One great thing about traveling is having an excuse to go to a nice restaurant. It’s like, “Hey, we’re in ___________ (enter vacation destination here), we should go to at least one nice restaurant while we’re here.” Basically, it’s just an excuse to overeat. Vacations and holidays are great in that way. I love having a free fat bastard pass. So when David and I were planning for Vegas, I suggested L’atelier de Joël Robuchon. Yes, I know there is an L’atelier in New York, but when are we ever going to go? When we’re at home in New York, it seems too extravagant to go somewhere fancy unless we have a reason. I should really plan a “staycation,” and just enjoy New York one of these days. Perhaps when it’s warmer…
L’atelier offers “counter service” in that you sit at the counter and watch your food being created right in front of you in the open kitchen. This is restaurant theater at it’s best. Robuchon was probably the first to popularize this trend in fine-dining restaurants. Now, everyone does it. I love this concept because it’s fun to watch the dynamics of a kitchen. David likes it because he wants to make sure no one does anything gross to his food. Oh ye of little faith.
Our meal at L’atelier began with what I call the yummiest bread in the world. It was crispy with crunchy points that broke with a crack to reveal light soft innards. It was served with some nice salty butter.
We were then presented with an foie gras amuse bouche. It was a shot glass with foie gras on the bottom and parmesan foam on the top. This was OK. I love molecular gastronomy, but here I think grated parmesan would have worked better. Air pumped cheese just doesn’t have a great mouth feel.
For my appetizer, I ordered a plate from the tasting menu: Les Anchois, fresh anchovies and sliced red peppers layered over thin slices of eggplant and drizzled with olive oil. In addition, parsley purée dollops reminiscent of spades adorned the plate. It was a cute touch considering we could see the casino right outside the door. I thought the Anchois were fabulous. The anchovies were nicely marinated and weren’t too fishy as some silver-skinned fish can be when they aren’t too fresh.
I also had a bite of David’s Les Legumes (layered slices of eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, and fresh buffalo mozzarella garnished with basil). Parsley spades again decorated the plate. David said he didn’t know buffalo mozzarella could taste so good. I took a bite and I agreed the dish was incredible. Each bite was creamy and tangy, with a multitude of textures.
After this, he also had an order of Le Kampachi and La Langoustine. Although decent, neither lived up to the Legumes. The Kampachi was a bit bland and the Langoustine could have been crunchier and less greasy.
I on the other hand, had a wonderful entrée: La Canette, roasted duck and turnip braised with foie gras. The foie gras was wonderfully rich and delicious with the rare duck breast. The braised turnip was sour in a pickled way and was very pungent to the taste when eaten alone. Accompanied with the duck, however, it was perfect. The brininess helped cut the fattiness of the duck.
My entrée also came with a little pot of Robuchon’s signature Pommes Purée (mashed potatoes). If you like puréed potatoes heavy on the butter, you will like the mashed potatoes at L’atalier. Me, I prefer crudely hand-mashed potatoes. Call me crazy, but it’s a personal texture preference when it comes to potatoes.
After my duck, I was really too full to eat dessert, but David wanted to try a few desserts. The first dessert was La Pistache, pistachio parfait with muscat sorbet, garnished with a sweet lacey tuile, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. I managed a few bites and found the sorbet clean and refreshing. As for the parfait, I could have done without the soft cake and had something crunchy instead.
The second dessert was a heavenly dense sundae-like creation called Les Noix de Pecan (coffee sorbet with roasted pecans, caramel, and maple cream). Whereas the first dessert was light and airy, Les Noix de Pecan was thick, creamy, and gooey. The maple cream was especially good with the pecans. The only complaint we had was that underneath the cream, there was a tiny layer of cake taking up valuable real estate that could have been occupied by some more sorbet or caramel. Other than that, this dessert was perfect.
After the meal, I told David L’atelier was so far the best part of our trip. The food was carefully prepared, as evidenced in the open kitchen, and the servers were surprisingly down-to-earth. Perhaps it’s a west coast thing. After dinner, I was in such a good mood, I wasn’t even phased when a cabbie tried to make me pay $15 when the meter clearly said $10.90. I just shrugged it off and went on my merry way to watch Mystère at Treasure Island. Later that night, I also won some money at the Venetian. Of course, I lost it all a few hours later, but that’s another story.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109