L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel, Arles

September 25, 2007

Jean-Luc Rabanel was the first chef of an organic restaurant to receive a Michelin star. This was at La Chassagnette in the Camargue, 20 km south of Arles. But he left in the fall of 2005 and in the spring of 2006  opened his own small place in the old part of Arles. He got his star back in March of 2007. L’Atelier seats thirty in a very plain ambiance. There is no menu; everyone eats the same dishes for 65 €. The only choice is for the main course; when Linda and I dined there on September 19, 2007, that choice was between a lamb chop, a piece of guinea fowl or of swordfish.  We were told that the cuisine would feature Provence and Asia. Rabanel also has his own vegetable garden outside Arles. He plans to open a restaurant with simpler cuisine, A Côté, nearby soon.

 

     

 

Our apéritif was Billecort-Salmon Champagne served with a tempura of squash with cumin; there were tomato and sweet and sour sauces. We ordered a bottle of 2002 Domaine Hauvette from near Les Baux de Provence; it was very nice and appropriate for the meal.

We were then served the following fifteen courses: 

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A cappucino of five heirloom tomatoes which we drank from a straw. This forced us to put our noses in the basil stem which protruded from the carafe and so we enjoyed the basil aroma with the excellent fresh tomato flavor of the foamed juice. It was served with a small soft tomato-parmesan breadstick.

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A crumbly almond wafer topped with shards of fresh vegetables. There was a tomato sorbet with purslane on the side. A refreshing dish which might have been better placed further on when we needed a break.

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Fresh raw sea bass with long green beans, artichoke slices and nasturtiums. The combination was supposed to remind us of a Vietnamese spring roll and was successful.

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A dab of lemon-pistachio cream was served on a spoon with which one then ate a zucchini flower stuffed with mussels. It was all in a peppery tomato mussel broth which was too acidic and overflavored.

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A cappucino of fresh white coco beans and spring onions of Provence in a balsamic vinegar emulsion. This could have been more enjoyable if it had not followed another acidic dish. It was served with toasted bread slices and a bowl of toppings to make your own tartine, or open-faced sandwich. We learned later that the surprise ingredient was rabbit liver.

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A raviolo of tomatoes with orange zest and a parmesan tile.

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 A whole braised purple artichoke in a mousse of arugula, parsley, ginger and nasturtium blossoms.

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A piece of wild salmon on a mousse of celery root, potato, sesame and Asian lemon. Still too much acid.

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The Guinea fowl roasted in a crust of rosemary salt had been shown around the room before the crust was broken and the bird carved. It was served with fall vegetables and a reduction of poultry juices.

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Slices of Ossau Iraty, a sheeps milk cheese from the Pyrenées served with fig jam and a salad of very fresh greens.

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Sweet potato jelly with iced coconut cream and a coconut wafer.

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Strawberries and raspberries in a pistachio cream.

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A roasted fig with olive purée inside on a bed of a roasted pine nut cream.

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Verveine ice cream with a lemon grass tile. 

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White chocolate fritters on an emulsion of coco beans.  

We had a very good time. It was a pleasure to see the various presentations, try the combinations and fresh ingredients. If it had not been for the string of too much tomato, lemon and vinegar in the middle of the meal, we would have deemed it two star. The next time we are near Arles, we’ll try again. I imagine that we’ll be hearing a lot about Jean-Luc Rabanel in the coming years and that a fancier restaurant is in his future.

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www.rabanel.com

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2 Responses to “L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel, Arles”

  1. kristin Says:

    It sounds delightful, and the presentations glorious.


  2. […] tucked in one of the back streets of the colorful town of Arles in South France. “Country Epicure” informs […]


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