Thursday, June 20, 2013

Robuchon au Dome

At the end of 2006, I had my first meal at Joel Robuchon's establishment and this happened to take place at his fine dining restaurant in Macau called Robuchon a Galera. Actually I was not too impressed with the meal even though I was still at the early stage of gastronomy experience. The food was alright with the only spectacular dish was oscetra caviar with smooth cauliflower in gelee. The service was average; I was rushed even when the time just passed 10 PM (I was the only diner left at that time and the restaurant was only filled about 1/3 of its capacity). The decor, predominantly in blue with thick carpet, was aged and 'gloomy'; the worst part to me was the live music that kinda cheapened the fine dining experience (Gaddi's at Peninsula was even worse with loud live band). With all these, actually I might not have any reason to return to Macau. However, in the past few years, I read plenty of positive reviews about the restaurants in particular after Robuchon a Galera has been shifted to Robuchon au Dome, located at the top floor of Grand Lisboa hotel. Some even said that both the food and the ambiance were even better than before. Thus, during my Hong Kong visit in early Spring this year, I made an effort to take a ferry to Macau with the sole purpose to re-visit Robuchon Macau.    

To make sure that I will optimize my lunch meal at Robuchon au Dome, I contacted the restaurant as early as February with the intention to devise my own menu derived from the Menu Degustation. After having exchanged a few emails, the menu was eventually confirmed only a couple of days prior to my reservation date. Unlike my first meal at the Galera, this time guest had to submit a form and gave the restaurant his Credit Card number to guarantee the reservation - I didn't have to do this when I ate at several 3-star establishments in Paris. In addition, I also requested for 4 glasses of wine to accompany my tasting menu. Everything looked good on paper and I really looked forward to having a wonderful meal in Macau. Theoretically, this had to be my ultimate meal during this Hong Kong trip that included dinners at Tenku Ryugin and Sushi Yoshitake. Let's find out what I had in my multi courses meal below,  

L’Asperge blanche en blanc-manger aux copeaux d’amandes et coulis vegetal (White asparagus served with shredded almonds and tomato coulis) - The amuse bouche; you could taste some combination of acidic tomato, crunchy almond, subtle olive oil and delicate asparagus to tease one's palate

Le Caviar 
part 1: en fine gelee de corail au parfum anise servi en surprise (Caviar in fine coral jelly served with aniseed cream) - Generous serving of briny caviar, that's necessary to tone down the dominance of coral flavor, with plenty of sweet crab meat and some hint of anise cream underneath. This was ranked among the top 3 of Robuchon's caviar dishes
part 2: Legerete de chou-fleur rafraichi d’une infusion iodee aux croutons dores (Caviar on cauliflower mousse served with croutons and shiso flower) - The cauliflower was a bit too dominant that it diminished the caviar's role in this dish. The rather bland mousse was balanced by the saltiness of caviar and croutons. It's alright but not as good as the legendary Oscietra caviar with smooth cauliflower in gelee 
part 3: lamelles de noix de Saint Jacques tiedies a la citronnelle (Caviar with warm and fine slices of scallops served with perfumed lemon grass cream) - The scallop was fresh and pleasant; I wish it had been bigger. It's enhanced with fragrant lemon grass and delicately fishy and salty caviar - interesting

Le King Crabe en duo d’avocat en mozzarella dans un coeur de romaine relevee a l’huile d’olive vierge (Duo of king crab and mozzarella in the heart of romaine seasoning served with virgin olive oil) - The big and succulent crab was imported from Azerbaijan. Both dishes (one prepared with avocado and another with mozzarella) were well seasoned and delicious including the refreshing romaine and parmesan cheese, love it!

Accompanied by wine: 2007 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, Pessac Leognan - Bordeaux (well balanced with some acidity and moderate finish)

Le Homard 
part 1: en royale fleurie d’une emulsion aux aromates, pinces en tempura (Lobster royal served with aromatic and claw tempura) - I've had high expectation for this dish. The claw tempura (top) was unfortunately rather cold and greasy, however the lobster royal (bottom) in its juice, butter and roes was excellent
part 2: dans une coque de pate enrobee de beurre lie au corail avec des cebettes, en soupe parfum de fenouil (Stuffed pasta with Boston lobster and coral butter & lobster bisque perfumed with fennel) - The lobster bisque was not hot and light flavor while the pasta was Ok; there was hardly any crustacean below the pasta

Les Spaghetti a notre facon a l’oeuf mollet aux langues d’oursins (Spaghetti served with a poached egg and sea urchins) - After eating excellent uni at Hong Kong's Ryugin and Yoshitake, the sea urchin here was a bit pale in comparison. The runny yolk was good with nearly al dente pasta. To my likeness, they should've put more cheese in the dish and salted butter when cooking the spaghetti. It's not bad at all, but I prefer the execution and the flavor of Robuchon Singapore's homemade spaghetti served with soft poached eggs and shaved Alba white truffle

La Morille en raviole mitonnee aux asperges de pertuis et fleuri d’une brume vegetable au jus (Morel mushroom in ravioli served with green asparagus and vegetable foam) - After the truffle, morels are probably the most precious and delicious mushroom in French cuisine. The morels were fresh, earthy and a bit sweet - an elegant type of mushroom, seriously. The asparagus on the sides was ordinary  

Le Foie Gras poele aux aromates, puree de kumquat et nectar de grenade reduit (Seared duck liver served with aromatic condiments, kumquat puree and pomegranate reduction) - The seared foie gras was alright (not as refined as I expected), but it was helped by the kumquat sauce that's a bit spicy with some hint of citrus 

