1) In a case of history-making that wasn't to be, The Bruni awarded L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon a mere three stars, as opposed to the four on which it had set its sights (or, perhaps more accurately, prices). Some, such as Robu's PR army, will say the review was unfairly timed, since most of Frank's gripes deal with rough service and/or inconsistencies in presentation--in theory the very issues that get resolved in time. The bottom line is that he likes the food and the chef, but it just isn't a restaurant for the ages:
The hotel intrudes on the restaurant, challenging a fundamental reason for the counter arrangement — to allow you undistracted communion with your food. You have to walk through the vast lobby to get to L’Atelier, and then you have to tune out the crowd in an unrelated bar area outside the restaurant’s entrance, which provides too little of a buffer.Also, on the interesting subtext issue of complacency and the elephant in the room fact that Robuchon is a consultant on this restaurant:
But once you do, you’ll encounter unusual dishes whose exceptional refinement and seductiveness can’t be denied, like a succulent piece of langoustine, deep-fried in a cradle of crunchy pastry so thin and delicate that the whole basil leaf between it and the langoustine’s flesh is plainly visible.
Why hasn’t all of this been worked out? Maybe because it doesn’t have to be — because chefs regarded as demigods aren’t compelled to sweat the small stuff. L’Atelier suggests what happens when we too readily genuflect. But it amply illustrates why Mr. Robuchon attracts such ardent worship in the first place.As an added bonus to all this, Restaurant Girl concurs: three stars. [NYT, Restaurant Girl]
2) Lauren Collins over at Tables for Two files on Dirty Bird this week. (Hey, remember this one?) Though there hasn't been much by way of buzz on the place in several months, it now appears as if Alison and Slade Vines-Rushing may have finally stabilized their kitchen, if not the fried bird: "Rotisserie trumps fried or fingers; a whole, likewise, is preferable to a half or a quarter. The shallot corn bread may be soggy, but the kale is lush and redeemed from benign worthiness by dustings of red-pepper flakes and garlic. Mac and cheese (elbows, not shells) has a sweet fondue taste; Jojo’s slow-roasted potatoes are perfectly browned and flecked with chives. There are even freshly baked cookies, and cold, fizzy bottles of Abita root beer. Order in a mess of their food next time you have people over, and try not to feel bad about being unable to cook anything this good." [NYer]
Ahead, Strong on the new Tasting Room and Elsewhere aplenty.
3) Finally today, we come to Tasting Room, which has received quite a bit of critical attention since its relocation and expansion to Elizabeth Street. Though some have loved it (such as the Gotham Gal, linked below) Andrea Strong jots down the impressions that seem to have struck most people:
I’m gonna be straight with you. It’s not the same as it was.The Tasting Room, in its new expanded location, is decidedly different. And that’s good in some ways and not so good in others...All-in, it gets a Strong good in a sleek, compact 1,600 words. [Strong]
I have to be honest here, I miss the old Tasting Room. It’s just not the same in the new restaurant. But I guess that’s not the point, to be the same. We have to allow people to evolve and grow, and we have to allow for restaurants to do the same. I do love a lot of things about the new restaurant, especially the spectacular new bar and cocktail program. And I give Colin a lot of credit for his steadfast dedication, and his almost religious dedication to the Greenmarket. Every ingredient used in that restaurant, other than the lemons and limes for the bar, is sourced from a local farm; even the onions and carrots used for mire poix.
Elsewhere, Robert Sietsema at In Tent, Peter Meehan discovers a new burger at Royale, Paul Adams at Via Emilia, Underground Gourmet at Bocca Lupo, Strong on Lonesome Dove on the verge of its Deathwatch, Gotham Gal at Tasting Room, Please Don't Pass the Nuts at Candle Cafe and Ryan Sutton with the early word on Porter Hosue and STK.