Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I could fly home to New York on this little cloud of happiness

I hemmed and I hawed. I’ve been eating so much lately, I didn’t really need to go to the new l’Atlelier de Joel Robuchon, where I knew I would want to eat beaucoup. Then again, I’m in Paris for only 3.5 more weeks. Why wouldn’t I go??

As soon as I arrived, it was special. Especially since I saw M. Robuchon there in the open kitchen. Quel chance!

The host greeted me by name, “Amy!” (I guess they don’t have many single girls making reservations for one…), guided to my corner at the bar, and seated between two pairs of men.

“Une coupe de champagne?”

“Oui!” I enthusiastically accepted. Pourquoi pas? I was at l’Atlelier de Joel Robuchon! M. Robuchon was right there! I’m only in Paris for a few more weeks!

Having never been to any of his restaurants, I wanted a good cross-sampling but I wasn’t up for the Discovery Menu. No matter. There were dozens of options. I had a feast.

I started with a basic salad, which was anything but. Endive, walnut, Stilton, apple: we’ve all had it, but not like this. It was light and effervescent. Super.

As were the procession of other small plates: John Dory with coriander, lime and a tomato compote, black cod with daikon, and salsifis—a root that I was totally unfamiliar with, but was given to me by M. Robuchon as un cadeau. It was served skewered on brochettes, topped with a creamy Parmesan and slivers of fried potato. Sigh.

The two pairs of men I was seated between included two Michelin reviewers, and two older gentlemen. The former two told me the latter two are part of The Club des Cent, “the dark power behind French gastronomy.”

I enjoyed speaking with them all. The reviewers were middle-aged and quite down to earth and friendly. They pointed out other people in the restaurant I should have recognized. Like the actors Jean Reno and Charles Aznavour and the former prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

The “dark power duo” were also quite charming though reserved until the end of the meal. They’ve known Joel Robuchon for 40 years and assured me he is the most loyal friend and collaborator; known to be lovely to his clients and tough in the kitchen. Indeed, M. Robuchon was lovely. He chatted plenty with me, “Mademoiselle Amy”, and everyone else, on both sides of the bar/kitchen.

After seeing one of the reviewers get the caramel soufflé for dessert, well, guess what I had to finish the meal?

Except my (delicious and light) soufflé wasn’t the end. By that point, most everyone in the restaurant was gone and there I sat, befriended by the staff, if only for the day. Antoine poured me a glass of wine and Patrick insisted I have another dessert that the pastry chef, Francois Benot, wanted to share with me; a mélange of banana, passionfruit, rum, granita and cream that they developed in the Seychelles.

By the time I rolled out of there, with many handshakes and “enchantées” and smiles, I was beyond sated, beyond charmed, just… beyond. It was just perfect.


  1. I was with you every yummy & special to have that time surrounded by extraordinary people of note...great writing about a sweet experience in Paris. God, I want to go there now....:)~ Joanie Ballard

  2. Wow! What a special experience you had! I got jealous just reading that! Mr Robuchon himself - such a lucky girl! I wanted to dine there on my last trip to Paris but they could not accommodate me - which was terribly disappointing. At least you can tuck that night into your memories - exceptional food and terrific company. What more could you ask for?
    Are you really leaving Paris for good in 3 weeks?

  3. What a great story! Only 3.5 weeks to go so indulge, indulge, indulge! And report back to us.

  4. Oh, how delightful the meal but it must tug even harder on your heart and soul to leave that magical city. I'm taking my granddaughter for New Year's eve and I'm already miserable that it will only be six days. I have fallen madly in love with Paris. Wish I'd discovered it's magical spell when I was younger.
    Love your blog.

  5. Such a great story! I'm jealous :-) Enjoy your last weeks!!

    Peut-etre M. R. knew these reviewers were present...?
    And how could he treat a guest stuck between them in a lesser manner?
    Very quelle chance I would say and I would LOVE to have benn in yr shoes...though i wonder if I would have had the nerve to take a picture or two...?
    At least the caramel souffle would get framed for posterity!!!

  7. PS
    Would LOVE to know what the l'addition came to?
    Even Simon says shares the bill with le monde..ahem

  8. wow...sounds like a fabulous meal! I haven't eaten there for you've inspired me to get back there soon!

  9. **sigh** is right! Sounds like you had an unforgettable and amazing experience...

  10. Way to go out with a bang! I've been her 5 years and haven't had anything half as interesting happen. I wonder if my husband will be offended if I get dressed up and go dine by myself on occasion :)

  11. Oh, what a dream! I'm so jealous!

  12. HOLY COW! Was that a once-in-a-lifetime experience or *what*? That is so cool, Amy! And during your last weeks here, too. I'm **so** happy for you. I'm actually grinning here as I type this (and you have to read my comments on Kasia's blog -- your story there -- to really know why I am grinning so hard. :D You are converting me, dear Amy, through your love and enthusiasm in your experiences, especially the serendipitous ones. Thank you).

  13. P.S. *whispering to you* I hope it is not really inappropriate, although mostly it just shows how my own perverted thoughts can go, but I read this part:

    "The “dark power duo” were also quite charming though reserved until the end of the meal."

    And for some reason, the way that I read it, I thought, "Oh dear lord, they did not inappropriately *proposition* our little Amy, did they?!" LOL. I dunno. I got a little scared that's where the story was going, but it was just a mélange of banana, passionfruit, rum, granita and cream, not a ménage à Amy avec the dark power duo. WHEW.

    Hahahahaha! I'm horrible.

    P.S.S. YOU SAW JEAN RENO?!?! Squeeeeeeee!!!!