Sunday, June 14, 2009

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Las Vegas, NV)

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
3799 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Sun 06/14/2009, 05:40p-09:20p

The year: 1996. Joël Robuchon, at 50 years of age, was at the peak of his career, a giant on the French cuisine scene; his eponymous restaurant in Paris was rated at three Michelin stars, and he himself had been deemed "Chef of the Century." On the back of all this, Robuchon did the unthinkable--he announced his retirement. He wanted to go out on top, and was to serve his last meal on July 5, 1996, afterwards handing over the keys to his restaurant to Alain Ducasse.

Robuchon thus retired, but not really. He couldn't keep himself away from the kitchen entirely, and continued to act as a restaurant consultant. There were rumblings of a comeback, and in 2001, Robuchon returned, opening Robuchon à Galera at the Hotel Lisboa in Macau. But oddly enough, he stayed away from Paris. For that, he was crafting up something new, something revolutionary: gourmet counter dining. In 2003, Robuchon opened his Atelier, or workshop, in Tokyo and in Paris. Las Vegas debuted in 2005, with New York, London, and Hong Kong the following year. For L'Atelier number seven, I've heard rumors of Taipei, Tel Aviv, Philadelphia, and even Miami.

With L'Atelier, Robuchon wanted to break the fine dining mold, to create a dining experience whereby diners surround the kitchen. In his years off, Robuchon traveled extensively to Japan, and fell in love with the place; thus, it's not surprising that the idea behind L'Atelier resembles that of a sushi bar. At his restaurant La Cuisine de Joël Robuchon in London, Robuchon expands the concept even further--there, diners are literally surrounded by the kitchen (the entire restaurant, thus, is a "kitchen table").

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Exterior
L'Atelier is located next door to its bigger brother, Joël Robuchon at The Mansion, and both restaurants are steps away from the hustle and bustle of the gaming floor. Whereas Joël Robuchon represents somewhat of a sanctuary, transporting the diner away from the noise and action of the casino, L'Atelier allows some of that to seep in...

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Interior L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Interior
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Interior L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Interior
...As evidenced by the slick, sleek, sexy black and red decor, the work of Pierre-Yves Rochon. The granite counter encircling the exhibition kitchen accommodates about two dozen, while tables expand capacity by 16 (but why sit at a table?). Robuchon has described the ambiance as resembling a "giant bento box."

Menu Decouverte (Discovery Menu)
Ordering at L'Atelier is probably best accomplished via the Menu Decouverte, priced at $148. Our Discovery Menu is shown above (click for a larger version), though we did consider going à la carte as well; for that, there's the Dégustation menu of smaller plates, as well as typical Carte selections. A new option is "L'Unique," three courses for $39, served within 15 minutes, and available daily until 6:45. The cuisine at L'Atelier is French at its core, with touches from Spain and Italy, and is similar for all six restaurants across the globe. The Las Vegas location is run by Steve Benjamin, who also worked at L'Atelier in Paris. I asked for his signature on the menu, but it doesn't look like him who signed it!

Pain de Epi Bread and Butter
Bread was a very nice house-made pain de epi, served with salty, savory butter.

1: L'Amuse-Bouche | crémeux de foie gras au Porto et son émulsion au parmesan
Nahe, Riesling, Dönnhoff 2007 [$18]
We got right into the menu, starting with a foie gras parfait topped with port wine gelée and Parmesan foam. Served in a large shot glass, the amalgam had an intensely cheesy nose thanks to the Parmigiano. On the palate, I noted port, foie gras, then cheese on my first bite, with subsequent bites have differing levels of interplay. Unfortunately, the Parmesan was a bit more apparent than I'd hoped for, stealing the show from the foie gras in a sense. This was also a heavy starter, and I would've appreciated something lighter. For wine, there's no set pairing, so I asked the sommelier for a small array of wines by the glass to go with the food. He started off with a Riesling from Dönnhoff, one that was prototypical of the style, showing notes of citrus, stone fruit, and fresh flowers; it was a light, sweet, juicy, easy-drinking wine that my dining companion, who's not a huge wine drinker, even enjoyed.

Le Saumon Fume Le Saumon Fume
2: Le Saumon Fume | dans une gelée marbrée aux sucs d'herbes, crème légère au raifort
Nahe, Riesling, Dönnhoff 2007 [$18]
Another dish served in a cup--here we have cubes of smoked salmon encased in an herb gelée, topped with a light wasabi cream. Now this would've made for a more proper starter. The salmon "aspic" was properly tarted up by the application of herbs, but the wasabi was even better, providing a fantastic foil to the fish, resulting in a lingering, spicy finish to the dish. Very nice!

