Greetings from Europe!
To begin the international food adventures, let's celebrate with 2 Michelin Star restaurant (chain), L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Saint-Germain. We tidied ourselves up from "student-traveller-trying-to-fit-two-seasons-and-clinical-placement-into-a-20kg-bag" attire and I put on my one formal dress to be worn to all Michelin Star restaurants. Going full keen-bean and getting there 15min early, the doors weren't even open yet; so we waited outside and perused our fellow dining companions. Mostly older, mostly couples and stinking of money (most we dropped off by private cars to the driveway of the restaurants). We were the youngest there, highlighted by the fact we ordered still water rather than pairing every course with Sommelier-matched wines.
Atelier is set up open-bar style, with the idea that you can watch your meal getting prepared; it makes for a more casual environment and means waiters present the food in front of you rather than over your shoulder.
The bread basket presented was pretty spectacular. A range of white bread, wholemeal rolls and grain-speckled dinner rolls were on display - all for us! They were of course, up to the Parisian standard of excellent carbs.
Though most Michelin Star Restaurants offer A La Carte options, I'm a stupidly big fan of degustations, so I opted for the "Discovery" Menu (175€/pp). What follows will be both the French and google-translated versions of the menu, as best as I can do. Feel free to comment below, you Francophiles, to tighten the descriptions. The menu online promised L'Amuse-Bouche but I didn't see any sign of it.
LE CRABE ROYAL: aux fines lamelles de Daikon épicées
First up was The Royal Crab: with thin strips of spicy Daikon. This was quite a light and delicate starter, with strong but delicious crab meat which matched perfectly with the Daikon and dots of spinach and crab cream sauce.
|LA TOMATE: en gaspacho, croutons dorés sous un sorbet moutarde à l'ancienne|
Gazpacho is hitting Paris in a massive way (they even had a documentary about it), and being a big fan of tomato I was glad. This particular Gazpacho featured browned croutons paired with grainy mustard sorbet. It was as amazing as it sounds, a refreshing, light gazpacho which was complimented by the hit of cold mustard sorbet. It was served tantalisingly cold and the plating was beautiful.
|LE CAVIAR: chaud-froid d'œuf à l'érable, saumon Gravelax aux agrumes et à la Vodka|
The Caviar with hot-cold maple egg and Salmon gravelax with vodka citrus was definitely the highlight of the evening for me. The presentation was great - I love anything presented in little egg shells (like the chawanmushi at Shoya, Melbourne, Australia) and this foie-gras infused-egg was rich and satisfying. The caviar only added to the decadence of the dish. The salmon gravlax was delicious, like I'd died and gone to heaven. It was a nice size too.
|LA LANGOUSTINE: grilée sur une rave végétale au basilic Thai coraillé|
Now, for those who had no idea like myself, as per wiki: Nephrops norvegicus, known as the langoustine or scampi, is a slim, orange-pink lobster which grows up to 25 cm long, and is "the most important commercial crustacean in Europe". Which would explain why it is featured in most tasting menus at most Michelin Star restaurants across Europe. This particular Langoustine was prepared grilled, presented on a Thai basil. What the description doesn't mention is there was a pillowy ravioli and green bean hidden under that langoustine, and surrounded by a tomato foam. This was delicious and the bean made for an interesting addition to the dish. The flesh or the langoustine was very tender with a strong taste but probably my least favourite of the three parts.
|LE FOIE GRAS: de canard chaud, cerises et amandes fraiches dans un jus acidulé à l'hibiscus|
Direct translation means warm fatty liver of duck, cherries and almonds in a tangy fresh hibiscus sauce; but we all call it Foie Gras instead, to try and distance ourselves from the cruel means it originates from. Battling my hypocrisy I succumbed to the beautifully smooth, rich Foie Gras. I was so surprised at how well it went with the cherries, the strong sweetness cutting through the heavier decadence. It was again, the perfect size; any more would have been too rich.
|LE GYOZA: à la plancha, farcie de volaille, dans son bouillon au parfum d'Asie|
The Japanese couple sitting next to us were pretty chuffed to see the next dish arrive, chicken Gyoza served in Asian-style broth. This had an interesting but not very strong flavour. The broth was delicious!
|LE ROUGET: de roche, girolles printanières et pois nouveaux à la racine de curcuma jaune|
The next dish was Rock Mullet (fish) with mushrooms, fresh spring peas from the vine with yellow tumeric. I found the mullet to be too salty, but I did enjoy the "green" taste of the peas and sauce which neutralised some of the salt. The mushrooms were done perfectly and with so much flavour. An enjoyable dish but not standout.
For the mains we were presented with a choice of Lamb, Quail or Black Angus. We opted for the Lamb Chops with thyme and the Black Angus with shallot confit in a juice of black cardamom and tarragon.
[not sampled - LA CAILLE: farcie de foie gras et caramélisée avec une pomme purée truffée]
|L'AGNEAU DE LAIT: en côtelettes à la fleur de thym|
The Lamb was succulent and tender, though tiny (though at this stage I was becoming surprisingly full); and that little blob in front was the potato mash. My God that was divine. Incredibly decadent due to the fact it was mostly butter.
Then we were presented with another little bowl each; it killed me that I couldn't finish it due to the richness of the whole meal so far. Argh!
|LE BLACK ANGUS: à la plancha, échalotes confites sous un jus à la cardamone noire et à l'estragon|
As I tried the Black Angus I remember thinking 'oh yeah, a steak', being neither impressed nor disappointed with the dish. I definitely enjoyed my lamb a lot more, which had better combinations of flavours and more enjoyable (fatty) meat.
|LE PARFUM DES ILES: crème aux fruits de la passion et à la banane, granité au rhum, légèreté à la noix de coco|
And then, onto my beloved desserts! The Scent of Islands was a passionfruit and banana cream with rum granita, and coconut lightness. A great dessert to start on, my little cup was in no way enough to satisfy my stomach. The passionfruit and banana melded well together and the granita lifted the dessert up. That little caramel shard on top was a nice crunch and the chocolate disc introduced us to the next dessert.
|LE CHOCOLAT TENTATION: ganache onctueuse au chocolat Araguani, glace au grué de cacao, biscuit Oréo|
The Chocolate Temptation was a creamy chocolate ganache with Araguani cocoa nib ice-cream and Oreo cookie. This was so chocolatey I regret to say I didn't finish it. The embellishment on top was like a metallic coloured Smartie, and the inside had a decadent mix of chocolate ganache and the ice-cream. I didn't even finish the beautifully sprayed chocolate disc!
All in all a wonderful experience, I left satisfied and ready to take on the upcoming Michelin Stars on the trip. Cool side note, "Dogs are allowed" in Atelier and a couple utilised this fact with their pooch in a handbag! Best.