In August of 2018, the world lost a culinary genius who played with classic French cooking and helped to redefine remarkable dishes with intoxicating flavours, precise technique along with exquisite plating. Classically trained and deeply influenced by nouvelle cuisine, Joel Robuchon elevated food from the simple to the complex, in a way that we hadn’t seen before. His modern French cuisine had garnered him more Michelin stars than anyone, an astounding 32 during his lifetime. His cooking has sent shockwaves through the dining scene and continues to do so worldwide. Thankfully his legacy lives on with his protégées and his hospitality group. Miami is fortunate to have the iconic restaurant L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon open at 151 NE 41st Street in the Paradise Plaza in the Miami Design District. This location was in the planning stages before the chef died.
Atelier means, “workshop” or “studio” in French, and these restaurants have a unique dining approach, where most seats are around a high bar facing an open kitchen. This is where you want to sit if you want to be part of the action. It is something that the chef was inspired by when dining at a sushi bar. This creates a high level of interaction between the server and chefs, kind of like having your own “food concierge “. Special thanks to Adrian, who took excellent care of us and was on top of everything. Even when we dropped our napkin or pen he immediately responded by replacing both. But even though the food may be a gastronomic experience, there is no pretension, but a casual, enjoyable environment where you can speak freely with the chefs and service staff. If you prefer a quieter more intimate evening, you can choose to sit at one of the private tables, which seat an additional 20 people.
The 3,300 square-foot Miami location also has the signature red and black decor of his other restaurants. It was designed by renowned French architect Pierre Yves Rochon. It is a study in modern, chic and sexy. It impresses you from the moment you arrive. The art pieces are provided from the Opera Gallery, next door in the mall. The owners of the gallery are French and Joel Robuchon was their favourite chef, so they are honored to showcase some of their special pieces here. The bar is long and curved and can seat 34. The dishes that are used are Bernadaud, the silverware is Christofle. They have spared no expense.
Lacquered zebra woods, leathers, black floors, red walls, red leather stools, seashells and baubles in a glass sushi bar inspired display case in front of you. Each restaurant follows an Asian decor formula.The executive Chef is Alain Vereroli, who has worked for the company for over two decades. There are 22 staff in the kitchen, all men except for one tiny powerhouse, the head chef, Nancy Dominguez. With her ever-friendly sous chef, Stanley Poon, they are upholding the chef’s exceptionally high standards. The night we were there corporate head chef of the entire world operation, Christophe Blanca, was in the house to make sure that everything was to the standards of the Robuchon brand. Master baker Tetsuya Yamaguchi was also in from New York to make sure the breads were up to snuff. Let me tell you, they were pure perfection.
This is Miami’s most sophisticated gourmet destination by far. It can’t be long till Michelin comes calling.
We tried the ten-course “evolution “ menu. I have to say that each and every course was a triumph. It was the stuff dreams were made of. I can’t tell you how many top 10 restaurants I’ve been to where many of the courses are disappointing.
The restaurant is like eating at a Japanese sushi counter with Spanish style tapas of the highest quality.
It is difficult to pick out my favourite items, because everything from the hamachi sashimi with cilantro guacamole and yuzu dressing to the fresh coco beans in piperade, cuttlefish and chicken chorizo was outstanding. The gnocchi with chanterelles, the poached main lobster, the Icelandic cod with Imperial caviar in a champagne sauce is meticulously prepared. The grilled wagyu with summer vegetables and wild basil pesto, or the spiced Long Island duck in lemon verbena, with snow peas are both impeccable.
The desserts are also beyond beautiful and a circus of sensations.
I was there for a soft opening, but when the restaurant is fully operational you can choose from different size tasting menus or order a la carte. You can even come in for a glass of wine and order a dish or two. There is no pressure. Well, the only pressure will be to secure a reservation.
You will enjoy style, service and exceptional food, with locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, along with an extensive wine list, with good choices of wines by the glass, and a creative cocktail list. For now, dinner only is served Tuesday to Saturday.
The good news is the long wait is finally over. You will be wowed.