Les Huitres
3: Les Huitres | de Kusshi pochées dans leur coquille au beurre salé
Monterey County, Chardonnay "Cuvée Carlotta" Talbott 2005 [$25]
Moving along, next was a trio of baby Kusshi oysters poached in salted Echiré butter. Kusshi oysters are a Pacific breed that bear resemblance to my favorite, the Kumamoto. They tend to be small, plump, and clean and briny in flavor--all pluses for me. Though I usually have my oysters raw, I loved the cooked presentation here, swimming in butter from Échiré, a town in the Deux-Sèvres department of western France. The oysters were served quite piping hot, and the initial flavor was of butter; it was only after a few seconds that the briny flavors of the mollusks became apparent. Lemon wasn't necessary, though it did add a pleasant acidic tang to the dish. This was simply one of the best preparations of oysters I've had, and I quickly gulped down all three. With this course, we moved onto a new wine, Talbott's Cuvée Carlotta Chard. It was fairly dry, grassy, and vegetal, with a strong backbone of minerality and fruit. It had a just a hint of butteriness, which linked up well with the Echiré, and a clean, light finish--quite good.

Le Homard Le Homard
4: Le Homard | à l'américaine aux asperges vertes
Monterey County, Chardonnay "Cuvée Carlotta" Talbott 2005 [$25]
This was L'Atelier's take on Homard à l'Américaine, a very classic preparation of the crustacean. Though it's "à l'Américaine," the dish is decidedly French in origin; however, no one knows exactly where it came from. In any case, it was lobster cooked in olive oil, then served with a tomato-Cognac sauce, and finished with macaroni and asparagus. Though the course didn't break any new grounds in terms of flavor, it was delicious nonetheless. The lobster itself had a fantastic, crisp consistency and rich flavor, and was expertly balanced by the tartness of the tomato sauce, and the slight bitterness of the asparagus. The macaroni, meanwhile, added some interesting textural variation. Very good with the Chardonnay as well.

Le Foie Gras
5: Le Foie Gras | en ravioles dans un bouillon de poule avec une fleurette pimentée
Burgundy, Chassagne-Montrachet "Les Vergers" 1er Cru, Seguin-Manuel 2005 [$35]
Our second variation of foie gras came in ravioli form, in a chicken broth, with a bevy of herbs including basil, mint, Thai basil, ginger, and espelette pepper. The raviolis gave me a pleasant pop upon mastication, providing just a hint of that signature liver sapor, over a backdrop of the complex, vegetal broth. My dining companion wanted more foie gras flavor, but I really appreciated its subtlety here. I even enjoyed the soup by itself, with its light spicy herbaceousness, making sure to consume every last drop. It matched well with the wine, a Chassagne-Montrachet that was very thin, and that showed similar vegetal, spice, and straw notes as the food.

Le Maquereau Le Maquereau
6: Le Maquereau | filet sur la peau aux jeunes artichauts épicés à l'huile de gingembre
Burgundy, Chassagne-Montrachet "Les Vergers" 1er Cru, Seguin-Manuel 2005 [$35]
Now, I eat mackerel all the time in sushi form, but it is somewhat rare for me to have a cooked presentation. We have here a filet of mackerel, cooked a la plancha (on a flattop grill), with baby artichokes, mushrooms, bell peppers, and spicy ginger oil. Mackerel is usually a pretty oily and "fishy" fish, so I'm glad that the kitchen kept that characteristic here. The mackerel alone was quite powerful, so the use of vegetables really balanced out the dish; the ginger especially was a great contrast.

Le Burger Le Burger
Supplement: Le Burger | au foie gras et aux poivrons verjutés [$32]
Côtes-de-Rhône "Mon Coeur" Domaine J.L. Chave 2006 [$20]
"Le Burger" was the one detour we made from the Discovery Menu, a result of the recommendation of a certain Michael Cherney, whom I'd met several months ago at Bistro 31, the student-run restaurant at The Art Institute of California-Los Angeles. At the time, Cherney was finishing up his culinary education there, and was cooking at Ortolan, under Christophe Émé. Cherney mentioned that he was moving to Las Vegas to work at L'Atelier, and thus I decided to pay him a visit. He'd just started the week prior, and was heading up the garde manger station; the burger was an item that Cherney described as "amazing." And indeed it was: a beef slider basically, topped with foie gras and caramelized bell pepper, served with crinkle-cut pommes frites. The burger had an intense foie gras aroma, and biting into it, I experienced the very essence of foie, intertwined with just about the juiciest, most tender beef patty ever. All this would've been too much, had it not been for the veggies, which provided an absolutely crucial foil--excellent. My dining companion even mentioned that this was "20 times better" than Daniel Boulud's infamous DB Burger. And those crinkle-cut French fries? Best I've ever had--perfect texture, perfect saltiness--give me a whole bag please.

