L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Restaurant @ MGM Grand Las Vegas
"Jay Keyes"
At Joël Robuchon, food is made to look as great as it tastes. Much like the cavemen used animal fats and vegetable juices to paint murals on walls of stone, it is here that food is used as art, plates are used as canvasses, and the restaurant's dishes take on sculptural forms laden with symbolic meaning. OCD levels of attention are given to every detail. For example, the staff hand-decorates each plate with a water-soluble paint that comes off when the dishes are washed at the end of the evening, only to be re-applied the next day. The dining room is decorated with legitimate fine art, such as Auguste Rodin's "Age of Airain," a bronze statue of a man celebrating his nudity. Before I opened my mouth, the maître d' greeted me by name. On my visit to Robuchon, I ordered the Dégustation Menu ($445), a marathon tasting of 18 unique dishes, breads, and take-home treats. My eyes bathed in the luxurious beauty of the tasting's initial offering: the delicate Le Caviar Imperial is perhaps better known as caviar araignee de mer, or caviar "spider of the sea," and is a work of art sprinkled with flakes of gold. The fresh, buttery caviar was so plentiful in my mouth, it felt like I was chewing a caviar steak coated with the flavorful jellied crustacean consommé it sat in. The eyeball-like L'Oeuf de Poule was magnificent both to look at and to eat -- pulling off a culinary magic trick that confounded me: a de-shelled egg with a hard-boiled white but with a liquid runny yolk inside. My main course was Robuchon's wickedly-rich squab stuffed with foie gras, with its unlikely but welcomed addition of cabbage and bacon. Le Pigeon was also served with Pommes Robuchon, the world-famous silky, micro-sieved mashed potatoes that maintain an outrageous 2:1 potatoes-to-butter ratio. Some of the other tasting stand-outs included the delightful squid ink risotto served with the fish fillet, the rose shrimp served in the umami-rich ocean-y broth, the refreshing shaved ice with hibiscus syrup, and the heavenly chocolate hazelnut dessert with its glamorous edible butterflies made of sugar. Was it worth the price? That's a personal question that each person needs to decide for themselves. I know people who would burn $500 on slot machines without a second thought, but would consider spending the same amount on a meal in Vegas to be a foolish waste of money. With this restaurant, you're not gambling. Joël Robuchon is Las Vegas's only restaurant to earn Michelin's Three Stars in addition to earning AAA's Five Diamonds, and has now taken residence on my top 5 list of dining experiences.