. One often associate clafoutis memories with guilty child memories, a rich sweet. But the Robuchon version is not too sweet, not heavy, just onctuous. Of course the cherries have their stones in, which is also part of the pleasure. Just yum.

Okay, okay, I confess: I added some extras that are a big charm of the Robuchon places, where you can order tasting portions of great recipes. There was a funny artichoke/langoustine dish, with cute little langoustines that made the same irresistible impression as baby vegetables, if you know what I mean. On an artichoke mousse, there were tomato and sweet pepper dices, squid and the langoustines. There again, very fresh, very healthy, though I am not entirely sure that it is the best way to put this seafood forward. It's more like a sophisticated version of shrimp cocktail.

And there was also the sweetbread -- because the one at l'Atelier is the best in town, I would not go to a Robuchon place without having some. The recipe, on laurel and with Romaine, is the same at both places. But the one at la Table is more brown and caramelised, while the one at l'Atelier is almost white and so melty that it is almost creamy. It is nevertheless thoroughly enjoyable.

So: l'Atelier, or la Table? Well, La table's cooking is lighter, gentler and more consistent. But l'Atelier, quite frankly, still has some wows like their sweetbread. Both are excellent choices, but in different circumstances: La Table is, as you would have guessed, for a real meal. L'Atelier, really, is good for high end snacking before or after theatre or concert (plus, those are the only times where you might get a seat). L'Atelier really does not do the work of offering fine dining experience, but only some teasers to the food component of it. But all in all, la Table is a place where I plan to go regularly, especially for lunch.

1 commentaire:

Anonyme a dit…

Rubbish are both of these restaurants. Ain't anymore from the real Robuchon and it's just a trademark now with pre set fooding of a certain quality, at a "reasonable price for a 2 star restaurant"... The 2 stars are far from being justified, that's where the problem is.
Modern food... as they say.
miserable service...
sigh !
Just go to Adeline Grattard's new restaurant and you'll have an idea of what a new Chef can really do ! Delicious, pure, exquisite cuisine... This is the real new cuisine, not for dumbs !