At globetrotting chef Joël Robuchon's new Manhattan restaurant, the best seats in the house are the 20 stools around the U-shaped counter, with front-row views of the open kitchen. As in his restaurants in Paris, Tokyo, Las Vegas, and London, ingredients here serve as decoration: a basket of eggs, Iberian ham, fennel, and cherries chilling on ice. Despite the menu's fondness for gelée, trend-weary diners needn't fear. "I don't like to combine too many flavors," assures Robuchon. Though the reservations policy can be tricky—a month in advance for a table or one of two daily seatings at the counter—it's easier than booking a flight to Hong Kong, where Robuchon's newest Atelier opens next month. Four Seasons Hotel New York, 57 E. 57th St.; 212/350-6658, dinner for two $260.
Stainless steel salt and pepper grinders by Peugeot. With executive chef Yosuke Suga, an eight-year Robuchon veteran, running the kitchen, they won't be getting much use.
Scottish langoustines, flown in daily, are wrapped in pastry dough, then fried and topped with a crisp basil leaf. "It's like a Japanese tempura or Italian scampi, but lighter," explains Robuchon.
Skip the water. For this dish, Robuchon recommends a white wine such as Rully or Bourgogne from his 320-bottle wine list.
Servers replace the Equis silverware with Houdini-like dexterity, up to 10 times during a tasting menu.
Bernardaud plates, made in France. L'Atelier uses more than three dozen types of serving dishes, many of which Robuchon custom-designed.
In 2003, Robuchon opened the doors to his first Atelier, in Tokyo, where he shifted from the classical French cooking that earned him three Michelin stars to "something more modern," with items such as this simple puréed basil and olive oil sauce.