57 East 57th Street nr. Park Ave.
After opening in Paris, Vegas & Tokyo, New York finally gets a L’Atelier of its own. Having received three consecutive Michelin stars (which is like receiving three Oscars), Joel Robuchon was considered the "chef of the century", praised for his peerless French fare. You might ask what took him so damn long to get here, but that would be like looking a gift horse in the mouth. Besides, after almost retiring permanently from the restaurant business at the tender age of 51, foodies are just glad he’s back in the kitchen and officially opening for business in the Four Seasons Hotel, September 5th (reservation lines open August 15th). But starting August 9th, L’Atelier’s open to the public for lunch & dinner on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Somehow, I managed to slip inside L’Atelier for a sneak preview and even met the famed and surprisingly humble chef in the flesh. This isn’t just another pretentious, over-priced restaurant with flashy accents. Apart from sky-high ceilings and a regal mirrored bar, L’Atelier conveys an understated elegance by means of caramel wood walls, leather banquettes & red trimmings. While L’Atelier has inherited Pei’s architectural design from former resident, Fifty Seven Fifty Seven restaurant, Robuchon has also added his own touches, most noticeably a grand eating bar. With 20 centerstage seats looking directly into the open kitchen (a signature feature in every L’Atelier around the globe), these are hands-down the most precious spots in the house. Rather than hiding behind kitchen doors, Robuchon plans to bring the kitchen to us in hopes of providing diners with what he personally refers to as, "eater-tainment", a dinner theater of sorts.
This isn’t just the Joel Robuchon show; L’Atelier’s team of power players include, executive chef Yosuke Suga, who left his Tokyo post to grace us with his cooking, & pastry chef, Kazutoshi Naritz, set to spin sophisticated desserts.
As for the French menu, you won’t find any foam or molecular magic tricks at this French restaurant. Robuchon firmly believes the superiority of the ingredients should speak for themselves, asserting, "Chicken should taste like chicken. Steak should taste like steak." (I’m no Frank Bruni, but I have to agree). L’Atelier will feature signature dishes, like truffled mashed potatoes, foie gras-stuffed quail and spicy steak tartare, as well as local ingredient-driven additions. In fact, Robuchon’s intent on using uniquely regional ingredients whenever possible, and said he was overwhelmed by the many top NYC chefs who called him, eager and willing, to share their food sources with him. I can’t wait to taste this show.
Until we eat again,
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