You might think that dining at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, the only two-star Michelin restaurant in Florida, would be an intimidating experience, full of opportunities to appear foolish and reveal yourself to be the rube that you secretly fear you are.
The restaurant, which opened in 2019 and serves modern French cuisine, earned two Michelin stars in 2022, then retained them both in 2023. It’s located in Miami’s Design District, home to the most upscale shops in the land, on the second floor above its sister restaurant, Le Jardinier (which also earned a Michelin star). It has a slightly intimidating French name (What is an atelier? Who is Joël Robuchon? Am I required to put those dots over the e in his first name?)
But the experience of dining there turns out to be far less intimidating than you might expect, and you’ll remember the beauty and delicacy of what you ate for a long time.
Executive Chef James Friedberg, who has been at the restaurant since 2020, says that eating at L’Atelier is designed with comfort in mind.
“L’Atelier is meant to be fine dining in a casual setting,” says Friedberg, who has worked at the restaurant since 2020. “Servers are informal, not in tuxedos. There’s no real strict dress code. It’s a good introduction to the Michelin world.”
L’Atelier, which means workshop or studio, has been created in the image of the late French chef Joël Robuchon, whose restaurants earned a total of 32 Michelin stars in 2016, the most of any chef in the world. Called “the chef of the century” by the French restaurant guide Gault Millau, Robuchon died in 2018. But his legacy lives on through more than 20 restaurants around the world, from London to Dubai to Hong Kong.
Chefs like Friedberg create dishes that remain true to Robuchon’s culinary philosophy, which pays great attention to elevated ingredients, impeccable cooking technique and wild creativity. Culinary director Alain Verzeroli, Friedberg says, has been overseeing Robuchon restaurants for more than 20 years and has a deep understanding of Robuchon’s vision — and how to frame dishes to follow it.
“It’s something we take seriously,” Friedberg says. “Putting a dish on the menu isn’t easy. We start with the idea of ingredients, and we test and taste a lot of recipes. We find the right plate for it, and the presentation is very important. We take pride in that, so it’s a long process.”
The restaurant’s business rapidly increased last year after the Miami Michelin stars were announced (“we had to close reservations almost right away because we were fully booked,” Friedberg says), so reservations are a must.
A meal here is not inexpensive. After all, those two Michelin stars mean that the guide has deemed this restaurant exceptional, serving fine cuisine in a unique way and worthy of a detour if you’re traveling. But it’s the best way to indulge in the two-star experience without booking a flight.
The setting of the restaurant is dramatic and modern, but the atmosphere is more casual, with no real pressure for you to appear fabulous (although you are welcome to appear fabulous — this is the Design District, after all). There are a few sartorial restrictions — no flip flops, gym or beach wear, revealing clothing or hats or caps are allowed. But there’s no reason to feel intimidated.
Where to sit
You may think you want a table, but you don’t (unless you have a large group). The ideal place to sit is at the long, gorgeous 34-seat counter, where you can interact easily with the servers, enjoy the choreographed presentation and watch the open kitchen create tiny masterpieces on each plate.
A foursome might be able to communicate more easily at a four-top table, and there are outdoor banquettes available as well. But missing the show you witness from the counter would be a real shame. Our advice is to talk to your friends later.
If you crave a quiet, romantic dinner with minimal interruption, L’Atelier may not be the best choice. Interaction with the servers is one of the most fun parts of the meal. They’re friendly, knowledgeable and are happy to help you with questions about everything from the wine list to how to order. They’ll guide you through the menu with expertise and good humor.
The staff is also meticulous about clearing plates, filling glasses and crumbs are not permitted to linger on surfaces for more than a few seconds.
The counter service, by the way, makes this an easy and pleasant spot to dine alone.
Created by Friedberg, the Evolution tasting menu ($305) features six courses plus dessert and showcases some of the restaurant’s special dishes. An amuse-bouche of foie gras with a port wine reduction and Parmesan foam sets the stage for a series of small plates that are startling in their creativity and absolutely beautiful as well. Highlights include prawn carpaccio, tuna sashimi in brown butter, wild-caught turbot with wasabi, lime and champagne emulsion and filet mignon. Even the spring vegetables are a work of art.
L’Atelier is also currently serving its spring menu ($210), which comes with three courses, plus the amuse-bouche and dessert. On Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday, you can order a la carte items from the menu.
And every day the staple dishes that made Robuchon famous are available, including a crispy poached egg with caviar and smoked salmon; roasted baby artichoke; caramelized squab with foie gras and mashed potato and scallop in a cilantro broth.
One thing you don’t want to miss
In the face of all these intricately created dishes, you may be tempted to skip the bread basket. Don’t do it. Regret will fill your soul, and your days and nights will never be the same.
The tiny flaky croissant, the cheesy roll and the crunchy mini-baguettes are all necessary for soaking up the various foams and sauces on your plate. You’re not going to want to leave any of this behind.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Where: 151 NE 41st St., Miami; Suite 235
Hours: 6-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 6-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Information: latelier-miami.com or 305-402-9070