Taiwanxifu is excited to present a guest blog post from Maria Tan, a Taipei based writer, consultant and foodie. Maria has agreed to share her experience of dining at Taipei’s L’Atelier, a French fine dining restaurant that is part of a series run by the world’s most Michelen-star decorated chef, Joël Robuchon.
A good friend and I had dinner at L’Atelier de JoëlRobuchon in Bella Vita last Monday. We had decided a week earlier to eat out and my friend wanted to do French. We were tossing ideas about where to dine in when we both agreed to patron the Michelin Guide listed restaurant. I called a few days earlier to make reservations, and was asked if I wanted the counter, the bar, or the sofa. There’s a NT$2000 minimum charge per person, but I thought that wouldn’tbe a problem since we were planning to go for their set menus. Words can’t fully describe my excitement. It was my first visit and a while since I had been to a French restaurant.
We met at the lobby and rode the elevator up. When the doors opened, the very courteous staff were waiting. Once seated, we were immediately served with water and were shown their menus. Since it was dinnertime, we were given the “DECOUVERTE” menu and the “COMPOSEZ” menu. The first includes all their recommendations – but not without the hefty price tag. It cost NT$6800! If it were lunch (or my birthday), I would perhaps consider this, but since it was dinner, I opted for the latter, where there were three different set menus to choose from and the best part, you could“design” your menu. The options cost NT$1380, NT$2080, or NT$2880. You choose your entrée, plat (dish, i.e. main), and dessert. And if you go for something more “exotic”, you can add it on. For example, you can choose their foie gras for an extra NT$450.
My friend went for Menu C (2 entrees or starters, 2 plates or main dishes, 1 dessert, coffee or tea) and I went for Menu A (1 entree, 1 PLAT and 1 dessert). We were both served with amuse bouche, which literally means “mouth pleasers”. It was actually a bread basket put together by the chef and came at no extra cost.
For my entree, I had LE POULPE en carpacciolégèrementacidulé aux œufs de saumonoctopus carpaccio topped with salmon eggs. I loved its tanginess and the feel it left in my mouth.
My friend ordered the LE RISOTTO au foiegraspoêlé et vieux parmesan (pan seared foiegras with parmesan risotto).
… and the LE HOMARD en salade choux fleur croquant et mozzarella (lobster in salad of cauliflower and mozzarella.
For my plat, I got the LE LIEU servisuruneembeurrée de chou, sauce vierge au câpres (seared filefish with baby cabbage, capers, and lemon).
and my friend got the L’AMADAI cuit en ecaillesdans un jus d’artichauts aux olives noires (shallow fried Amadai fish with “Barigoule” artichoke and black olive).
and the LE CANARD roti aux epices, cerisesconfites et chutney d’abricots: pan seared duck filet with apricot chutney.
I loved mine a lot. It just captured the taste I wanted – light yet sensational. My friend’s first reaction with the Amadai was: “there are scales!” But she ate them anyway and she enjoyed it. As for the duck, it didn’t impress either of us. (I tried it, too.) The chutney was a bit out of proportion; I thought it was too heavy. Besides, duck + chutney just didn’t make sense for us. The meat wasn’t appealing enough. She didn’t even finish it and I didn’t volunteer, either.
The dessert was the best part. Every meal deserves a happy ending! We were both getting full already but as my friend said, “we always have room for dessert!” At first, we were a bit disappointed when the server said we only had a choice of four desserts. She had the LE MASCARPONE façon Tiramisu, accompagnée de son expresso glacé (mascarpone “tiramisu style” with espresso sorbet). It was divine: imagine a blend of sweet and bitter and love!
Since my friend got the tiramisu, which was also the most obvious choice for me, I asked our server to choose mine. And…heaven! It was spectacular –LA BANANE sursa crème fondante au chocolate aux éclats de miel (banana and milk mousse with coconut ice cream and honey caramel chips). That banana and milk mousse really hit the spot!
I also ordered the cheese platter (I just love cheese!) and of course, wine! I can’t enjoy the meal without a glass. I asked the server for the wine list. He returned shortly with it and sommelier in tow. My friend only wanted a sip or two and hence I was thinking of just ordering a glass. As the sommelier was giving some suggestions, I thought, well, maybe I should get abottle instead as it’s more cost-effective. I mean, their glass rate is around NT$400-500 and the chardonnay the sommelier was suggesting was just NT$2100. So I went with the bottle and though I had every intention of taking it home after our meal, I ended up finishing the whole lot. My friend did get half a glass. It just shows that I’m really a sucker for good food paired with wine!
We had earl grey tea after our meals. To our surprise, it was accompanied by macarons! Hmmm, I can still taste mine melting in my mouth!
I can say everything was valuable. Yes, the meal was costly. (Our bill was just short of ten grand — New Taiwan dollars!.) But the décor, the ambiance, the service were something you cannot get just anywhere. I loved the food, and of course the wine. But my favorite part of all? Well, let’s just say you might find it strange but it’s actually the picture below.
I asked the staff if they couldwrite down the name of what we had orderedor else I’d forget . And they typed it out for me – typed – on good quality, semi-glossy specialty paper. (Mine looks a bit crumpled since I put it in my purse and had to fold it in two.) It really caught me off guard. I was impressed! This was real service. And when I asked them to write down the names of the cheese we had, they even drew the platter for me and numbered the cheeses. Well, what else can I say? This is what separates this restaurantfrom the others!
Maria Tan is a freelance writer, consultant and food lover. In her spare time, she tries out great food with friends and does a lot of shopping and reading. You can reach her at maria.tan@Outlook.com