7a: L'Caille | au foie gras, caramélisée avec une pomme purée truffée
Côtes-de-Rhône "Mon Coeur" Domaine J.L. Chave 2006 [$20]
For course number seven, we were given two choices: quail or lamb, and naturally, we went for one of each. "L'Caille" is actually one of L'Atelier's most well-known dishes. It is a free-range quail, stuffed with foie gras and caramelized, served with truffled-mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, I felt that the foie gras was too strong for the quail, overpowering the bird's delicate taste. The quail was otherwise competent, but unexceptional, though I did appreciate the truffled pommes purée. Our last wine pairing was Jean-Louis Chave's Côtes du Rhône Mon Coeur--a great pair, with notes of game, earth, pepper, and dark ripe fruit.

L'Agneau de Lait
7b: L'Agneau de Lait | en côtelettes au jus et à la fleur de thym
A rather similar looking dish to the quail, we have here a roasted rack of lamb, au jus, with fresh thyme. Lamb and thyme is a classical pairing, and it worked well enough, making for a tasty though somewhat pedestrian experience. Nevertheless, the lamb went well with the included mashed potatoes, Robuchon's signature item. It's quite surprising that a chef of Robuchon's stature would have such a simple dish as his most famous, but it was indeed one of the best preprations I've ever had: creamy, rich, savory, and very fine.

La Peche
8: La Peche | confite au Moscato d'Asti, lait frappé à l'abricot
And with that, we were off to desserts. Starting off was a peach confit infused with Moscato d'Asti, with apricot milkshake and sorbet. I quite enjoyed this, as the very quintessence of peach was captured so elegantly and yet so forcefully here. The pieces of confit were quite sweet, as expected, but were tempered by the relatively mild, creamy milkshake. The use of Moscato d'Asti added a slightly alcoholic tinge that set off the peach nicely as well. Superb.

9: L'Acai | en petites paillettes givrées, crème légère caramel
Last but certainly not least, we have an acai granité in a light caramel cream with cotton candy. Acai berry refers to the fruit of the açaí, or aqai, palm. It had a fairly tart, typical berry taste and thus was deftly countered by the caramel cream, which added weight and depth to the dessert--very good.

I must say that I was quite impressed with L'Atelier. Much of the food served would not seem out of place in a 3-star setting, and thus Robuchon manages to blend a proper haute cuisine experience with a friendly, interactive environment. Such natural reciprocity between chef and diner is almost Japanese in its approach, and is a fitting concept that does well in promulgating Robuchon's gastronomic aesthetic. So in the end, we have great food, in a setting that is simultaneously sexy and hip, even trendy--a request for Monsieur Robuchon: forget Taipei, forget Tel Aviv, forget Philly, forget Miami; for your next L'Atelier, make it LA!


Blogger MyLastBite said...

Stellar photos!

The cup of smoked salmon in the herb gelée looks really interesting.

: )

Sunday, June 28, 2009 9:51:00 PM  
Blogger weezermonkey said...

Our meal was slightly different! Funny since we went only one night before! We got one discovery menu and one summer tasting, so we could try 15 things. :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger yutjangsah said...

Robuchon, guy savoy in one weekend? you crazy.

Monday, June 29, 2009 6:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Gastronomer said...

I second Yutjangsah ;-) You are kinda crazy for eating so well in such a small window of time. I hope to eat up a storm in Vegas before year's end. Hopefully the fine dining gods will be on my side.

Monday, June 29, 2009 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

Man it would be wonderful if Joel Robuchon opened in LA. But I guess LV isn't too far from us and LV's really our city's playground anyways :)

Monday, June 29, 2009 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

btw, that burger photo is fantastic.

Monday, June 29, 2009 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

MyLastBite: Thanks Jo! Le Saumon was arguably the most interesting item of the meal, next to Le Foie Gras.

weezermonkey: Which courses were different for you guys? What were your favorites?

yutjangsah: And it doesn't stop with those two... ;)

Gastronomer: I felt compelled to make the most of my short time in the City. Where do you have planned?

mattatouille: If Robuchon opened here, you know there would be a whole mess of bloggers trying to get in on opening night (myself included, natch). And that burger photo, it was my favorite as well--it's even up on FoodGawker now.

Monday, June 29, 2009 2:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to go in 2 weeks. If you were to get one or 2 bottles of wine (preferably less than $150 per bottle) for the whole discovery menu instead of getting individual glasses, what would you recommend?

