L’atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel, Arles 3

June 20, 2017

Our two previous visits to the atelier were seven and ten years ago, so we were interested to see its evolution when Linda and I went for dinner on May 19, 2017. We concluded the last time: “We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and think that Rabanel is one of the most interesting and accomplished chefs in France today.”

We were seated in a new room.

We had our first three courses there; then we were moved into the old dining room next door. We never understood the point of this.

Next to our first table was a large focaccia loaf with piment d’espelette on top.

Pieces were cut for us.

It was good focaccia, but the hot pepper was overdone.

We started with glasses of the house Champagne. We ordered a bottle of 2010 Château d’Estoublon from nearby Les Baux. Good.

There is no menu; the only choice is how many dishes you want. While each course was quickly described to us by the rushed servers, my notes and memory are sparse, but I have tried to provide some idea of the compositions below.

The first course was a gazpacho of cherry tomatoes, black olives, truffles and garlic sorbet.

This was nice. The provençal flavors were well matched and allowed to shine.

A langoustine on a pea purée with a foam. You can see the red piment d’espelette on the pea leaf of the otherwise delicate dish.

Onion stuffed with fennel and cod.

This combination did not work for me.

Now we moved to the other room.

Pissaladière revisited. A variety of fresh vegetables were topped with two fresh anchovy filets.

An interesting idea, but the treatment did not bring out the best in the vegetables.

A slice of filet of a bull of the Camargue had been smoked and seared.

These beasts are raised in the nearby swampy area for the bull ring in Arles. The meat is flavorful, but not at all tender.  The egg yolk in back substituted for Béarnaise sauce. 

Basil gel, pea mousse and pea tempura.

A strip of puffed black rice from the Camargue was topped with confit fruits and a scoop of tarragon ice cream.


Like our last meal, this one emphasized produce from the area, particularly from the chef’s nearby garden in the Camargue. Asparagus were strangely missing in mid-May. Whereas last time the flavors of the ingredients were enhanced and allowed to shine through, this time they seemed reduced. A heavy hand with salt and espelette pepper was partially at fault. The chef had been at his bistro next door most of the evening, but he came to our table late in the meal. When I stated my reservations about the cuisine, Rabanel became quite agitated, thanked us for our visit and left our table.  He went on to sit down with another client. The service and pace were erratic and the ambiance lacked graciousness. We had returned to Arles specifically to return to the atelier and were very disappointed at the end of the evening.

The chef’s website: http://www.rabanel.com

To see our last, much better, meal at the atelier click here.

One Response to “L’atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel, Arles 3”

  1. Stephen Says:

    Dear Sir,
    I appreciate the care and frankness with which you write about your dining experiences. Entertaining. Useful, Thank you,

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