There’s a lot to savor at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon – and I’m not only talking about the restaurant’s wide-ranging, flavor-packed iftar menu.
The DIFC outpost is part of a franchise that pays tribute to the late French chef Joel Robuchon, whose restaurants racked up an impressive 32 Michelin stars in total. With the Michelin Guide finally coming to Dubai – and with anonymous Michelin inspectors supposedly reviewing restaurants incognito – most venues are pulling up their socks.
But at L’Atelier, the impeccable service feels instinctive. A paper napkin surreptitiously disintegrating under a cool drink is whisked away by eagle-eyed staff. A food stand upended by the breeze is righted in a flash. The charismatic restaurant manager, Alexandre Tissot, stops to chat with diners at every table, even as executive chef Roberto Torre cooks up a storm in the open kitchen. And every member of staff is able to answer our many questions about the ingredients list and cooking techniques behind each decadent dish.
What to expect and where to sit
Nestled on the podium level of Gate Village 11, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is a stone’s throw from DIFC’s galleries, the auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and fellow fine-dining restaurants Shanghai Me and Cipriani. The location exudes a vibe that is at once sophisticated and artistic.
Within, the restaurant is done up in lashings of reds and browns. The open kitchen is fronted by an omakase-style counter with high chairs, while a bar dominated one length of the room. My dining partner and I take a seat on the outdoor patio, which is bordered by tinfoil-sprayed shrubbery and houses a second bar.
Diners can break their fast with a bowl of chilled mazafati dates, followed by an asparagus veloute. The lukewarm and creamy amuse-bouche is by no means bite-sized, but it’s light as air and hits just the right spot, serving to set you up for the appetizer course.
This includes a choice among four dishes that will appeal to nearly every palate and preference, including two salads: Caesar with grilled chicken, quail egg and Parmesan; and Nicoise with confit tuna.
We choose to share the crispy artichoke with creamy Parmesan and mascarpone risotto, and the chicken gyoza. The notoriously hard-to-cook artichoke is fried such that it’s crunchy on the outside yet does not feel excessively oily, while the gyoza is dunked in a sauce that blends leeks, black and white sesame, mint and, surprisingly, hibiscus. My dining partner notes that despite the last ingredient, the sauce is not cloyingly sweet, but rather has just the right amount of acidity.
For mains, I get the lamb shoulder that comes with lamb jus on the side. However, having been slow-cooked for 12 hours, the meat is so tender and juicy, I don’t dip into it once, despite my love for all things saucy.
My partner gets the salmon in sorrel sauce, to continue with the creamy flavor profile found in the amuse-bouche and artichoke starter, and the flaky fillet and classic French sauce do not disappoint in that regard.
Other options include baby chicken and spaghetti with pesto and veggies.
The 12-hour slow-cooked lamb is the star of the show. It’s served at an additional charge of Dh100 (more on this below), but the meaty, melt-in-the-mouth texture makes it well worth the cost.
A special shoutout must be given to the parsley butter-stuffed focaccia in the bread basket, which can be ordered as many times upon request.
Out of sheer curiosity, I’d swap the salmon for the baby chicken the next time, just to get a taste of a tandoori sauce served by an Italian chef in a French restaurant. Indeed, this is representative of the iftar menu at large; it’s not only French fare, but rather touches many different flavor profiles.
A chat with the chef
Chef Torre says the menu has been designed based on the team’s observation of what Emirati diners tend to order, notably fresh salads and hearty lamb.
Dessert has been created especially for the iftar menu, and is a fluffy pistachio souffle with hazelnut caramel sauce. However, Tissot says, the light-as-air, mildly sweet concoction has proved so popular, the chefs will be charged with putting it on the permanent menu.
Value for money and contact details
The set menu is a steal at Dh250. While ordering the best-selling lamb will set you back an additional Dh100 (upping the total cost of the iftar menu to Dh350), to put that into context, that same portion size of the dish is priced at Dh250 on the a la carte menu , while the others range from Dh90 to Dh160 a pop.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon serves its iftar menu from sundown until 9pm. Reservations can be made by calling 04 297 7729.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant
Updated: April 13, 2022, 5:29 AM