L'Atelier de JoŽl Robuchon, Las Vegas, Nevada, Tasted on March
31, 2006 ó For many years, when I've thought of the
restaurant that I would create (I know this is silly given that I'm
not qualified to write about food much less create an institution
that serves it) I always imagine all small plates made in front of
the customers sitting in a sushi-bar-type layout. The dishes keep
coming, and the customers get interested in different things just by
seeing all the ingredients laid out and the dishes being cooked
before their eyes. Then one day I read about a new project from JoŽl
Robuchon, his L'Atelier (workshop) to be specific. The idea of a
chef having a place to experiment seemed exciting, and the
description of the dynamic was exactly what I'd envisioned. I had to
try it. Sure enough L'Atelier de JoŽl Robuchon is one of my favorite
restaurants in Paris. When it opened in Las Vegas, I wondered if it
could scale and keep the quality that I'd experienced in Paris.
After all, scale is hard as it is. And
celebrity chefs like Robuchon can collect the check without trying.
I wondered what I would find. Turns out that over the last few
months I've gotten to go twice. And by my second visit, I was sure,
Robuchon Vegas is indistinguishable from Robuchon Paris. On to the
The restaurant is identical to the one in Paris from a
design perspective. There appear to be fewer bar seats in the space, and
there are a few tables as well. But in general it looks like it could
have been spawned asexually by the
Paris edition of the restaurant. I don't know how the
Cucumber Gelee and Tarragon Cream with Cumin Yogurt was produced but
it had super fresh and distinct flavors, like a tzatziki parfait. Yummy.
Roquette Salad Gaspacho and Tofu with Black Olive Toast was next.
The gaspacho had a clean roquette flavor. The olive toast was special.
Its flavor was deep and roasted. I usually don't comment on
presentation, but everything here was just beautiful. The spotlights
focused on the food help. I wish more restaurants lit their food so
beautifully. Then again, most restaurant food doesn't warrant this kind
of lighting, so maybe it's the right call after all.
Next up was
Green Asparagus with
King Crab Salad and Sea Urchin Dressing. The crab was a simple bite.
Pleasant, but not super memorable. The
Roast Eggplant however was a kick-ass baba ghanoush. Delicious. But
the oysters blew my mind.
Poached Baby Kussi Oysters with French "Echirť" Salted Butter to be
specific. The oysters rocked. Perhaps the best I've ever had? They were
warmed not cooked and swimming in melted butter. The addition of lemon
chives and red peppper made the dish bright warm and super delicious. I
could have eaten a dozen of these beauties.
The oysters were followed by the
Topped with a Light Mushroom Cream. It was a mushroom egg
frothy eggy concoction with savory mushroom slivers and a parsley puree
foundation. Yum yum. We accompanied our dishes with a lovely
2000 St. Emillion Clos des Menuts. Next was the
Slightly Smoked Salmon Served Warm with Watercress Dressing. Fresh
beautiful and lovely. It was moderately annoying that there was lots of
sprout crap going on but there were some nice mustardy flavors. The
Free-Range Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras and Served with Truffled-Mashed
Potatoes was savory and quite enjoyable.
The unbelievably buttery
Robuchon Mashed Potatoes were sublime as always. The
French-Style Hanger Steak with Fried Shallots was super juicy and a
beautiful red inside.
Desserts were lovely to look at and to eat. First
Assortment of Red Fruits with Tequila Sorbet. The red fruits were
super tart and delicious. I loved the
meringue cookies on white chocolate with their tangy filling. The
Strawberries Flavored with Basil , Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream and
Stoly Vanilla, Espresso, and Godiva Liqueur combination were both
excellent ways to finish off the meal.
Given that there are already Ateliers in Paris and
Tokyo, I have to say that I was pretty impressed at the quality and
consistency of the Vegas Atelier experience. In a way, the fact that
Robuchon's restaurant was so good, made me even more pissed off at the
many famous chefs who slap their name on any crappy experience they can
as long as there's a check involved (read: Wolfgang Puck). It is
possible to scale beyond one restaurant. It is possible to have your
loyal acolytes cook your food even when you're not on site. And
L'Atelier de JoŽl Robuchon delivers a world class consistent experience
that finally delivers on the promise every resort-based Vegas restaurant
aspires to achieve.