Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon

Joël Robuchon is one of the most revered Chefs in the world. When Gault Millau bestowed the highest rating of 19.5/20 to Robuchon’s legendary Jamin in 1988 (only Marc Veyrat surpassed it in 2004 by receiving a perfect 20/20), I was still in primary school and too young to understand any gastronomy world. Who expects a boy that used to eat KFC and fried eggs almost everyday would sit and savor the foods of the French living legend two decades later. After having a great lunch and experiencing the best hospitality at Genyana Hamadaya, I did not waste my time to go and dine at the famous Château Robuchon four hours later. This grand palace, located at the Ebisu garden, is truly the ultimate place for Robuchon’s fans; there is also La Table as well as Rouge Bar de Joel Robuchon inside this chateau. Outside this palace, one could also pamper himself with Robuchon’s foods by visiting Café, La Boutique or L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon; these many Robuchon’s establishments could be enjoyed together in one city - Tokyo, the new culinary capital of the world.

Originally, I secured my dinner reservation on 21st December 2007, but upon learning that they only serve the 8-course Christmas tasting menu that night whose price was closed to the L’Arpege’s set meal, I decided to dine there one day earlier and it saved me about USD 100. As I entered Château Robuchon, a lady from the reception warmly greeted and escorted me to the 3rd floor. On the way up, I passed the red-black color bar with little touch of gold that reminds guests of this castle’s luxury as well as the pre-dominantly purple-black color dining room of Robuchon’s La Table providing the chef’s modern French cuisine. Once I was seated at the extravagant dining room, dominated by the gold color, a glass of Bruno Paillard’s champagne was offered. My dining experience at the Parisian’s palaces certainly helped me to stay calm inside this castle that’s done away with the ornate of Louis XVI furniture blends with some of Tokyo’s fresh and contemporary style decoration. While zipping my champagne, I observed the menu; in addition to the a la carte, there are 12-course and 6-course degustation menu. To maximize the experience of Joël Robuchon‘s cooking, I ordered the bigger one and here what I had.

L’Avocat dans une infusion juste prise aux herbes et une caillebotte à l’huile d’olive (Avocado purée in a thin herb gelée and olive oil flavored curd cheese) - a fresh, slightly sour and creamy avocado amuse that would ignite one’s appetite

Le Caviar Osciètre petit œuf mollet et friand, flan mœlleux au fumet d’asperges, fines graines de couscous iodé (Crispy soft boiled egg, flan of asparagus, thin couscous and oscetra caviar) - the one with crunchy salmon and quail egg is divine and balance, the one with asparagus, showing contrast between land and sea creatures, needs a bit “more” caviar especially inside, and the last part with couscous is in right texture and temperature with subtle flavor. Once again, Robuchon shows his expertise in caviar dish

Accompanied by wine: Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs Reserve Privée

Les Crustacés la langoustine truffée à l’étuvée de chou vert, le homard rôti à la citronnelle avec une semoule végétale, l’oursin accompagné d’une purée de pomme de terre au café (Truffled langoustine ravioli with chopped cabbage, lemon grass roasted lobster with vegetable semolina, sea urchin, potato purée with a hint of coffee) - This is the best dish of the night - a combination of delicious and solid lightly cooked blue lobster; intense and succulent Brittany langoustine accompanied by fragrant truffle and foie gras reduction; as well as sweet and creamy Hokkaido sea urchin along with Robuchon’s famous mashed potatoes which are decadent

La Saint-Jacques la noix poêlée aux fregolas avec une émulsion coralline (Pan seared scallops with fregolas pastas and her emulsion) - The scallop is tasty and juicy, integrated with nice pastas. The emulsion’s intensity is just about right, very good

Le Gorgonzola en royale avec une vierge de poire et de tomate à la sauge (Custard of Gorgonzola with a pear vierge and sage tomatoes) - This buttery and warm Italian blue cheese is served warmed while the tomato, almond and pear neutralize the cheese's overly rich taste; very colorful and pleasing to the eye

L’Avoine veloutée aux amandes torréfiées et aux sucs de chorizo (Wild-oat velouté with roasted almonds and chorizo) - A unique and uplifting dish. The bland and sticky oat flavored by the “bacon’s” smokiness and almond’s“crunchyness”

