My friend Pete once commented that what passes for good Western food in Shanghai usually equates to “doesn’t suck.” While it’s not 100% true, it often feels true. So in-between my nostalgic runs for the Hong Kong I used to live in as well as for disappearing Cantonese food, unavailable in Shanghai, I found time to stop by the 3 Michelin Star rated L’atelier de Joel Rubuchon.
This was actually my second time here, as I had been before a couple of years ago – I really like the L’Atelier concept, as its fairly casual and an ideal place to have a meal by oneself should you be travelling that way.
The concept is this – the main dining area of L’Atelier is a bar surrounding an open kitchen. Service is, well, as casual as a 3-star Michelin French restaurant is supposed to be. I ordered the 5 course lunch (spending over $100 USD is never really a deal, but honestly, you’re not eating this level of food for this cheap anywhere else in the world).
I ordered Le Foie Gras, Les Lentils du Puy, Le Cabillaud, Le Porc Iberique and Le Paris-Brest.
The Amuse Bouche
Cream of mushroom, topped with a bacon emulsion and porcini mushroom powder. This, was wonderful. Super rich mushroom flavor, the bacon emulsion was the right salty touch to top the mushroom cream.
Le Foie Gras
Perfect execution. Well, maybe slightly stingy with the initial toast, but they quickly offered two more slices as soon as I went through the first two pieces (I don’t know how you’re supposed to fit an entire round of foie gras onto one piece of toast anyways – I think four slices should be the standard order anyways.)
Les Letils du Puy
The flavors of the soup were excellent, but I wasn’t in love as much with the texture – which was slightly gritty, and some of the flavorings (like the cracker) didn’t work as well for this.
Le Porc Iberique
This was very very nicely done. The richness of the pork, the fresh dill was a nice touch. But those potatoes puree. Oh man, these are the best mashed potatoes in the world.
Reading on the internet, its apparent that these use some ridiculous ratio of butter to potato, but they are so fluffy, so rich, so ethereal – life changing mashed potatoes as it were.
Wonderful dessert. Little cream puffs with little bits of pear in cased in edible gold foil. A wonderful way to cap off the meal. The sorbet was frighteningly refreshing.
I’d be remiss if I missed mentioning the service. Unfortunately I think this is pretty hit or miss. I had an excellent waiter who was able to explain all of the dishes in both Chinese and English – however, the couple sitting next to me had to repeatedly ask for the wine list, and had their dishes sitting in the service ready area, just out of reach, before being served up to 2 minutes later. Also their waiter looked like he had been in a fight the night before with bruising all around his eye.
It serves in stark contrast to what passes for high end dining here in Shanghai – even if the reviews have say its declining, I still had an exceptional meal here and look forward to returning in the future sometime.