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TrelayneNYC

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Chef Christophe Bellanca's High-Stakes Dining on 10th Avenue across from Chelsea Market

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It's worth pointing out that gratuity is included, so a $145 tasting menu actually costs $157.87 (adding on the 8.875% sales and use tax), instead of $186.87 (also adding on a 20% before-tax gratuity).

Pete Wells' closing sentence shows some modicum of prejudice against chains (I, too, plead guilty) with his closing sentence: "Nobody goes to chains, even expensive ones, for new sensations." While this is true, I don't go to Corduroy or 2 Amys for new sensations - people with extreme wealth sometimes want their versions of comfort food, just as we do. That's one thing about New York City's sheer population, population density, and UHNWIs: It is possible for ultra-luxe establishments to succeed, especially when factoring in tourism.

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We ate at Le Grill with friends shortly after the restaurant opened. The food was both well executed and yet utterly unremarkable at the same time. It was exactly what you would expect from a well-run corporate chain. It was a Saturday night and the room was buzzing but not noisy. My feeling was that the menu and experience at Le Grill is designed to please a more conservative palate and/or the business diner looking to be in but not actually experience a hip NYC neighborhood. 

Two points additional that might further help to provide additional context to the dining experience there. 

1- I think we were the only people eating there that night who lived within walking distance. I doubt that the majority of the diners spent any time that day or any day in the Meatpacking neighborhood or Chelsea. If they lived in Manhattan they lived north of 34th street (our friends live on the UWS). But most likely they lived outside of New York City. 

2- The sommelier said we were the first table to express a preference for either grower Champagne or natural wines. Both products he personally prefers but doesn't think will sell well in that venue and thus there was a limited selection. But we did enjoy his suggestions. 

For a serious diner coming to visit New York on even a semi-regular basis, it would not be on my "must try" list. I really have nothing negative to say about the food or the experience, but I don't see us making any effort to return. Frankly it isn't the kind of restaurant in any city that would get us excited, but we didn't pick it either.

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Waiters announce two things upon presenting the pommes. First, they identify the product as “Joël Robuchon’s” potatoes, in case anyone suspects that the “chef of the century” outsourced the recipe for a mere side dish. Second, they claim that the potatoes themselves are “famous.” This is true. In 1980s Paris, the indulgent spuds helped Robuchon make a name for himself at his now-closed Jamin. The impossible ratio of butter to fingerlings, as well the fact that Robuchon was serving such a humble dish at an ambitious venue, epitomized the chef’s efforts to counter France’s lighter, brighter, yet somewhat affected nouvelle cuisine.

The dish does not live up to its legendary status, at least not here in New York. Vigorous whisking imparts the potatoes with the texture of silk, but the dairy fats, which cool quickly, stiffen up to the density of a leaden paste. The potatoes do not taste of the earthy starch any more than they taste of good butter. They almost taste of nothing. And so through the power of manipulation, such an integral part of fine dining, Robuchon’s cooks have taken two of the world’s great ingredients and turned them into haute Crisco.

Something tells me Ryan Sutton hated his experience:  

"L'Atelier Is the Bland, Luxury Handbag of Fancy Restaurants" by Ryan Sutton on eater.ny.com

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