I had a wonderful meal at Atelier de Joel Robuchon last Friday with three dear friends I had not seen in 20 years. We opted for the ‘seasonal discovery menu’ with the matching wine pairings. The experience was sublime and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great meal in Las Vegas.
Before I begin my review I have to divulge a few things. First, I was a chef for thirty years and I always considered Chef Robuchon as the mentor I never quite had. That is a partial truth because I was extremely fortunate to do a stage in 1996 for him in Paris at his restaurant on 59 Raymond Poincare. His version of cuisine actuelle guided me throughout my career and I would never had the successes in life I had without the influence of this great man.
Sadly, in the last year or so I have dined at two legends restaurants who had passed recently (the other being Paul Bocuse). Coming to one of Robuchon’s outlets was a quasi-religious experience for me and the review will be slightly biased because of those truths.
I have to make a special note about the bread. WOW. I do not normally eat a lot of bread at restaurants but these were delicious — no, incredible. Hats of to the bread baker for making truly great bread. The small baguette was a lesson in perfection with its pointy little ends and perfect flavor. The small rolls reminded me of brioche and were sublime.
The menu started with an incredible amuse bouche of foie gras parfait with a port wine reduction and Parmesan emulsion paired with Veuve Clicquot. The amuse was absolutely stunning and started the meal off to a great start. The light and airy foie played well with the sweetness of the port and the funkiness of the Parmesan. If I had to nit-pick I would wish they had poured a grower-producer sparkling wine instead of a mass-produced Champagne. I can think of many Terry Thiese imports that cost less and taste a thousand times better.
The second course continued with perhaps the best dish of the night, Sea Scallop Carpaccio with butter shavings and baby radishes. One of my favorite springtime things to nibble on are tiny French radishes with butter and flaked sea salt. Serving that with scallops was genius. The richness of the scallops and butter were wonderfully countered by the acidity in the Champagne.
The third course was a caramelized onion tart with mushrooms. I really liked the idea of this dish as it brought together some of my favorite flavors like caramelized onions and earthy mushrooms. I felt the onions could have used a bit more loving. The brik dough was ok as a base, but the dish would have profited from something with more texture like a pate brisee, or crunchiness found in kataifi or even a round of filo like Robuchon used to do on his truffle and caramelized onion tart. The brik wasn’t bad but it tends to be slightly tough if not cooked enough and get soggy very quickly if it sits too long with things on it.
The fourth course was a tempura langoustine with spiced avocado and tomatillo gazpacho paired with a Jean Marc Brocard 2016 Chablis. If I had to pick a least favorite dish of the night this would be it. All the flavors were there but the langoustine was overcooked and tasted like it had sat for a little while before serving. Maybe I am old school but would have loved to see Robuchon’s famous turban instead.
The fifth course was an incredibly silky cauliflower veloute with curry foam. This soup had an expert balance of flavors and was the best veloute I have had in decades. So often chefs have a super heavy hand with Indian spices which can overpower and ruin a dish. Chef Jimmy’s touch was spot on perfect. The grated purple raw cauliflower added a nice crunch to the soup. The curried flavors were just enough to taste without overpowering the dish.
Our second favorite dish of the night was the loup de mer with eggplant caviar and artichoke foam. I could have had three rounds of this spectacular dish without any problems. Loup de mer is one of the best fishes you can eat in the world. Over-saucing or too much garnishing would mask the elegant beauty of this fish. Lucky the chef served it with absolutely the most delish accompaniments possible. Serving wine with artichokes is tricky because of the astringency but the Bourgogne Blanc by Raymond Dupont Fahn paired beautifully.
The eighth course was a pairing of chicken and foie gras with caramelized Belgian endive paired with a very young Domaine Mongeard Mugneret from 2014. The Belgian endive added a nice bitter contrast to the richness of the foie and a bit of crunch to offset the textures of the chicken and foie duo. What can you say about Robuchon’s legendary potato puree but wow — Simple perfection. I have made these potatoes a thousand times and they still are a perfect treat. If they are not on your menu when you eat here — order them anyways.
The ninth and tenth courses were desserts. My second major complaint of the night is where the hell was the cheese course. Maybe I am a bit like Pavlov’s dogs and have been long conditioned that when I eat high-end French restaurants cheese will be served. What I would have given for a perfectly ripe Vacherin or Epoisse.
The first dessert was a beautiful mango mousse served with coconut and caramelized rice puffs. The second and my personal favorite was a pear mousse served in a chocolate cup and a beautiful chocolate tuile. The tuile was perfectly buttery and delicious.
Hats off to the stellar kitchen staff for a great meal. Overall our experience was incredible and I will return one day. My only complaints were service related; our waiter dropped silverware and empty plates twice in a row while talking to us. I know that may seem like small issues to most of you, and really they are in the overall picture, but normally you do not see that in Michelin starred restaurants and need to be pointed out. Our wine steward seemed nervous, and it felt a bit awkward on his visits to our table.
I would not hesitate to go back and enjoy Chef Jimmy’s insanely delicious cooking again. I highly recommend Atelier de Joel Robuchon to anyone looking for seriously great food.