Accompanied by wine: 2007 Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets (easy to drink wine with some minerality and a hint of butter on the nose)

L’Amadai en cocotte aux artichauts epineux et un jus barigoule (Pan-fried Tilefish fillet with its crispy skin served with baby artichoke and barigoule jus) - The amadai was delicate in both taste and texture; the flavorful taste would come from the barigoule jus with some combination of tomato confit and small bacons. The crisp scales provided textural contrast to the fish soft flesh - good

Le Boeuf “Kagoshima” piece grille avec une fondue d’echalotes grises confites au vieux vin et pommes soufflees (Grilled Kagoshima beef with slow-simmered shallot in red wine served with potatoes souffles) - The A4 beef was delicious and rich, but the one I had at Amber was 'more marbled and tenderer'. The shallot puree could intensify the beef while the parsley puree eaten to reduce some cloying taste (if any). The potato puffs on the sides were average, not as good as the usual mashed potato  

L’Epeautre du pays de Sault en risotto a la feuille d’or fin (Sault spelt prepared in risotto style served with gold leaf) - I surprisingly kinda liked this 'risotto' dish - mixture of some salty and acidic flavor. I could clearly chew the distinguished farro grain texture 

Accompanied by wine: 2000 Bond Matriarch Napa Valley (cabernet sauvignon - good wine with vivid black cherry and wild berry that are focused; the tannins are ripe and smooth) 

La Sphere en sucre souffle, mousse lactee aux fraises, gelee a la liqueur de citron et sorbet au basilic (Blow sugar sphere served with mascarpone mousse, strawberry limoncello jelly and basil sorbet) - Finally, I got a chance to savor Robuchon's famous dessert. The sugar ball was as good as it looks; inside there were mousse, cream and strawberry. All elements worked together producing well balanced flavors

Les Choux Princesse a la vanille de Tahiti glacee, gelee de cacao et laques d’un onctueux lait chocolate (Princess puff stuffed with Tahiti vanilla ice-cream, cacao jelly and topped with hot chocolate coulis) - The ice cream between the puffs were average while the vanilla cream on the sides was tasty. The chocolate coulis was a bit cold by the time this dessert reached my table; it's more pleasing to the eye than at the palate

Some other desserts - At the last minutes, I decided to switch my cheese course with the restaurant's lunch dessert trolleys. Here what I got: millefuille (light & flaky texture with sweet & creamy savors - very good), chocolate cake with pistachio (smooth and nice) and wild strawberry rolls (spongy and a bit acidic). These were better than my chocolate dessert above 

Accompanied by wine: 1991 Domaine Touchais Coteaux du Layon - Loire Valley (lovely and smooth in honey color, also not too sweet)  

Food-wise in general was almost as good as my experiences at the other Joel Robuchon's fine dining establishments; as expected there were plenty of very good dishes and a few ordinary ones (a bit coarse sadly). Francky Semblat, the head chef, produced typical Robuchon cooking that combined classical and modern French cuisine with some (Asian) twist. I find the flavor and the 'sauce' here were a bit milder compared to the French cooking I've had in Europe. So, if I had to choose which one is the best among Robuchon's four gastronomy places, I would give a slight edge to Robuchon Tokyo followed closely by Robuchon Singapore surprisingly. Alain Verzeroli, Robuchon Tokyo director de cuisine, is more creative and executes most of the dishes with high precision; probably it's due to his diverse background (having worked at Taillevent and becoming Alain Passard's main sous chef at l'Arpege) as well as excellent support from his Japan's team lead by the gifted executive chef,  Watanabe-san. Tomonori Danzaki, mainly responsible for the success of Robuchon Vegas, was allowed to bring the top sous chefs from MGM to support him in Singapore and generated dishes without compromise - a typical among Japanese chefs. 

I was not sure who mainly assisted chef Semblat, but I suspected that his team is not as strong as the other Robuchon restaurants. This was also reflected in the dining room service. The majority of the waiters were from mainland China; they worked hard to serve their guests but many of them was not that fluent in English and often lacked knowledge about the food. The good things they're smile most of the time, but when you asked them about the dishes, they looked timid somehow. Only a handful of staffs understood the dishes and did not simply describe them through memorization. Lukas Song, the restaurant manager, got plenty of homework to improve the overall restaurant's hospitality although he himself delivered excellent service during a few visits to my table. I enjoyed my 'wine pairings' prepared by the assistant sommelier; the price was also reasonable. The wine collection was fantastic, but the mark-up was a lot higher compared to my first visit. People have talked about the extravagant dining room here with the most outstanding part of the restaurant decor got to be the Austrian-made suspended (Swarovski) crystal chandelier hanging down at the entrance. There were also some European paintings and Chinese arts. Essentially, money is no object to the owner however I felt that these expensive stuffs were not integrated that well to the overall ambiance. I liked Robuchon's dining rooms that were designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon better; all elements are in harmony. Morever, the distance between tables in Macau was not as spacious as the one in Singapore; the chair was nowhere as convenient as the sofa booth I sit on at Tokyo and Singapore restaurants. Don't get me wrong, it's still a fabulous dining room compared to many other gastronomy restaurants. Overall, it's a pleasant lunch meal and I intend to return here only if I happen to be in Macau area. Readers may see the pictures of the dishes here,

Food (and Wine): 95 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 92 pts

Overall: 94/100