The very first Atelier de Joel Robuchon to open was not in Paris but here in Tokyo in April 2003. It is at ground floor level of the vast Roppongi Hills complex. It has the same red and black decor as is used throughout the chain, with mostly counter seating plus a few conventional tables. This branch also has a pastry and bakery shop next door, with the bakery also supplying the bread for the restaurant. The dining rooms seats 60 guests at capacity, with no less than fifteen chefs working at each service.
There was a quite extensive wine list with wines from around the world, with wildly varyting mark-up levels. Casa Apalayas Casea Alexandre 2011 was ¥9,000 (£55) for a wine that you can find in the high street for £12, Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2006 was ¥21,000 (£128) for a wine that retails at £33, and Dom Perignon 2002 was ¥30,000 (£183) for a wine that you an find in a shop for £115
The bread was good, with mini baguettes, soft white rolls and brioche all very well made (16/20). To begin was a nibble called barbajuan, which is a speciality of Monaco. It is a little savoury pastry containing spinach, leeks, Swiss chard and ricotta cheese. This rendition was very capable, though the pastry was a little on the hard side, and perhaps unsurprisingly did not compare well with the at Louis XV (16/20).
Tasmanian salmon tartare was topped with caviar and served with shiso flowers and buds. This was lovely, the salmon excellent, the caviar of good quality and the shiso nicely balancing the salmon (17/20). Next was a vegetable tarte fine, the pastry topped with aubergine purée, and on top of this an array of vegetables: tomatoes, broccoli, ginko nuts, radish, green beans and a little mozzarella cheese, with an aubergine crisp. This was impressive due to the sheer quality of the vegetables, which are so often exceptionally good in Japan. Here even humble broccoli had superb flavour (17/20).
A langoustine was fried and served with basil pesto. The coating was light and the langoustine sweet and delicious (17/20). Our main courses diverged. My wife had sawara or Spanish mackerel, which was in peak season in November, served on a bed of puy lentils in a creamy emulsion. The fish was precisely cooked, the lentils excellent (17/20). I had wagyu beef from Yamagata prefecture, rib eye served with the trademark Robuchon mashed potato and a salad. The beef was very good, not too heavily marbled and so still distinctly beefy in flavour, the mash suitably cream and topped with a little black truffle, the salad and its dressing providing balance (17/20).
A pre dessert served in a glass had a layer of strawberries and blueberries marinated in lemongrass, sugar syrup and anise, topped with basil and lime sorbet. The fruit was fine though the anise flavour was quite strong, and I am not a fan of shrubbery in my sorbet (14/20). For dessert, fig marinated with Campari came with grapefruit treated the same way, alongside fig jam, fig sherbet and a cream cheese mousse and white chocolate. This was perfectly pleasant, though the fig sorbet was rather lacking in flavour (15/20). Much better was "textures of chocolate", made using three different high grade varieties of Valrhona chocolate. A ganache came with a chocolate sauce and a sherbet topped with a chocolate crisp. This was a rich but beautifully made dessert, the components each lovely, their different textures providing contrast (18/20).
Coffee was good, coming with a few simple petit fours: a little biscuit, chocolate orange and a soft toffee. The bill came to ¥25,690 for two with just mineral water to drink, which works out at £78 a head. This is hardly cheap, but Atelier Robuchon never is. Service was superb, the waiters friendly and knowledgable. This branch of the chain was better than some others I have tried (such as in London) due to the sheer quality of ingredients that were used here. Presentation is always a strong point of this group of restaurants, and the dishes were indeed very pretty, but the excellent produce here lifted them to a higher level than I was expecting (17/20).
Further reviews: 11th Sep 2018