If you want to taste Joel Robuchon's cuisine you must travel to either New York or Las Vegas in the United States, so being in Las Vegas meant I had to make a reservation at one of his two restaurants in the MGM. Since his namesake Joel Robuchon restaurant was closed during my stay, I chose L'Atelier, the less formal option where you sit at a counter watching the chefs prepare your meal.
My dining companion was the son of another mother, Eric, a Las Vegas local who had never eaten here, so we went on a food adventure by ordering two tasting menus with options which allowed us to taste seven (with a complimentary eight) of the menu items for $95 per person. I chose a half bottle of Pinot Noir ($40) because we would be tasting a range of various flavors and the Pinot would be the most complimentary to our menu and a half bottle allowed us the flexibility to continue with the same or change our drinks during the meal. The Drouhin half bottle proved to be the perfect compliment and just enough for our tasting menu.
We were treated to an amuse bouche (literally an amusement for the mouth) presented wrapped like a present, an avocado and cilantro flavored gelee that was as light as a cloud.
The first course on our menu was a cold appetizer of Le Foie Gras, served traditionally poached and chilled. Eric had told me before we ordered anything that he did not care for Foie Gras, but he was willing to taste it anyway and I give him kudos for being open minded. He still did not care for it, but I loved the divinely rich dense texture of this delicacy. Since many say the production of this specialty is cruel, it is soon to be illegal in California (2012), but I feel that as long as the animals are treated humanely (allow them to naturally gorge themselves), eating this animal should not be thought of any differently than eating grass fed beef.
The hot appetizer course was one of Eric's favorites, the Langoustine, a crispy langoustine fritter with basil pesto. I enjoyed it as well, but gave him most of my portion to make up for the foie gras.
For the main course we had one of each choice so we could taste them both. The fish was the Dover Sole that was lightly poached, served with with a tomato concasse that gave a nice acidity to the tender fish.
The other entree was the L'Entrecote, or rib eye cooked to order (Medium rare for Eric) served with a wonderful pommes puree (mashed potatoes), one of their signature dishes, which had equal parts butter and potatoes; perhaps not the healthiest side dish, but a few spoonfuls will delight your taste buds and satiate you. The meat was tender, juicy and even though it was a thin cut, it was cooked as ordered, so the kitchen staff gets points for their preparation skills.
With two more courses to go, we were well on the way to getting full, so when we were presented with the cheese course, we ate sparingly of the cow's milk, goat's milk and sheep's milk choices. Eric enjoyed the cow's milk, and I ate both the goat's milk slices with gusto.
Because the portions were small, we actually had room for our desserts. One was a variety of sorbets and ice creams, featuring caramel, chocolate, pistachio, raspberry, and coconut (which was our favorite of all the choices).
The other dessert plate had petite slices of tradtiional tartes with flavors to suite chocolate lovers and fruit lovers alike. This was a feast for our eyes, but I must say that no one tart stood out in flavor for either of us.
Every dish was well executed and the service was impeccable, on par with the finest restaurants in France. I think the only thing lacking for me was the element of pleasant surprise which is what some newer chefs have done with classic dishes and ingredients, but this was great eating journey with a fun and adventurous companion, so it is one I would repeat without hesitation.