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When Two Powerhouse Restaurants Collide
What it takes for Miami's Mila Omakase and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon to plan a collaborative dinner
Restaurant collaborations, or collabs, are a perennial hot ticket for diners who seek out the one-two punch of having a meal from two (or more) of their favorite restaurants in one stellar evening.
Most of these collab diners are themed — be it to showcase a seasonal offering, a rare wine vintage, or a holiday. Sometimes, the reasoning behind the dinner is simply that the two chefs want to combine their talents for a night.
Planning such a meal takes much more than simply having two chefs text each other saying, “Hey I’ll take the first and second course and you take the rest”.
Think of a collaborative dinner, instead, as a play: First the evening must have a throughline, or plot, if you will. Then, a script must be written and cast. Finally, there are a series of rehearsals and preparations. Only then, can guests be wowed with the showmanship of a cohesive and delicious collaborative dinner.
In Miami, two powerhouse restaurants — Mila Omakase and two-Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon — recently combined forces for a series of collaborative dinners (and plan on doing another dinner on January 18, 2024).
Broken Palate spoke with Riviera Dining Group’s (parent of Mila Omakase) head of culinary Michael Michaelidis, Mila Omakase’s executive chef Reiji Yoshizawa, and L'Atelier's executive chef James Friedberg to get the inside scoop on their collaboration.
Broken Palate: Mila Omakase and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon have two very different culinary styles. How did you come up with a final, cohesive menu?
Chef James Friedberg: For this dinner, we took a “greatest hits” approach. We put together classics to create a menu of the great French and the great Japanese dishes.
BP: How long had you been planning this dinner?
JF: We started planning the dinner a few months ago. The chefs at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon dined at Mila Omakase and we were impressed at what they were doing and it worked with our style, as well. We then met with the chef and the culinary director, and we did a tasting of all the combined dishes, along with a corresponding wine pairing. Then we made a few tweaks so the menu would flow like one restaurant. We wanted the two restaurants to have synergy.
BP: What was the format of the dinner?
JF: The evening featured a 14-course menu and we alternated courses. We tried not to repeat ingredients. For instance, we had two different fish dishes — one with the champagne course, and one with green curry.
BP: From a chef’s point of view, what is the attraction of a collaborative dinner?
JF: From a culinary standpoint, the main thing is to be in a different setting and to reach guests that we might not have. Omakase is a much more intimate setting and we can connect with guests on a much more intimate level. Also, for the culinary team, it’s a different style of menu and it allows us to work with different chefs and to learn some techniques we haven’t learned before. There’s always something to learn. For instance, how the Mila Omakase chefs prepared the rice for the sushi. The way they handled the fish from the butchering to the slicing — it was really cool to see firsthand.
BP: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is the only two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Florida. We’ve got to talk about that for a minute.
JF: We made two stars for the second time in a row. It’s an honor and it’s also intimidating. It’s almost more difficult to maintain the two stars than to earn them. We have to continue to work and to evolve. We never cook for Michelin. We cook for the brand’s standards and our standards. Anyone can be a Michelin inspector — it’s completely anonymous so every dish counts.
BP: The collaboration with L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is part of a larger series. Can you share the idea behind this series?
Chef Michael Michaelidis: We had our first collaboration dinner with Dominique Crenn. Her restaurant, Atelier Crenn, has earned three Michelin stars. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is the only two-Michelin-star restaurant in Florida. I met the general manager and chef James and I has this beautiful experience and we had an idea to do a collaboration. I brought the L’Atelier team in and we collaborated on these beautiful tasting menus. It’s about making a discovery. I thought it was a great idea to have a French/Japanese collaboration.
Chef Reiji Yoshizawa: The menu is inspired by the 72 microseasons in Japan, especially the nigiri. We wanted to highlight seafood from Japan and locally.
BP: What are the next collaborations in the series?
MM: I’m working on it. It’s a surprise until we reveal the calendar. I will say that there are some chefs in Miami that we want to work with, and some chefs from Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Asia, and North America. We want to offer our VIPs a special experience.
Chef Michael Michaelidis.