L Atelier Bangkok’s hippest new restaurant that sadly didn’t live up to expectations.
By Terrence Collins
Well it was my birthday and we were spending the weekend in Bangkok, so I thought “What the heck. Let’s push the boat out and celebrate”, and after hearing great reports about L Atelier located on the 5th floor at Mahanakorn Cube on Narathiwas Ratchanakharin Road, Silom, we decided that was the place to be.
The restaurant is part of the famous chain of restaurants of the same name and run by no other than, the even more famous chef Joel Robuchon, the winner of more Michelin stars (25 in total) than any other chef in history. In 1989 Joel Robuchon was named as “Chef of the Century” by the Gault Millau guide, so to say I was a little excited about the evening was an understatement.
Upon entering the restaurant we were warmly welcomed and escorted through the plush interior, where most diners chose to sit at the bar to dine as you can see the chefs hard at work preparing the intricate dishes. Which is fine if you are a couple or even three diners who can comfortably sit on a corner table. However we had a party of 6 so this wouldn’t work for us as. I mean how on earth could you have a conversation other than with the person immediately next to you? So we booked the private “Mahanakorn room” expecting special treatment but sadly we didn’t get it. Still we will get to that later.
Four of our party wanted to try the tasting menu, whereas Pepsi and I opted to go A la Carte but this seemed too much for the ordering staff and we were told that either everyone had to have the tasting menu or everyone had to choose A la Carte. We couldn’t see how this made any sense but in the end all opted for A la Carte, which I am sure must have been more difficult for the kitchen and service staff. But considering the prices they charge and their reputation, we thought they should be able to manage the 7 different courses each that we ordered.
Once our extensive order of 42 dishes was taken the sommelier, wearing a silver grape pin ( A good sign) came to recommend the wine. Fair to say this was an impossible task considering how many different kinds of starters we chose, anyhow he did a great job and the wine was fantastic, even though he stuck to old world wines such as Rieslings from Germany. This I confess had me worrying that it might be my parent’s favorite as drunk every Christmas back in the UK but luckily the bottle of Mother’s beloved Blue Nun never materialised !
Our various appetiser courses arrived and apart from the Alaskan king crab and avocado dish, served with a grapefruit jelly (described as delicate but in fact more overpowering than delicate) everything was extremely high quality and presented as one would expect in an establishment of this caliber. It was now unfortunately that things starting to take a turn for the worst and the evening quickly went downhill.
The service was almost nonexistent, we (all six people) waited for 25 minutes with empty wine and even water glasses and without so much as a waiter putting his head in the room.Later we found out that apparently some Hi-so Thai movie star was dining at the bar and had the entire service staff at their beck and call, while we sat unattended and dehydrating at a critical rate.
Well it proved enough for my good friend, who boldly marched into the bar area and had a quiet word in the managers ear. But fair play to the manager, he quickly recovered and more wine and fluids arrived in time for the main courses. My bold friend ordered the Bresse chicken which although looking delicious, was tough and dry and can only be described as “road kill”.What an utter waste of time and good money to import quality poultry all the way from France only to crucify the meat beyond recognition.We all agreed that the local road side Gai Baan was cooked with more loved and care than the poor specimen that landed on our table.
Another disappointment was the Lobster salad “Monte Carlo” that one of our group ordered as an appetizer. This came in a bland mild curry mayonnaise at 1,300 THB , very similar to coronation chicken but with lobster, so quite an unimaginative dish for such establishment.However quite frankly what really insulted me, was the lobster main dish, which was identical in size to the appetizer but came with a pepper sauce that simply didn’t compliment the lobster in any way and at an exorbitant charge of 2,500 THB. That’s an increase of almost 50% for just a seriously wrong sauce! Both items by the way, have now both been removed from the menu so what does that tell you?
However my main courses of black cod and Pyrenees rack of lamb were more than acceptable and my other friend ordered a Dover sole which was immaculately deboned and filleted at the table. I doubt there are many waiters in BKK that could perform such a task, so hats off on that point.
Two of our female companions ordered different Wagyu beef dishes, both were inedible, once again the flavors overpowered by strange tasting sauces which ruined the otherwise good quality produce. When it came to dessert, frankly we had had enough of the place and just wanted to pay the bill, leave immediately and Never ever return, Never ever !
Upon hearing that we were about escape, the manager once again, tried his best to put things right, by offering us a selection of 8 different desserts to share from the sweet trolley, compliments of the house. Ok so being a pushover, my sweet tooth softened my heart a little and I decided to give the restaurant one final chance to redeem itself. But sadly, although the sweet trolley look enticing, each of the 8 different desserts on offer tasted processed and even a little like plastic in some cases.Sorry to say, we left the restaurant feeling extremely disappointed in the food and service, plus financially raped to boot.
Will I return?
No certainly not. Even if they offer me a completely free dinner.
Will the restaurant be a success?
Certainly it will, due to all the hype and notoriety of being “the place to be seen in BKK”. People, like sheep (or Sheepeople as we like to say) will herd themselves through the doors hoping to sit next to some TV personality whilst updating their facebook with images of the food they didn’t enjoy..
Will the restaurant improve?
I would certainly imagine so and definitely if the “Culinary Grand Master” Joel Robuchon pays a surprise visit and finds his reputation being dragged through the mud.