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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Good bye Trio, hello Trio Atelier

My apology for confusing the future of chef Grant Achatz's new restaurant Alinea with the new incarnation of Trio. In my last review of Trio, I was expressing my disenchantment with Grant Achatz leaving the avant-garde cuisine in favor of bistro-ish food. Happily I was so very wrong, Alinea will continue in the innovative trajectory of chef Achatz's cooking at Trio. Trio itself, on the other hand, has gone through a complete conceptual transformation into what is now called Trio Atelier.

I just found this article announcing the opening of the new Trio Atelier (thanks Lizzie for pointing this out). Apparently the owner of Trio was so inspired by Robuchon's L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon that he has decided to turn Trio into one.

The concept at Robuchon's atélier, or workshop in English, is a casual place where he could cook and experiment outside the restrictive boundary of Haute Cuisine. The restaurant is much like a sushi bar, with diners eating on high stools surrounding the kitchen and prep area. The menu largely consists of grazing food, small plates, plenty of wine in the by-the-glass list, and no reservation except the very fist seating at lunch and dinner. The idea was to take haute cuisine to the more approachable realm, where people can pop by for a few well-prepared dishes and a couple glasses of wine, and pop out again on their way to a night about town. The last few times I was at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon it was exactly in that manner, popping in and out because it was so convenient.

Trio Atelier is reportedly after the same concept, casual, small plates, grazing menu that was anything but the formality of the old Trio. I must admit I find this transformation rather dubious. No, I am not complaining about the copy-cat thing again. Robuchon certainly didn't invent the tapas nor the sushi concepts. What I find odd is the obvious differences between Trio Atelier and Robuchon's workshop. One of the most glaring differences is the set up of the restaurant itself. Robuchon's Atelier is a true workshop, where the boundary between the work area and the service area is rather thin. Diners are able to observe all the going-ons in the food preparation and service, befitting the concept of a workshop. Trio Atelier on the other hand appears to be pretty much the same as the set up of the old Trio, with closed kitchen and a separated dining area. How that is a workshop I am entirely unclear.

Also Robuchon's place is in a very high traffic area, smack in the middle of the fancy St.Germain des Prés, where it is easy for people to drop in for a bite and out again to other places. Trio, on the other hand, is on a side street in sleepy little Chicago suburb of Evanston—hardly a night out or even a quick lunch destination.

Oh well, what do I know I suppose. I shall be more than happy to be proven wrong again. We all know it wouldn't be the first time. ;-)

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