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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 meal...

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 Egg Cocotte 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 was the 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 the 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.

     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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