With 26 Michelin Stars, master chef Joel Robuchon is definitely in a class of his own. In fact, no chef on Earth even comes close. So, when my wife and mother surprised me with a weekend trip to Paris, I made reservations at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon as quickly as I could. But, I didn't make reservations at the newer L'Atelier on the Champs Elysees. I made reservations for Joel's Two Michelin Starred L'Atelier in Saint-Germain. However, when we arrived we were told we hadn't made reservations there and to go to their sister restaurant, the NO Michelin Star Etoile. As my wife would say in her Queen's English, "one was not amused."
Being the upbeat, positive souls we are, we brushed off the defeat and staggered up the Champs Elysees cursing under our breath and hoping the woman who turned us away hadn't made a mistake. But if she had, my God, there would be emails flying into the inboxes of every executive in Joel's company. And indeed, that is exactly what happened. We did get an apology, but nothing else.
Beaten and weary, but looking forward to L'Atelier Etoile we clambered to our barstools and began the arduous task of translating the menu from French to English. With a little help from our waitress, we ordered and prayed that nothing was lost in translation. And nothing was. The meal that followed will be seared into my memory and imprisoned on my taste buds for a very long time.
Our palates were cleansed with a Foie Gras Mousse, topped with Parmesan Foam, that was light, refreshing and intense. My Beef Tongue starter was more of the same. It was accompanied by small Green Bell Peppers and mild Japanese Peppers. My wife's Spaghetti was, and I want to try and say this as eloquently as possible, stupidly, insanely tasty. Unlike any Spaghetti I have ever had. The Aubergines tasted like a thick Filet of Beef and it was topped with a Ricotta that was so vibrant I nearly stood up and Riverdanced. Rounding out the delicious appetizers was my mum's Foie Gras. It was light, creamy and delicate. Lots of care was put into creating this dish.
If the meal had ended there, we all could have walked away sated and ready for the long drive back to England. But there was more. My main course, Steak Tartare with Frites was a classically prepared example of this French bistro staple. Just the right amount of acid and tart to round and bring out the the raw beef flavors. My mum's Quail, which rested on a mound of Foie Gras, nearly gave me a coronary, but it would have been worth it.
But, the real champion of the meal, was my wife's Steak. Why is it that she always orders the best thing on the menu? At 45 Euros, this was also one of the most expensive on the menu. Maybe I just answered my own question. It was, without question, or reservation, the best steak we have ever had. Huge, tender, flavorful and apparently, German. That's right, the steak used at L'Atelier Etoile does not come from France, but Germany. The chef had clearly only shown the flame of the grill to the steak, because it was raw, raw, raw. Exactly how it should be. I wonder how many people, seeing how raw it was, have sent it back to be charred. Poor chefs. As raw as it was, there was no blood. Just clear juices and red, raw meat. The fat was charred slightly on the edges, which produced explosive flavor. I will compare this steak to every other steak I eat from now on.
Too full to eat dessert, we left L'Atelier, still upset about the nasty woman in Saint-Germain, but bellies sated and happy. In fact, I wouldn't of done it any other way. L'Atelier Etoile was delicious, friendly and vibrant. There will no doubt be several more Michelin Stars on the horizon for Joel. Highest marks!
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