The chain-ification of esteemed chef Joël Robuchon’s upscale restaurant L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon has forced it to shed some of the fun that once made it groundbreaking, Pete Wells writes in his review of the new Chelsea outpost of the restaurant.
Robuchon — a French chef who has more Michelin-starred restaurants than anyone else in the world — returned to New York last fall after closing the first location about five years ago. But L’Atelier may now just be “the world’s most expensive chain restaurant,” Wells writes, noting that most of the customers he overheard had been to several other locations.
And while chef Christophe Bellanca’s technique is on-point, “some crucial connection has been lost, the spontaneity and directness that was, I think, the point of the Atelier experiment,” Wells says. The best part of the meals came from baker Tetsuya Yamaguchi and pastry chef Salvatore Martone:
[Yamaguchi’s] masterpiece is called the escargot, a swirl of savory brioche dough with olive oil between its many warm and flaky layers. He also bakes baguettes that seem to be shrunken versions of full-scale ones; at that size they could be all crust, but somehow he keeps the crust in proportion with the rest, and they are a joy to eat.
Meanwhile the pastry chef, Salvatore Martone, is making some of the finest and airiest chocolate soufflés in the city, like dark-chocolate vapor tricked into solid form. He disguises a tarte Tatin as a shiny red Snow White apple; in another optical illusion, he fashions a replica of a lemon out of blown sugar, then fills it with lemon sorbet, and while I wished it tasted as much like lemon as it looked, it was a good dessert.
Still, with tasting menus between $145 and $395, it’s a pricey way to have a satisfying — and ultimately not that exciting — meal, Wells writes. Two stars.