Accompanied by wine: 2001 Chassagne-Montrachet Jean-Marc Morey

Le Saumon Sauvage d’Ecosse confit avec une nage au gingembre et une fleurette légèrement fume (Salmon with ginger marinière and lightly smoked cream) - the Scottish salmon is quite light but fresh while the rests of the elements do not mix very well. It’s just OK

Le Bar cuit sur la peau aux épices avec une sauce verjutée (Seabass cooked on its skin with spicy red wine sauce) - The Seabass’ quality is not that good (lack in freshness) and soft while the red wine sauce is too intense/sweet. I don’t really like this dish

Le Bœuf grillé, cristalline au poivre, cresson en tempura, raifort à la moutarde (Grilled Sendai beef, watercress tempura, horseradish mustard) - The “steak”, cooked perfectly (medium), is delicious and marbled (far superior than Australian wagyu) worked well with the fragrant tempura. It goes well with the mustard’s “spiciness”

Les Racines Maraîchères mitonné à l’huile d’Argan (Garden vegetables simmered in Argon oil) - Nice combination of fresh winter vegetables to clear any previous flavors before the desserts, very similar to the one I had in L’Arpege served with couscous

Accompanied by wine: 2003 Gevrey-Chambertin en Reniard Domaine Alain Burguet

Le Yuzu Vert en granite avec une gelée à la verveine et un voile au cachaça ambré (Young citrus sherbet with verbena jelly and soft goat cheese) - A combination of yuzu’s bitterness and citrus’ sourness that yield goat cheese’ slight sweetness. Not too over the top, but pleasingly fresh

La Châtaigne en soupe parfumée au rhum brun avec des billes de chocolat fondant et une glace au lait (Chesnut soup flavored with dark rum, bittersweet melting chocolate and milk ice cream) - The chocolate is fantastic with its bitterness balanced by the sweetness from the chesnut and ice cream. There's also a contrast of hot and cold

Le Café express ou le Thé et ses douceurs sucrées (Espresso or tea served with sweets and pastries) - The madeline and cannele are good, so are the chocolates (earl grey is my favorite). The best part is the macaroons especially pistachio, lemon and orange. All of these are accompanied by Darjeeling tea, it’s thin-bodied, with light floral aroma and musky spiciness

Accompanied by wine: 1998 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Grand Cru

Overall, I am very satisfied with my meal here - the most delectable feast during my winter holiday in Tokyo and Hong Kong. The cooking here is simple yet tasty and balanced with beautiful yet non-traditional presentation; don’t expect to eat intensely flavored dish or one will be disappointed. The chef de cuisine, Alain Verzeroli is very talented and successfully merging French cuisine with some Asian sensations that generates a stimulating and adventurous tasting menu. The wine collection is extensive, comparable to many great French restaurants even in France and as expected, very expensive. I enjoyed all of my wines by the glass which varied from Reims’ champagne, white and red Burgundy as well as Sauternes’ sweet wine. And if your wallet allows, Takehiro Nobukuni-san, the sommelier, could pair each course with different wines by the glass according to your taste and budget.

The service throughout the evening was friendly and comforting despite the fact that a few of them did not speak English that well. However, they never missed to replenish my water and change my napkins. By 10:30 PM, I was the only diner left (Japanese had dinner quite early), but they never rushed me at all when I still enjoyed my desserts followed by tea and petit four. The restaurant’s decoration built in harmony with the architectural traditions of the 18th century is arguably one of the most elegant places in Tokyo. My sofa is spacious and comfortable, but one can still hear when the guests in the next table talk (one table spoke a bit too laud for fine dining restaurant standard). A year earlier, I ate at Robuchon a Galera in Macau and did not really like it. This Château Robuchon has changed my opinion about the cuisine of Joël Robuchon; he indeed is capable of producing exceptional dishes even though he is hardly in the kitchen himself - only once every quarter. Joel Robuchon at the Mansion in Las Vegas would probably do the justice whether his cooking suits my palate and taste. Please click this link for the pictures of the dishes http://picasaweb.google.com/Andi.Chahyadi.Hermawan/ChateauJoelRobuchon#

Food (and Wine): 95 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 95/100

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