Our Vegas trip last month was one of absurd gastronomic experiences. In short, we were never hungry. So far, all the Vegas spots I’ve mentioned have been tried and tested by us, the following was a new addition to the list. This restaurant though is probably not one that we would revisit over and over again but I wouldn’t mind another go to sit at the bar and I definitely want to visit his brother next door…
When our trip was confirmed, Charlotte suggested we venture out a little bit to the other side of the Strip. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is located in the heart of the MGM Grand Hotel and is the complete opposite from the hidden dining room of Bouchon. Amongst the cascades of shining lights and roulette tables within the MGM Grand casino floor sat a magical culinary workshop. Right next to this sleek and trendy workshop is his older brother: The Joel Robuchon Restaurant. Holding 26 Michelin stars under his belt, I wonder if we would ever catch Chef Robuchon eating at a McDonalds?
Look, I was so excited that I couldn’t even sneak a clear picture….
I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little sad when it was confirmed that we weren’t having dinner at Bouchon, but my salivation wiped my tears away when I looked at the offerings of L’Atelier. Who wouldn’t be excited when even the butter they use is protected with the AOP status (pretty much like Europe’s quality control for food products/production – the reason why real Champaign comes from Champaign- it is a product copyright for the origins and production methods).
You can order a la carte, but we went with the Seasonal Discovery Menu ($159.00): a 9 course tasting menu to try out the chef’s work.
The open kitchen concept was very exciting for Charlotte and I and neither of us could keep our eyes off of the giant ham in the kitchen. I tried to take a clear picture, but I didn’t want to make the chefs mad. The décor was very sexy, sleek, and modern, and although it was a little pretentious, the staff there was knowledgeable and friendly. The vibe is actually slightly loungey, and it would be a nice spot to go to for a few small plates, desserts, and drinks, though I’m not sure if they actually take walk-ins.. Decked out in red and black with bar stools all around, you know that this is anything BUT traditional French fine dining.
Our server was great! He would explain each dish to us and was always there to answer any questions we had. He even noticed when one of us was away from the table and made sure to bring out the next course after our return so that the dish does not sit out in the cold for too long. Now THAT is service – suck it rude server from Bouchon!
We started off with the bread basket. Yes, I know, who cares about the bread basket- you get bread baskets at Spaghetti Factory! Well, let me tell you, you will get excited about bread too when its warm, fresh, and made in-house. The fact that they take the time to make 3 different types of bread for the basket should tell you how important you are to the chefs. The selection of the day was soft dinner rolls, mini French baguettes, and rustic country rolls. The baguettes and country rolls were crusty and crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside while the dinner rolls were light, flakey and buttery. Yum! Nothing makes me more excited than the smell of fresh made bread … well maybe if it was served with some good tomato sauce…The butter was unsalted, creamy and not greasy tasting at all. I think we could have eaten a slab had we not had 9 courses to look forward to.
First Course – L’Amuse Bouche – Foie gras parfait with port wine and parmesan foam. This course was aimed to literally amuse your mouth and set the tone of what was to come. I was certainly amused! Based on the description, Beverly and I figured that this would be a cold plate, but it was actually warm! The parmesan foam was light and tingly while the foie gras parfait was rich and creamy. The saltiness from the foam was a great pairing for the rich foie gras. I savored each little scoop of this gift.
Second Course – Le Celeri – Celery mousse with wasabi, beef stew gelee and slices of foie gras. I really had my hesitations with this dish because I was nervous with the fact that my two most avoided foods are listed in the description: celery and wasabi. However, it was actually the beef stew gelee that threw me off. The celery wasabi mousse itself was actually quite tasty! The reason why I don’t like celery or wasabi is that I find the flavors to be a little overbearing, but it was actually quite light in this dish. The beef gelee on the other hand was really salty and it was just plain weird to be eating beef flavored jello. Couldn’t really taste the foie gras in the dish since there was such a strong flavor from the beef jello. The dish was cold so it was like eating left over beef juice. It was just too weird for me; I like my jello to be fruity and maybe with some vodka in it.
Third Course – La Huitres – Poached baby Kussi oysters with French Echire butter. I love Kussi oysters! And I love butter! Especially when it’s francy French butter churned to perfection! The plate was beautiful and artistic. 3 little oysters in the half shell sit in a bed of rock salt and a lemon wedge. Our server told us to taste it first before we make any rash decisions such as squeezing the lemon juice all over the sweet little mollusks. The oysters were softly poached in the warm butter and lightly seasoned with a little bit of salt and pepper. The plate was simple but tasted fresh and sweet. Because it was Echire butter, there was no greasy taste from the butter, it was a little nutty and very satisfying. I am drooling just thinking about this plate. This is a plate were you need to eat it right away because if you stall for even a few minutes, your butter will start to solidify and it will just be weird to have buttery floaties in your oysters – just look at my picture…
Fourth Course – Le Homard – Seared lobster on macaroni with wild mushrooms. I was really excited about this dish because who doesn’t like lobster macaronis? Maybe I was too hyped up, because I found it to be a “meh” compared to the previous course. I mean it was still delicious but it wasn’t anything really out of the ordinary. The broth was very tasty with many layers and hours of flavors instilled in it, but in the end, it was just a piece of lobster sitting in a bed of macaroni with a little bit of truffle shavings.