By the way you have a great site.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 2:53:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice site Kevin.
I saw your review of Guy Savoy on chowhound a few days ago and I've been checking out your reviews since.

My wife will be at L'Atelier next week. I think we'll do the summer special tasting and add on that burger. Or at least I will.

We had the Discovery menu back in February and a lot of the dishes are the same.

BTW, I think we work for the same company.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 8:06:00 PM  
Blogger ila said...

mmm. le saumon was my favorite dish. so jiggly! le foie gras was good too, although it faintly reminded me of pho ga.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 8:16:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Anon: I don't have access to the wine list, so I can't recommend specific bottles. But if limited to only one, I'd probably go for a Riesling, one on the drier side. Maybe add a Pinot Noir for the heartier dishes. Let us know how it turns out!

Mike: The Summer Tasting with supplements wouldn't be a bad way to go. As for Le Burger, one order actually is comprised of two burgers, so it'd be convenient to split between you and your wife. Also, how do you figure about the company? Do we know some of the same people?

Ila: I just reread your post on L'Atelier. The salmon was one of my favorites as well. For the foie gras, I didn't think of pho ga during the meal, but I can see where you're coming from!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009 1:35:00 AM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

I have to agree with Matt, loved that burger shot.

How does L'Atelier compare to its big brother since it's pretty much 1/3 of its cost for the tasting menu?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009 4:21:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

In your Club 33 review you mentioned something. I doubt if we know any of the same people. I'm up in the Seattle area.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009 6:18:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Matt: L'Atelier compares quite favorably actually. The dining experience is completely different, and the food isn't as luxurious or complex, but the trade-offs are very reasonable given the much lower cost. Perhaps give it a try before stepping up to Robuchon proper.

Mike: Got it Mike.

Thursday, July 02, 2009 12:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Andrés said...

Kevin Hi! I have a question, months ago when you order the burger actually they served 2 burgers but know it seem they served 1 for the same price is that correct?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Andrés, don't worry, it's still two burgers. I just split one order with my dining companion. ;)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 3:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrés said...

Fantastic Kevin Thank you very much I will be in Vegas the First week of October Definitely L´Atelier and Savoy will be my destinations.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 8:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 9:09:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

Just went this past sat. Everything on the menu was different except for the foie stuffed quail. btw, i think my favorite of the night was the truffled mashed potato. hahahahaha.

it was a very quick dinner for a 9 (or was it 10?) course tasting menu. took only about 1.5 hrs. i guess eating at a counter top has a way of making it go by faster?

Monday, July 12, 2010 1:50:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Wow, our dinner was nearly 4 hours, so I'm not sure why you got out of there so quickly!

Good to hear that the menu changed though. BTW, I liked the truffle mashed potatos at Guy Savoy even better. ;)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 3:07:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

i think it's cuz i told our waiter that we had a show to catch. our reservation was at 6:30 and we were out by 8:30.

anyways going back to vegas 2x in august, so i guess i'll check out the mashed potato at guy savoy. hahahaha

Friday, July 23, 2010 9:29:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Well then, I guess it was a good thing they got you out quickly. Heck, I even had the real deal Robuchon in 2.5 hours, since I had a plane to catch!

And make sure to ask for the truffled pomme puree at Savoy. I believe it normally only comes with certain dishes, such as the Roasted Veal Chop I had.

Saturday, July 24, 2010 2:08:00 AM  
Anonymous JT685 said...

Great review! I would like to add that from my time I dined at L'atelier, the waitstaff are very willing (with surcharge of course) to substitute for or add any dish from their a la carte menu. I just wanted to share about how substitutions were allowed unlike some of the other fine dining establishments I've been to in the past.

Sunday, January 08, 2012 9:24:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Good to hear JT--the quail dish hasn't changed in 2.5 years!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 11:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Abraham said...

Hi Kevin!

I'm going to visit vegas this april and this post strengthen my conviction to give this establishment a try.

Is reservation required here? Because I reside in Indonesia and I dont think they accept online reservation.


Thursday, March 29, 2012 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Abe: This place and its big brother are definitely worth a try. Reservations are not strictly required, but I would definitely recommend getting one. It looks like they do indeed have reservations on their web site.

Saturday, March 31, 2012 1:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Abraham said...

Hi Kevin!

Thanks for the informative reply. I was trying to reserve from the website but seemingly there's a technical glitch there. I finally got the reservation though through my friend. Now listing down hitlists for LA and SF :)


Monday, April 02, 2012 4:13:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

So Bram, how was it? Did you end up visiting?

Sunday, April 22, 2012 3:12:00 AM  

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