Here Are 50 Reasons Not to Eat Out on April 20: Gourmet London

Here Are 50 Reasons Not to Eat Out on April 20: Gourmet London
2009-04-14 23:00:01.3 GMT
By Richard Vines

April 15 (Bloomberg) — Here’s a tip: April 20 is the night of the year to avoid dining out in London. It’s the date of the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards and you’re more likely to see a top chef there than in a restaurant.

Joel Robuchon will head to Freemasons’ Hall from Paris, Daniel Boulud from New York, Ferran Adria from Barcelona and Tetsuya Wakuda from Sydney. They will join U.K. counterparts who include Heston Blumenthal, Marcus Wareing, Rick Stein, Fergus Henderson and possibly Jamie Oliver — he’s filming. In case you wondered, Gordon Ramsay won’t be there. He’s out of the country.

It promises to be quite a gathering — there are 500 people on the guest list — for awards that are greeted in the food world with a mixture of both amusement and annoyance, as well as a touch of boredom.

The top three places have gone to El Bulli, the Fat Duck and Pierre Gagnaire — in that order — for three straight years. China and Japan don’t feature in the Top 50 and the Asian winner is usually Bukhara, an unexceptional eatery in New Delhi.

This year, new panelists have been named in an attempt to freshen things up. I am one for the first time. I have no idea who everyone else voted for, but I can tell you who will win the Lifetime Achievement award. It goes to Robuchon, Michelin’s favorite chef, the organizers said in an e-mailed release.

Red Eaters

There’s good news for steak lovers in London who can’t get enough even now that Goodman has joined Maze Grill, Hawksmoor and other restaurants that cater to those who like their meat red. Palm Restaurants plans to open a London branch on May 25 on the former site of Drones, on Pont Street. The look will be similar to that employed in the U.S., with banquette seating, hardwood floors and caricatures of famous customers. The menu will feature favorites such as lobster, creamed spinach, New York cheesecake and, of course, USDA prime-aged steak.

Blumenthal was one of the judges last week in the finals of the Roux Scholarship, which seeks to recognize and support the U.K.’s most promising young chefs. (The age limit is 30.) He’s busy after the Fat Duck, which won the Best Restaurant award in 2005, was closed for more than two weeks following a breakout of the norovirus. Blumenthal is popular in the industry and received plenty of sympathy from fellow judges who included four members of the Roux family — Michel, Albert, Michel Jr. and Alain — and chefs Gary Rhodes, Andrew Fairlie and Brian Turner. I was a judge, too, so I know. The winner, Hrishikesh Desai, of Lucknam Park, near Bath, stood out at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel on April 6 when finalists had to cook Brill Cherubin, an Escoffier recipe.

Miami Fab

Hakkasan, the Chinese restaurant known for being fabulous, is to open its first U.S. branch on April 19. Hakkasan Miami, in the Fontainebleau hotel, Miami Beach, will replicate the venue’s formula of fashionable food and cool cocktails. It’s more than a year since the restaurateur Alan Yau sold majority control of Hakkasan and its sister Yauatcha for $60 million to Tasameem, the property arm of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. There’s already a Hakkasan in Istanbul and Yau last month opened a second London branch of his budget Chinese eatery Cha Cha Moon at the Whiteleys shopping center in Bayswater.

Yorkshire Portions

David Moore, co-owner of Pied a Terre and L’Autre Pied in London, has opened an eatery in Harrogate, in northern England. Van Zeller — the chef is Tom van Zeller — uses local Yorkshire ingredients in its modern British cuisine. I’ve yet to make it there but I did finally try the cooking of another Yorkshire chef, Anthony Flinn, at Piazza by Anthony in the Corn Exchange, Leeds. Portions are large for dishes such as warm salad of Bury black pudding with a soft-poached egg, and fish pie with creamy mash. My family is from Yorkshire and I can’t say how welcome such good cooking is. In my home town of Doncaster, I’ve given up trying to find a restaurant serving food I would want to eat.

(Richard Vines is chief food critic for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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Talking With the Complete Joël Robuchon

Read this from a Zagat Buzz newsletter … quite a good read about one of the most celebrated chefs in the world.

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Learning to cook from Joël Robuchon, whose world-renowned restaurants stretch from New York to London to Tokyo and back again, might seem intimidating, to say the least. But the chef’s latest cookbook, The Complete Robuchon, is anything but. Commencing with a simple introduction on the art of eating, it offers rudimentary explanations of cooking techniques – from braising to microwaving to sous vide – along with over 800 recipes. Everything involved in the creation of a meal from stock to garnish is covered while also placing the dishes within a practical and historical context.

In New York to promote his new book, Robuchon sat down with The Buzz to talk about the importance of technique, the differences between French and American home cooks, why he’s against molecular gastronomy and more.

Zagat Buzz: Your cookbook includes both contemporary recipes and ones most French home cooks should already be familiar with. For whom is it intended?

Joël Robuchon: This book was written for the general public. The recipes are fairly simple and easy to prepare so that many people can follow them. Of course I also include some more sophisticated recipes, because even the amateur cook likes to do something special! I also wanted to give people the basic savoir-faire or know-how to be able to cook well. A lot of people come into my restaurants and ask, “How did you make that delicious vinaigrette?” or something like that. The recipe is usually quite simple, but it is the technique that makes a difference.

ZB: Do you think this is the most approachable cookbook you’ve ever written?