Fifth Course – La Cebette – White onion tart with smoked bacon, quail egg “miroir” and green asparagus. This was amazeballs – the tart was delicate and crispy and simply beautiful to look at. The saltiness of the bacon really set off the sweetness of the onions. The tart was so crispy on the outside but the onions were so soft that it just simply melts in your mouth:D Everything played so well together in both texture and flavors. Another favorite! I tried to eat this as slowly as possible so that I can savor the deliciousness just a little longer… sad right?
Sixth Course – La Lotte – Monkfish cheek and baby leeks, buttery shellfish sauce with lime and ginger. I am not really a fish fanatic, the only part of the fish I eat is usually the cheeks – I steal this from Mommy Yu every time she makes fish for dinner. The cheek is the plumpest smoothest and most tender part of the fish – at least to me – AND there are no bones! The cheeks here were cooked to a medium rare finish making it a little bit chewy but I didn’t mind because I hate over cooked fish. The fresh diced tomatoes were sweet and went well with the creamy leeks and monkfish.
*sound of drum rolls* When the special utensils came out, we knew what was to come…..
Seventh Course – La Caille – Foie gras stuffed free-range quail with mashed potatoes! This was what we have all been anticipating. As Charlotte said: it’s a little bird stuffed inside a small bird! How can that be a bad thing? The meat was tender and juicy and the flavor of the not so gamey meat went well with the richness of the foie gras. This was not a disappointing dish, but I was not as “wowed” as I thought I would be since this is one of their signatures. The mashed potatoes on the other hand was to die for! It was a velvety smooth and made with that Francy butter we talked about. Probably being made with a 2:1 ratio between potato and butter, there is no way this item can be bad.
Eighth Course Version 1 – La Pomme – Pecan cake topped with fresh apples cooked in Calvados, cinnamon- brown sugar ice cream. Another piece of art – Beverly actually thought the cinnamon dust was a part of the plate… The pecan cake had a nice nutty crunch and gave the plate some depth to the textures between the apples and the ice cream. The apples were slightly tart with a warm butterscotch like aroma. The cinnamon- brown sugar ice cream went really well with the apples and it was like eating a super yummy apple pie! I liked the fact that it wasn’t very heavy and sweet and was refreshing to my palate after the richness from the previous courses.
As Charlotte could have died if she ate this dish, the chef created a special treat for her –
Eighth Course Version 2 – La Framboise – Fresh raspberry surprise inside white chocolate sphere, yuzu ice cream. When our server brought this out, he told us this was a chocolate surprise. As we didn’t actually look at the menu, we were really surprised! The chocolate sphere was in a bed of fresh raspberries with a raspberry coulis, thinking that it was just a chocolate mousse, we didn’t think much about it… I put my camera away and Beverly and Chad-O started on their cake. Then our server started pouring more coulis on the sphere and it slowly started melting – that was when I whipped out the camera…and Beverly and Chad-O just stared. As the sphere melts away, we see that inside is the surprise yuzu ice cream with more fresh raspberries! Since Beverly and Chad-O already started on their pecan cakes and contaminated their spoons and mouths with pecan goodness, I was the only one who got a taste of Charlottes treat :D I loved this- it was so tangy and tart and just simply fun! A great way to cleanse the palate.
Ninth Course – L’Orange – Orange infused with caramel and milk chocolate mousse bar. The mousse was smooth and creamy and I loved how the orange was not too overwhelming. The orange sorbet and the fresh blood orange – or as Beverly thought: tomatoes – were great additions to the plate because it balanced out the richness of the chocolate and caramel. Such a sweet ending to a fantastic experience.
We ended the evening with a strong shot of espresso and a creamy chocolate truffle.
After this evening, I was seeing stars, Michelin stars that is. I know that I am easily pleased by good service, but this was quite an experience. From beginning to end our server was attentive and friendly. Even though this restaurant has every right to be snooty, the entire team here was warm and friendly. The only thing I would complain about was not having front row seats at the bar to watch these chefs in their workshop. You know that my favorite spot in the house is right by the kitchens! If just one star brings this much excitement to my life, I wonder what magic next door’s three stars will bring?
Last Visit: December 2011