Coming off the heels of our respective Paris trips, both my brother and I thought we’d keep the Parisian theme going and go big or go home with a crazy expensive meal on our last-chance-before-adulthood trip to Sin City. So we made a reservation at Joel Robuchon’s Atelier on the Las Vegas Strip! Both of us had splurged and eaten at the international chain at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino once before, and both remembered it being one of the best meals of our entire lives. And with all the other amazing places to try in Vegas we usually wouldn’t revisit such an expensive meal, but my brother and his wife had a romantic dinner at the Atelier in Paris a few months prior, and felt it was even better than the one in Vegas the first time around, so we had to try it again, and this time share the experience with some of our friends who’d never been before.
About an hour before the dinner, our maudlin group of 30-year olds traveling from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Chicago primped and prepped in the gaudy marble and gold leaf Palazzo hotel suite bathroom we were sharing. While I coifed my hair and wrestled with my belt buckle, I heard a rumor circulate that we were all going to order the chef’s seasonal tasting menu which starts at $130 without the wine pairing. I had been lucky at blackjack and was up $600 for the trip so I felt like I could splurge with some of my winnings and go for the eight-course meal, but what is listed at $130 on the menu, easily turns into $400 when I’m done with the wine list, a few a la carte items, and my prerequisite macchiato which gives me just enough energy to roll my fat ass out of the restaurant when I’m done. But you only live once, right?
Having thrown caution to the wind I was full of excitement, mixed with a little anxiety, and continued to focus on whether gingham or vertical stripes were more slimming on my physique. [For the record, it’s gingham.] And before I knew it, we were marching through the lobby of the MGM as if we’d been rehearsing some quintessential hallway strut in some C-rate 80s high school movie with the mob of cool kids walking in slow motion towards the camera—only when we did it, nobody made the effort to move out of our way, and I ran into an ashtray and slot machine. In the end we all arrived at the hostess desk outside the Michelin star restaurant in one piece, and we were hungry!
Joel Robuchon’s Atelier
“Reservation for six people at seven PM.” I said, pointing out our group who was mostly checking-in on Yelp and insta-graming with their cell phones. I noticed my fingers felt swollen and looked like sausage links squeezed into their casings. Yikes! I thought to myself, wondering how much of that was due to the non-stop drinking or arid climate in the casino, and I wondered if I’d be able to take my rings off after this meal.
“It will just be a few minutes,” she said with her pearly white chompers, before she whispered into her headset and turned away from me. After one look at us, she probably thought it was best to seat us in the back out of site from the rest of the diners.
Because we were in for the long haul! And here’s what we got:
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Here’s the bread basket that was served with a hockey puck of cold unsalted butter. I liked the round buns the best!
We started with a plate of jamon serrano. We could see the leg of cured ham at the end of a counter in the kitchen where the chef carefully carved bite-sized gems of a smokey delicate flavor.
Tomato bruschetta was an off-menu item the chef served to get our palate races kicked off. These little toasts were so friggin pretty, like ruby jewelry, and I didn’t want to take a bite out of fear I’d destroy its beauty.
The L’amuse-bouche: foie gras parfait with port wine and parmesan foam. This was amazing and I didn’t want it to end.
Le Homard: lobster carpaccio with delicate aromatics and shellfish extract. The lobster was just barely cooked, allowing for a buttery-creaminess that wouldn’t exist if it were cooked too much.
Le Saint-Jacques: Sea scallop cooked in the shell with chive oil. I’ve never had a scallop with this consistency, but it was awesome, as if poached in butter. My fork cut through it like it was a really stiff mousse.
La Langoustine: Langoustine a la plancha with green curry and cilantro. Grilled in their shell, these large shrimps had the slightest hint of charcoal goodness. I we removed them from their shells in whole pieces and smeared them in the bright earthy cilantro and curry drizzle on the plant.
L’oeuf de poule: Chicken egg sunny side up on a crispy polenta galette. When my fork sliced through the perfectly placed egg, the yolk leaked out and mixed with the delicate and fluffy polenta cake.
La Sole: Sole in a shellfish-butter sauce with potatoes. For an extra fee we could add petrossian caviar. The caviar was a welcome burst of salt over a briny and creamy sauce…all of which danced on the blank canvas of the milky potatoes.
La Caille: Foie gras stuffed free-range quail with truffled mashed potatoes. The quail was butchered into delicate little lollipops of fowl. A bite through the middle released the umami richness of the foie gras. Amazing!
Le Boeuf: Cap of beef ribeye with roasted shallots. The fat disbursement in this bit of bovine was impeccable. It only took one chew to get the fibers to pull apart and coat my tongue before sliding gently down my esophagus.
La Mangue: Mango mousse atop an almond cake, toasted coconut ice cream. The symphony of tangy and sweet in this dish is what made it the perfect first note of sweetness after a savory gauntlet of epicurean delight.
Le Chocolat: Warm chocolate cake, crème de menthe sorbet and chocolate-mint crunch. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but there’s a molten chocolate cake just chillin under this sorbet and chocolate combination that reminded me of some edible little decorative hat or chapeau.
And because it was someone’s birthday in our group they served us this dessert platter, and you can imagine, every bite was a magic trick that wowed.
The men and women behind the kitchen at Joel Robuchon’s Atelier are artists in the truest, and for me most enjoyable, form. Thank you so much for a memorable meal I’ll be dreaming about for years.