A recent restaurant survey ranked L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong higher than the one in New York, and better than the Robuchon in Tokyo. I for one strongly disagreed with the standing. Among the 15+ times I visited L’Atelier in NYC, the food and service was consistently great there. On the other had, my 3 Robuchon’s visits in Hong Kong varied from great, good, to ok food but really poor service. While L’Atelier in Hong Kong no longer aroused my interest, the salon, on the other hand, intrigued me somewhat because there wasn’t any Robuchon’s bakery in Manhattan. After seeing the extremely alluring pictures of the afternoon tea in 食鬼0’s review, I decided to pay a few visits and see if Cafe- Le Salon De The & La Boutique
could excite my palate.
Just a preface: The reasons that I found Robuchon’s food appealing were the perfection in technique, the attention to details, and the artistically divine presentations. I was always amazed on how he came up with such aesthetic illustration of food which became almost too pretty to eat. Even more compelling was the precision in presentation no matter where and what you order at a Robuchon’s restaurant. For instance, the many times that I ordered L'oursin (Sea Urchin in Lobster Gelée, Topped with a Cauliflower Cream) or L'anguille (Smoked Foie Gras Layered with Caramelised Eel), they came out exactly the same each time, and appeared virtually identical to KC’s and 惡男's versions in Hong Kong.
Therefore, when I had the afternoon tea set for two at the salon, I wasn’t at all surprised when the food presented was a photocopy version of 食鬼0’s. Each of the savory finger sandwiches, including Lobster Sandwich flavored with Tarragon, Tuna with Fresh Mache Pave, Premium Ham with Mustard Seeds, and Norwegian Smoked Salmon with Caviar, was meticulously constructed and plated. The set of natural and fruit scones, with Devonshire clotted cream and home-made raspberry and strawberry jam
, was also artfully presented.
The tiny pieces of lavender, the red current berries, and the silvers of dried fruit peels exemplified Robuchon’s thoughtfulness to details. While the food tasted fine and the ingredients were fresh, there weren’t any excitements or sparks that could be derived from these two sets
. I fairly enjoyed the premium ham sandwich which was made with (I believe) jambon de Paris with the chives and lavender adding a tinge of herbal and floral complexity. The other three were rather ordinary with the simple flavors of the fresh salmon, the finely minced lobster bits, and the olives taking the center stage, lacking further depths in flavors. The scones were also quite boring, though the jam was enjoyable with some floral aroma possibly from rose essence. The caramel latte and jasmine tea
that we had were simple and pleasant, just the right companions for the various savory and sweet bites.
While the flavors of the first two sets of food didn’t leave us with strong impressions, the second set of pastries fared a lot better. Like most Robuchon’s creations, the stunning presentation made one want to pause for a moment to appreciate the exquisiteness of these treats
. I am not a sweet tooth, but all five of the pastries turned out to be delicate and delectable. The luscious Mont-Blanc was a combination of velvety ribbons of chestnut cream, white chocolate cigars, and a refreshing citrus-y center
; The Macaron Ganache
was a winner as well, with the mini praline macarons tasting extremely fresh and providing a great textural variation. The Paris-Brest
, while not a favorite of us, would be a pleasure to chocolate and nut lovers with the almond-topped choux pastry filled chocolate cream and candied walnuts. The passionfruit custard was a great foil to the creamy white chocolate in the Exotique, stimulating the taste buds in every bite.
The Blueberry Cheesecake
, on a contrast, became rather pedestrian and forgettable. That said, I really appreciated the balance of different flavors (e.g. citrus, floral and chocolate) and textures
in these pastries so that none of them were overly sweet or too one-dimensional.
The petit fours
consisted of a very moist piece of lemon cake, a chocolate nut crunch, and two fruit jellies. A nice finish to a satisfying dessert set in the end.
On subsequent visits, I also tried the foie gras with mango sandwich
which was probably my least favorite of all the special sandwiches there. The savory quiches
lacked the creamy texture that I was looking for, though up to this point I still haven’t found a good quiche in Hong Kong. Fortunately, plenty of goodness made up for the bad experiences. I don’t have to rave about the most praised croissants
, but to me the baguettes, brioches, and country bread
are even more impressive and probably as close as you can get to the European artisanal bread and pastries overseas.
I also enjoyed the cold sandwiches
a lot, particularly the one made with baguette and brie as the all the ingredients were of high quality, and the sandwiches were served at the right temperature.
I was actually quite impressed by the macarons
after trying out all the flavors. While they weren't the best in town texture-wise, the freshness of the macarons
were very profound (a key factor to great macarons) and the subtle sweetness left me wanting more and more, especially my favorite flavors praline and caramel
Service was very weak, I must say. My visits were often filled with numerous delays in responding to requests and unfamiliarity to the food presented. I understood that this was only the Salon and not the L’Atelier upstairs, but when you have Robuchon’s name attached to your establishment, this kind of service just didn’t cut it.
Overall, my indictment was that the food at La Salon is perfectly executed and brilliantly constructed and the style and presentation was very much L’Atelier
. But the flavor, while great, didn’t remind me of Robuchon.
Nothing I ate made me feel revelatory or ethereal. At the end of each meal I felt like I was only getting 50% of Robuchon, namely, the artistry, with the other half of the equation, the flavor, lost in translation.
I will still recommend the salon for great pastries, desserts, and bread. But if you really want to have a Robuchon’s experience, please go upstairs to L’Atelier, where you can at least “taste” his greatness
.Footnote (or Food-note):
I noticed that a lot of people (even food magazines) have macarons and macaroons mixed up. Macarons are traditional sandwich-like French pastries made with two thin cookies and a cream or ganache between the cookies
. Macaroons, on the other hand, are sweet concoctions made either with coconut and egg white or with a coarse almond paste formed into a dense cookie or confection
. You can see the picture above for reference. Although in England French macarons are sometimes spelled “macaroons”, it isn’t technically accurate unless you specify “French Macaroons”. In the US, they are not interchangeable! Just thought I will share.
Afternoon Tea Set for 2 (Savory & Scones)
My Caramel Latte
Clockwise: Lobster, Tuna, Salmon, Premium Ham
Set of 5 Pastries and Petit Four
3 Favorites: Macaron Ganache, Mont Blanc, Exotique
Petit Fours: Lemon Cake, Choco Nut Crunch, Jellies
差: Foie Gras with Mango Sandwich
See Footnote:Macaroons (Left) vs Macarons (Right)
Mont-Blanc, Exotique, Macarons, croissants, artisanal bread, cold sandwiches
Date of Visit: May 02, 2009
Spending per head: Approximately HKD200(Tea)Other Ratings:
Value for Money 3