JR: Yes, for sure. The way I designed this book was by picking the 800 recipes that I found to be the most accessible from a list of 2,000, and dividing them up into chapters that are preceded by simple explanations of what the food group is and how best to choose, prepare and cook it. I think I give more information than in any of my previous books, which is helpful to both the amateur and advanced cook. It is practical information that will help people understand how to cook better.

ZB: How does the cooking style and method change from restaurant to home?

JR: In a restaurant, you have so much more available to you in terms of equipment. You have the option of making a lot more things because you have the tools to do so. At home, however, you are more limited in what you have and therefore what you can make. One thing I have always noticed throughout my years is that Americans always have so much more equipment in the home than the French do. Even now. You walk into an American home kitchen and they have a garlic peeler, an egg cracker and all sorts of gadgets. The average French home cook has a pan, a knife and a whisk.

ZB: So would you say that equipment is the main difference between the French and the American home cook?

JR: Well it is quite difficult for me to say, because I am not too often in an American home kitchen, but yes, Americans were always ahead with their gadgets. I used to come to the U.S. just to get a meat thermometer because we did not have it in France yet. I was the only chef in France with one at the time when I brought it back.

ZB: The subtitle of this book is “French Home Cooking for the Way We Live Now.” In what ways has French home cooking changed from the way it was 10, 25 or 50 years ago?

JR: Because travel has become much more common and things are transported much easier than in the past, products have become much fresher. If you did not live near the sea 50 or even 25 years ago, it was very difficult to get fresh fish. Now you can get it almost anywhere. Also, in the past, French chefs would hide their meat or produce under thick starchy or creamy sauces, perhaps sometimes to cover up food that is past its prime. Not that I have any problem with cream or butter. Americans tend to shy away from such things because they like to eat healthier, but my family has been eating lots and lots of butter for years and everyone is very old and healthy! But now everything is more pure and you are able to identify foods served to you much easier than in the past.

ZB: So, do you think that making all foods readily available anytime, anywhere is always a good thing?

JR: No, actually it is quite a paradox. It is good because things are fresher and there is more variety, but it is bad because there are fewer adherences to seasonal foods. I think that older people are able to understand the benefit, both health- and tastewise, of eating seasonally, because at some point it was their only choice. But I am quite surprised to discover that many young people are totally unaware of the season of a certain produce.

ZB: Some people complain that cooking at home becomes too expensive if using esoteric ingredients that are barely used and spoil quickly. Did you consider the cook’s wallet when designing the recipes in this cookbook?

JR: If you open the book and point to a recipe and say ‘ok, this is what I am going to cook’ and then go out and buy all of those specific ingredients, yes, it will be expensive. But this cookbook is not meant for that. This book supposes that you are cooking regularly and that you will pick a recipe based on what you already have at home, not the other way around. For example, if you have a lot of carrots, find a recipe in the book with carrots. In this fashion, cooking at home most certainly will save you money.

ZB: Another cookbook released in the past month is Grant Achatz’s Alinea cookbook, which has lots of pretty pictures and recipes that are nearly impossible to replicate at home – unless you keep needles and various chemicals handy. What do you think of so-called molecular gastronomy?

JR: Although I do not want to critique anyone or his or her work, I am personally very against it. I have been working very hard for over 20 years to make sure that my products are free from additives or anything unnatural. If you are talking about the kind of molecular gastronomy that uses additives or synthesized products, that to me is unnatural and something that goes against my work and my will. Firstly, because this is a relatively new practice, we have no idea what the long-term affects are of consuming such substances, and I cannot imagine them being good. Also, it seems to me that if a mistake is made in the kitchen while practicing this molecular gastronomy, it could have a grave outcome for the diner. So, no, this is not something that I myself would ever support.

ZB: Finally, is there a particular recipe in this book that is nearest to your heart?

JR: My mashed potatoes, of course! They are very simple, I just use potatoes, milk and butter, but everyone always asks for more.

– Christina Livadiotis

L’ATELIER de Joel Robuchon

I finally got a chance to dine at one of Robuchon’s restaurants and the experience was every bit what I had imagined, if not MORE.

We chose to sit by the open kitchen, or the by the “bar” so that we can get a good look at the action by the teppanyaki grill. The surrounding area was very dim; as you would expect from a very trendy / chic restaurant. Not surprisingly, the diners (except me) were also very trendy / chic … definitely eye candies 🙂

The servers were very attentive and were very helpful in recommending dishes to us, but even before they took down our orders, got us comfortably drinking very expensive bottles of San Pelligrino. We were then served complimentary Foie Gras Pâté with Cappuccino and Chocolate Reduction which was quite an experience in itself altogether, not to mention a pleasant surprise!

The following dishes include:

Le Homard: Maine Lobster in Turnip Raviolis
La Chataigne: Chestnut Soup in a Celery Broth with Smoked Bacon and Foie Gras
Le Crabe: King Crab and Avocado Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella and Virgin Olive Oil
L’Entrecote: Thick Sliced Wagyu Beef Sirloin
L’Oursin: Sea Urchin Spaghetti

For more detail, please click into each of the photos!

In the end, the bill came to HKD 3,300+, which is definitely not cheap (Note that we had a glass of wine each, the cheapest wine by the glass is around HKD 300). Compared with Bo Innovation, however, I’d actually choose this restaurant for a return visit.

Next time, I’d definitely save some space for their dessert.

L’ATELIER de Joel Robuchon
Shop 401, 4/F., The Landmark,
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2166 9000
Opening Hours:
Breakfast 7:30AM to 10:00AM (Mondays to Saturdays, except public holidays)
Lunch: 12:00PM to 2:30PM
Dinner: 6:30PM to 10:30PM