February 6, 2007

L'Atelier de Robuchon in HK

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I decided to give this new restaurant a try since it's been open for a couple of months. The reviews have been good so far despite the drawback of not being able to BYO.

The space if very modern and rather dark - mostly black and grey granite. As you enter you pass thru the wine cellar with a showcase display rack (more about this later). What follows then is a winding path around several corners of the "show kitchen" where patrons sit on high chairs much like a sushi bar and face the chefs as they prepare the food. Finally, you walk past a private room and enter the main dining room, which is actually considered Le Jardin.

We sat at a table for two (banquette seating for one person) and noted that space was rather cramped. The interesting thing is that if the waiter stood between tables to serve the customer sitting on the banquette, s/he would have to carefully maneuver out of the tight space like putting a car in reverse and walking backwards.

As you would expect, there is a tasting menu which featured creations in small portions. As our reservation was rather late, we decided not to go for this option. What is encouraging is that half of the à la carte menu is made up of items in tasting portions (some of which are identical to courses in the tasting menu), so you can create your own tasting menu by choosing exactly the items you want as well as the number of courses. This is very much like some of the restaurants in San Sebastian where everything is available in half portions. I chose 4 tasting portions - all meat based and all were very good.

The pied de cochon was made into a rillette and served on baguette slices with thin wafers of black Périgord truffle and parmesan on top.

The foie gras d'oie was a very smooth mousse (I would have preferred a slightly viscous, richer version) served with the usual gelée, thin slices of black Périgord truffle, and plenty of gold foil on top.

The caille came in two pieces - a cute, sausage-like cut of breast stuffed with foie gras as well as the leg with the bone protruding out (reminding me of the quail at per se in NY), and the creamiest of potato purée topped with ground black truffle.

Finally the ris de veau came in one rather large chunk which was quite creamy, although I would have preferred smaller pieces and slightly more crispy on the outside. The single leaf of romaine lettuce covered tiny cubes of cooked ham, and was flavored with the juices of the ham.

BTW the calamar was also excellent, as the flavors blended well with the chorizo

Dessert was excellent and I highly recommend the white chocolate pastelle, which was a blend of white chocolate / caramel mousse served with a rum sauce and thin, flavored wafers of white chocolate.

For those who prefer rich desserts at the end of the meal, the chocolate vanilla is perhaps a better choice, although the vanilla cream is a bit heavy for me.

Now the wine list. It is simply amazing and no doubt the best in Hong Kong, and probably second in Asia only to Robuchon a Galera in Macau. The list is extensive with many trophy bottles, and a good selection of half bottles among the Bordeaux and some Burgundies. Prices are quite reasonable and appears to substantiate the rumors that they transported these in from Macau. This is the reason for not allowing BYO, as there is definitely enough of a choice for most of us.

As I stood by the display rack after the meal, I first came upon one corner of the cellar displaying vintage port. Several bottles of Quinta do Noval Nacional '63 and '70 were in full view, as well as 2-3 bottles of the Quinta do Noval '31 (NOT the Nacional but just the "regular" bottling from this most famous of port vintages).

Next was the "Burgundy wall" and everything from eye level down was DRC and Leroy, which a few Ramonet Montrachets and Coche-Dury whites acting as "filler". I didn't bother to look at the "Bordeaux wall" as it was just rows of Petrus, Mouton and other first growths. But as we were heading for the door, the last side/corner of the cellar caught my attention. Numerous bottles of vintage sherry (similar to ones I had seen at Macau Duty Free) were displayed, as were rows of Yquem. I was curious about which vintages were stocked, and to my absolute surprise I counted three bottles of the legendary '21 Yquem... What I wouldn't give to sample this amazing nectar that one London brokers lists for a mere GBP 6,000+ in bond...

Anyway. Looks like I will be returning to this establishment very soon.

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