When stepping off the elevator that leads to L’Atelier, you enter a stunning space featuring chic red, black, and gold furniture and accents. The subtle scent of vanilla envelops you, while the dizzying sounds of slot machines and the bright casino lights slowly fade away.
Your eyes are immediately drawn to the ultra-modern central kitchen, which opens up onto the dining room, and the impressive wrap-around bar. The maître d’hôtel warmly welcomes you in. In the centre of the bar stands an imposing teppanyaki grill, a nod to Joël Robuchon’s love for Japanese cuisine, a love that lives on in the menu itself: sake halibut, shrimp on a zephyr of shiitakes…
The menu is a testament to the talent of one of the world’s most starred chefs and creator of a dozen eponymous ateliers, from Paris to Tokyo, London, Las Vegas, and Hong Kong (not to mention his deluxe restaurants and tea rooms). Joël Robuchon, originally from Poitiers, passed away in 2018, but his Montreal atelier, which opened in 2016, allows his know-how, artistic talent, and sense of conviviality to live on.
“I’ve worked in many different types of restaurants, from Michelin starred to Parisian pubs, to small village diners,” points out Stéphane Galibert, Executive Chef at L’Atelier Montreal for over a year. “Here, I’ve discovered a gastronomy that’s refined and democratized, interpreted in perfect simplicity: a ‘culinary show’ of the utmost quality, impeccable presentation, no white tablecloths and ostentatious service, but a laidback, enjoyable experience.”
Although the open kitchen concept is not revolutionary in and of itself – it’s common in restaurants the whole world over – the two bars that frame it, as well as the surrounding bistro tables, foster a real exchange with the chef, the waiters, and the sommeliers. The sommeliers want to do the same thing with the wine and offer a personalized service by creating wine and food pairings customized to each individual. And with over 13,000 bottles, you can rest assured the cellar is well stocked!
The dishes are as incredible for the eyes as they are for the taste buds. The menu changes according to the seasons and the availability of local products. “Of course, year-round we offer some of Mr. Robuchon’s most popular classics,” points out Stéphane Galibert. Like the fine-jelly caviar, topped with a rich cauliflower cream – an absolute masterpiece. Or the langoustine ravioli with steamed cabbage and foie gras. The executive chef also adds his own personal creations – he loves cooking with fish and shellfish – that are always in-line with the Atelier spirit: simple French cuisine that highlights the flavours of three ingredients. “Simple is one of the hardest things to pull off,” continues the chef. “Our vegetarian (gluten-free) and vegan menu forces us to be creative, to simplify our recipes, and work with new products.”
The restaurant offers several gourmet formulas –Signature, Discovery, Inspirations, Vegetarian. Don’t feel like spending two hours at a table? You can choose from over 30 à la carte dishes, like the beef and duck foie gras burger with peppers, or the Parmesan and white truffle spaghetti. And several dishes are available in smaller portions.
“You can easily come to L’Atelier for the first time simply out of curiosity – you have to sit at the counter! – and then come back for a delicious dinner before a show or between two rounds of blackjack,” suggests Stéphane Galibert.
Valentine’s Day is the ideal occasion to share a meal with that special someone and stimulate your senses! Without revealing the menu, the chef promises there’ll be crab, langoustine, sole stuffed with mushrooms, shellfish, and leeks, as well as deer and truffle. And you’re all invited!
Lobster and cauliflower duo with citrus vinaigrette
A special Valentine’s Day recipe to impress that special someone.
2 lobsters, 1 1/2 lb. each
1 small onion
2 cups water
200 mL white wine
1 tbsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 small cauliflower
100 mL cream
150 mL olive oil
Salt and pepper
Curry powder (optional)
A few cilantro leaves
Chop the carrot and onion. In a large pot, combine the carrot, onion, water, white wine, salt, coriander seeds, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Plunge the lobster claws into the broth for 2 minutes, then add the bodies. After 4 minutes, remove the claws and bodies, place on a baking sheet or in a bowl, pour court-bouillon over top and let cool.
Meanwhile, chop the cauliflower and set aside the nicest florets (calculate 3 or 4 pieces per person).
In another pot, bring water to a boil, add a spoonful of coarse salt, plunge the cauliflower florets and let cook 2 to 3 minutes (they should be tender when pierced with the tip of a knife). Strain and let cool. Set aside.
Using the same pot of water, cook remaining cauliflower. Strain. Transfer to a food processor and purée until smooth. Add the crème fraîche. Season with salt, pepper, and curry powder (optional). Refrigerate.
Combine 50 mL of citrus juice (orange, lemon, lime) with 150 mL of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Presentation and garnish
Shell the lobsters and cut into 1 1/2 cm to 2 cm pieces. Place in a bowl with cauliflower florets. Add two tablespoons of vinaigrette and a pinch of curry. Gently stir.
In the centre of a plate, place a spoonful of cauliflower purée, arrange the lobster and cauliflower over top. Garnish with a few cilantro leaves and lemon or lime zest.
Photos: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon