This restaurant in the Roppongi Hills complex was the very first Atelier Robuchon to open globally in April 2003 (the first Paris one followed soon after). This upmarket chain has grown and now spans the globe, with branches from Shanghai to London, from Bangkok to New York. Joel Robuchon, who sadly passed away in August 2018, based the design on what he had observed when dining in Japan, with most seats arrayed along a counter facing an open kitchen. The same design is used throughout the group, its red and black decor immediately recognisable. This branch is quite large, with 44 seats set out along a long counter looking directly into the kitchen, with a few additional tables enabling between sixty and seventy diners to be seated at any one time. Next to the Roppongi Hills Atelier is a separate but connected pastry and cake shop.
Heading the Tokyo locations is executive chef Michael Michaelidis, who oversees Roppongi Hills as well as the the restaurants within the Joel Robuchon Chateau in Meguro. Mr Michaelidis has worked in the Robuchon group since 2011, initially as head chef of the Atelier Robuchon in Hong Kong and most recently at the now closed Robuchon Singapore.
The menu of an Atelier is, by design, fairly standardised, with some nods to locality. On this menu you can find Spanish mackerel caught off the waters of Japan, and a grape nage with lime jelly using grapes from Kyoto, but you will also find the signature lobster jelly with caviar and cauliflower cream dish and of course the famous mash potatoes, just as you would at any Atelier Robuchon. There is no shortage of menu choice, with a la carte starters and mains but also small plates options, and assorted menu packages whereby you can construct your own menu of varying lengths from amongst the a la carte options. At the most basic you could have just an amuse bouche, one course and coffee for ¥3,200 (£22), right the way up to a tasting menu priced at ¥17,800 (£123). The wine list doesn’t take any prisoners at the bottom of the list, with very little choice below €10,000. Markups were tolerable though, with labels like Chateau Musar Blanc 2006 at ¥9,000 (£62) for a bottle that you can find in the high street for ¥6,428, and climbing rapidly through Chateau Mercian Hokushin Private Reserve Chardonnay 2015 at ¥17,000 compared to its retail price of ¥8,339, and Vinedos del Contina Graciano 2009 at ¥30,000 for a wine that will set you back ¥12,724 in the high street. For those with considerable means there was value to be found at the top of the list, with prestige wines like Domaine Arnous Vosnee Romanee Grand Cru 2002 a relative bargain at ¥94,000 compared to its retail price of ¥111,600, and Romanee Conti La Tache Grand Cru 2015 at ¥500,000 for a wine whose current market value is ¥533,743.
We opted for some of the small plates. A nibble of pork rilette on toast was a quite rustic but enjoyable introduction to the meal, with a vegetarian alternative of potato and quinoa croquette, which was crisp and well seasoned (15/20). The bread is made at the bakery here, and is excellent. Gazpacho had very smooth texture, the tomatoes and peppers having good flavour. There was a trio of excellent croutons and drops of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the surface (15/20).
Foie gras terrine came with toast, figs and caramelised hazelnuts. The terrine had silky texture and plenty of liver flavour, the figs and nuts a pleasant accompaniment (17/20). Snow crab, a mix of white and brown meat, was wrapped in thin strips of daikon and was lovely. The crab was from Hokkaido and had excellent flavour, and the balance of this with the fresh crab was well judged (17/20). Langoustine tempura was a joy, served with a herb and lettuce salad with shreds of beetroot. The dressing of the salad was a clever way to balance the tempura, and the langoustine itself was gorgeous, the batter light and delicate (easily 17/20). Artichoke heart quarters rested on artichoke purée, surrounded by a rich mild curry cream sauce and garnished with artichoke crisps 16/20). I had quail stuffed with foie gras, which came with cooking juices, a little salad and a dollop of the signature mash potato. The quail, from Ardeche in France (they sometimes get their quail from Spain as an alternative source of supply) had lovely flavour and was carefully cooked. Again the dressing of the salad cut through the richness of the quail and the buttery mash, providing much needed balance (17/20).
To finish we had passion fruit soufflé, accompanied by a spoon of mixed tropical fruit ice cream. The soufflé was absolutely superb, evenly cooked through and with plenty of passion fruit flavour, ethereally light (19/20). Apparently the kitchen makes twice as many soufflés as are ordered, discarding the less perfect ones. I noticed the precision of the chefs, with even the gazpacho and salads being weighed on scales in order to be exactly consistent from customer to customer.
Service from our French waiter/manager was silky smooth, and he switched effortlessly from English to fluent Japanese as needed. We just drank water at this lunch, the bill coming to ¥12,842 (£88) per person. If you ordered moderate wine then a typical cost per person might be around £120. I usually find Atelier Robuchons around the world to be highly consistent, as you would expect from a chain. I normally reckon 16/20 is the right score for them, but this one has the advantage of having access to Japanese ingredients in addition to the imported French produce like the quail. In this case the second Michelin star seems reasonable.
Further reviews: 22nd Nov 2013