L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Hong Kong

Earlier this year, my friend KC and I had THE time of our gastronomic lives at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Supposedly the number one restaurant in Asia, according to the 09/10 Miele Guide.

It’s no secret that we are extreme foodies – gourmands to be precise. We’d scrimp on everything but food, which explains why we always run out of cash at the end of every trip — and why the Robuchon dinner was planned for our last day in Hong Kong.

Finding the place was easy enough, albeit a bit daunting for two young adults (hell, we’re not even out of school yet). The entrance is a carpeted hallway with black marble  walls, which led us to an elevator to the 4th floor, where Robuchon is located. The maitre d’ was gracious, and we were quickly seated at the bar, which was adjacent to the open kitchen. Since we made reservations on the same day, we ran out of proper tables and were resigned to taking bar-side seats. However, this proved to be a blessing because then we had the privilege of front-row seats to the kitchen action of Executive Chef Michel del Burgo and his crew.

[photo via winebuzz.hk]

We were the youngest among the diverse mix of yuppies, expats and high-class escorts with their sugar daddies (one of which was obviously a Filipina who kept glancing at us while fidgeting in her seat). Entertainingly enough, we were seated beside two gay men seemingly on their first date. Sweet. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to take a picture. Pffft.

A complimentary assortment of breads was served while the menus were presented: À la Carte or Degustation for HKD680 per person, excluding drinks. Needless to say, we picked the latter.

First course: Amuse-bouche of Pumpkin with Bacon-infused Foam. Rich pumpkin base with a light but flavorful bacon foam. Nice tease. A good start. 7/10

KC’s Second Course: White French Asparagus with Sea Urchin in Hollandaise Sauce. The asparagus was well-cooked, but the accompanying hollandaise was a bit bland. The sea Urchin topping was flavorful but didn’t actually compliment the asparagus. Gold foil bits were a nice touch. 4/10

My Second Course: Creamy Spelt Risotto with Escargots in Southern France Flavors. By far, the BEST risotto I have tasted, with just the right texture – not too mushy nor too dry. The snails were chewy and meaty, cooked just right. The flavors blended so richly, I have no words for it. This dish won me over with the first spoonful. 10/10

Third Course: Caramelized and Truffled Turnips Veloute on a Bed of Foie Gras Set Cream. More than a chowder but less than gumbo, is how I would describe this. It has a more robust flavor than the risotto, but lacks texture. If I hadn’t had the risotto before this, I probably would’ve enjoyed it more. Flavor overload, I guess. 8/10

Fourth Course: Broccoli Cream Soup Flavored with Nutmeg and Bacon. Foamy and light with subtle flavors – the perfect foil to previous courses. A half-time break for the taste buds. 7/10

KC’s Fifth Course: Braised “Vallegrain” Pork Belly with Caramelized Roscoff Onions and Black Truffle. I would describe this as a (much) glorified lechon kawali-slash-adobo hybrid. Crisp on the outside, juicy meat on the inside that melts in your mouth. No stringy pork here. Perfection all the way. The glazed black truffle reduction was an excellent compliment to the meat. Can’t say anything bad about it. 10/10

My Fifth Course: Pan-Fried Scallops on a Bed of Shiitake Mushrooms and Ratte Potato. The scallops were fresh and well-cooked, but an otherwise ordinary dish compared to the pork belly. The shiitake mushroom and potato stir-fry tasted like something I could’ve made myself. Well-executed, but not outstanding. 6/10

Sixth Course: Selection of Fine Imported Cheeses. I’m not an expert on fromages, but I love certain types of hard and blue cheeses. I wouldn’t know what a good selection is, however, so I’ll pass on rating this one. It’s interesting though, that one of the cheeses tasted like Durian (a fruit which is unique to a few countries in SEA). The name escapes me now, but I’ve tasted that cheese only twice in my life. The first time in my hometown of Davao City, Philippines and the second time at Robuchon in Hong Kong. Odd. Could they have gotten the cheese from Davao? Hmmm…

KC’s Seventh Course: Creamy Guanaja Chocolate, Cocoa Sorbet, Chocolate Crisps and Caramelized Nuts. Contrary to most people, I am not a chocolate lover – but I enjoyed this dessert. Well, not that it means much anyway since I’m not a die-hard fan of desserts either. Haha. Simply put, anything that’s not too sweet and stays true to its organic flavors is good enough in my book. 8/10

My Seventh Course: Passionfruit, Grapefruit and Roasted Pineapple Medley with Grilled Sesame Wafers in ‘Alfonso’ Mango Coulis. Now THIS is my kind of dessert. Light and refreshing, bursting with organic flavors. To some, the bitterness of the grapefruit may be a contrasting off-put to the other fruits, but that’s just how I like it. I’ve tasted better though. 8/10

Eighth Course: Complimentary Macarons, Madeleines, Chocolate Ganache, Gummy Squares, Easter Egg Candies and Gold-Coated Crispy Chocolate Nonpareils. Let me just say: BEST macarons everrr. The goodies were as delicious as they were eye-candy. KC enjoyed the chocolate ganache the most and actually asked for a second serving (no surprise there). Haha.

Complimentary tea and coffee capped one of the most memorable meals of my life.

An hour later, KC puked in an MTR full of people, on our way back to the hostel. Oh, the shame.

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