There is still an extravagance about L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, which, as reported by FACT last year, joined DIFC’s already glamorous dining scene. One more late-night spot for well-heeled, DIFC residents insatiable for cocktails and hot spots.
First impressions reassures that L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon meets the need. The long bar leaves acres of space from which to people watch, be seen and to sip handcrafted amethyst-tinted, lavender-scented beverages.
The signature L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon look lands dramatically. The theatrical crimson and charcoal decor cascades across the dining room. An ash-veined marble floor rises to create a modern bar that straddles the open-plan kitchen. From here, diners gaze and graze upon a diligent hive of onyx-garbed cooks busily churning out Robuchon classics á la minute.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon smoulders as the front of house chaperons us through the dimly-lit dining room to our table while throbbing dance beats pulse from the DJ booth.
It all feels a bit seductive and dangerous. Any minute now, Uma Thurman will emerge from the kitchen a la Kill Bill — lacquered in high-vis yellow — wielding the katana that prepped our wild sea bream carpaccio, ever so gently acidulated with lime juice, spiked with scarlet espelette pepper and a scattering of bright, finely-sliced chives.
The Robuchon brand is synonymous with precision, having spearheaded French fine dining in France, Hong Kong and New York. Joël Robuchon was awarded “Chef of the Century” and amassed a constellation of 32 Michelin stars across his restaurants, more than any other chef, before passing in 2018.
Today, Joël Robuchon’s protegee and former Head Chef of Robuchon’s Parisian L’Atelier, Axel Manes, continues the Robuchon legacy. Axel’s capable floor team chaperone us through L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon’s dining highlights. A small pizza lightly shingled with summer truffle (a recurring theme of the evening) arrives pillowy soft to start us off. There is bread, and then there is Robuchon bread.
The tomato tartare is a sprightly slab of summer that answers the question: what happens with all those fibrous bits from a gazpacho? (But in a good way). This vegetal, blush-hued portion of finely chopped tomatoes is laced with cream giving the illusion of being good for you, but satisfies in only the way bad things can. A duo of langoustine and foie gras ravioli is bedsheet thin under a buttery emulsion and parcels a sweet langoustine that gives way to unmistakably lardaceous foie gras. The sheer joy realised by technical acrobatics reconfirms why Robuchon left an indelible stamp on modern cooking.
The highlights are high, while a few dishes middle along. Some themes are all too familiar. A haul of truffles topped over four different dishes became a predictable trope. Take the glossy, rich mouthful of spaghetti that wanted a few moments longer in hot water.
We did not order the infamous Robuchon pomme purée because, well firstly, you should never meet your idols. You see, my wife routinely pats my head and reassuringly whispers that I make the best mashed potato in the world. Who would I be to prove her wrong and shatter the illusion for both of us? Happy wife, happy life.
But back to dinner.
Informed gastronomes wax lyrical about the virtues of certain other L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon’s courses. A splendid dish L’Artichaud: a crisp confit artichoke, appearing as if in full bloom, nestled on a bed of velvety, umami-rich Parmesan risotto.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon finds its lane among DIFC’s stockpile of high-end eateries. Who should come here? Cocktail lovers seeking to pitch up at a bar for pre-dinner drinks. Diners searching for the Robuchon magic without the need to get on a plane. French classic habitués longing for the old familiar.
GO: Visit https://atelier-robuchon.ae for reservations and more information.