133 Ave des Champs Elysées (downstairs in the Drugstore Publicis), 8th
Tel 01 47 23 75 75
There are enough Atelier de Joël Robuchon restaurants in the world (several locations in ten cities) that I think we can safely call it a « chain ». I recently tested the second Parisian location in the basement of the Drugstore Publicis (or “Etoile” as they call it, after the intersection surrounding the Arc de Triomphe nearby). Personally, if you’re going to put a restaurant in a windowless basement, why not just have it in an ugly location instead of right outside one of France’s most iconic monuments? Well, for many people the Champs Elysées is still a prestigious place to be, so why not?
The décor is actually pretty cool in an 80s flashback fashion (it had to come to interior design sooner or later), all shiny black and red, with cooking ingredients artfully suspended in jars of liquid on the glass shelves. There are a few lounge-style chairs and low tables, but most people sit around the vast bar overlooking the chefs in the kitchen.
The food is wonderful, as it should be. At first, I kept telling myself “Wow, these are tiny” (we were ordering from the "Carte des Plats en Petits Portions Dégustation"), but the cuisine is very filling as the procession of dishes arrive. I had an excellent "Chicon" salad with Granny Smith apple and stilton blue cheese (€14), accompanied by a Riesling white wine with very strong apple taste to it (my favorite of all the wines we tried, wish I had written down the domain).
I also had a small fish dish, Le Black Cod (€27), in an unidentified sauce.
My favorite dish was Le Burger (€32 for two minis) with a little slice of sautéed fois gras on top of each one and little slivers of bell pepper. The people sitting next to us saw these (and probably heard me moaning, they were so good) that they ordered the same thing. (Yes, I shared one of mine with my friend, I'm nice sometimes...)
The only dish I really didn’t like was the caviar (€45), because there was some sort of cauliflower cream on top of it, very pretty, but not when I tasted it (“Fishy cream” are the first words out of my mouth). I didn’t want to finish it, but I also hate leaving food on my plate, so I did it as quickly as possible. Then I had no room for dessert, but like in all great restaurants, the little mignardises that came with our coffees were more than enough ("Just one theen leetle wayfair, sir?")
My friend ordered Crevettes à la Mangue et Jasmin (€24).
It’s quite fun eating with the chefs right in front of you. It’s also a lot easier to get their attention when you need a top up of your water or want to know the name of the superb-looking pastry creation on its way to someone else’s mouth. It also makes for a very relaxed, informal feeling despite the décor and haut cuisine. Highly recommended for dreary winter days when you don’t want to see the gray skies.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations only taken for lunch seating at 11:30am and 2pm, and dinner reservations taken only for 6:30pm.