To me, visiting Joël Robuchon is a bucket list item. And, if you are like me and you love good food, making a visit to any of his restaurants is surely a bucket list item for you as well. He was titled “Chef of the Century” by the guide Gault Millau in 1989 and also awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (France’s Best Craftsman) in cuisine in 1976. He operates restaurants in Hong Kong, Las Vegas, London, Macau, Monaco, Paris, Taipei, and Tokyo, with a total of 28 Michelin Guide stars among them – the most of any chef in the world. Needless to say, when I was in Vegas this summer, I took the opportunity to book a reservation.
Located next to the flag ship, three Michelin starred Joël Robuchon, L’Atelier (which translates to workshop) is the dark and moody single Michelin starred little brother. As you enter the restaurant your eyes take in the beautiful open kitchen surrounded by bar seating; does it get any better!?! There is also an assortment of 2 and 4 tops a few feet further from the raised bar. Sitting at the bar is the only option in my mind, and that’s exactly where I was seated.
Before I talk about the food, I want to say that the staff were prompt in welcoming me, and stayed polite and attentive throughout the evening. Never too far away from you or any request, but never in your face. It was a fantastic showcase of what restaurant service can be. I was presented with the à la carte menu as well as a seasonal fixed menu. While the à la carte menu looked very intriguing in a choose your own adventure kind of way, there was no way I came all the way here to pick my own dishes. I wanted the seasonal discovery menu before I even walked in the front doors.
First up was the bread service, which as a self professed bread connoisseur, was excellent. This wasn’t a randomly thrown together basket of dinner buns and multi-grain experiments. This was a delicious selection of rich and flavourful breads. The croissant was so buttery that it melted in my mouth. I even had the advantage of telling the gentleman next to me (who was a couple of courses behind me) that he didn’t need to add any butter to his. He agreed. Buttery heaven.
1 – L’Amuse-Bouche – Avocado and cilantro flavoured grapefruit gelee. A perfect start to the meal. A one or two bite scoop of gelee that was so bright and fresh. Perfect citrus notes to wake up the palate.
2 – La Saint-Jacques – Scallop carpaccio with lemon vinaigrette. Thin slices of perfectly sweet scallops that were heightened by the lemon vinaigrette and sprinkle of flaky salt. I could eat 2 or 3 of these servings. Phenomenal.
3 – Le Piquillo – Piquillo pepper with smoked eggplant and tuna belly confit. Anytime I see piquillo stuffed peppers, I think about the bulk container of stuffed piquillo’s that you buy at Costco. This, as you can imagine, was nothing like those. The smoked eggplant was so rich and deep in flavour that I wondered if the dish even needed the tuna.
4 – La Langoustine – Langoustine a la plancha with green curry and cilantro. A dish so beautiful, you almost don’t want to eat it. L’Atelier certainly nails plating. The sweet, perfectly cooked langoustine combined with the curry for quite possibly the best langoustine of my life. Unreal.
5 – Le Foie Gras – Foie gras herb tortellini served in a bouillon with ginger and white soy sauce. What can I say about this dish. It was quite possibly the best dish of the night. The tortellini was so light, the foie gras was so perfect, the broth was so heart warming. See those little green herb specks in the tortellini, that’s craftsmanship. The first tortellini slid right down my throat before my teeth could even grab hold. I had to pace my self with this dish to make sure I could enjoy every last bite. If only the staff would have warned me that this dish was life changing. Since arriving home, I’ve dreamed about these pillows of goodness more times than I’d like to admit. You need this dish in your life.
6 – Le Saint Pierre – John Dory seared in lemongrass virgin olive oil with tomato. When this dish arrived, I was still reeling from mind blowing orgasm created by the tortellini. Needless to say, the John Dory couldn’t even compete with my love of the previous dish. My least favourite dish of the night, I feel like the perfectly prepared fish overwhelmed the lemongrass olive oil and tomato’s.
7 – Le Caille – Caramelized free range quail stuffed with foie gras served with mash potatoes. My first ever taste of Joël Robuchon’s famous foie gras stuffed quail and purée de pomme was nothing short of amazing. The tiny bird was rich in flavour and reminds me why I love cooking quail. Biting into one of the pieces stuffed with foie gras is like winning the food lottery. The mashed potatoes were velvety smooth, and that’s understandably when you realize they are made with a 2 to 1 ratio of potato to butter. Thankfully, the staff is more than happy to provide an extra serving of potatoes on the side to help any craving you might have.
8 – La Fraise – Light lime ganache with strawberry and cherry tomato sorbet. As someone who prefers savory over sweet, I can appreciate the size of the first dessert offering. Almost whimsical in presentation, the sorbet and ganache provided a sweet refreshing bite after the heaviness of the purée de pomme.
9 – La Cerise – Cherries with chocolate peanut sablé on an Amarena ice cream. Why not finish such a meal fit for royalty with a bit of gold. I’m a fan of chocolate, peanuts, and cherries, so I’m not sure why I was surprised so much by this dish. Maybe it was because I was starting to ease back in my chair and loosen my belt. Either way, with a cup of coffee in hand, I took my time with this final dish and enjoyed every last. I would note, the one major strike against L’Atelier was that the cream curdled in the coffee. Whether the coffee was too hot or too acidic, or the cream wasn’t good. It seemed like a sad way to finish the night.
Walking back into the MGM, I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. Sure my wallet was considerably lighter and there was the small coffee/cream hiccup at the end, but the meal lived up too to my expectations and then some. It’s easy to lose your enthusiasm for fine dining given the rise of local, hipster driven restaurants providing a solid bang for your buck. Yet, here I was, reminded how much fun you can have when the food is executed just right in an atmosphere of outstanding service. The feeling I had was pleasure, pure unadulterated pleasure and I loved it.