Friday, September 21, 2012

Joël Robuchon (Las Vegas, NV) [3]

Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Fri 09/21/2012, 7:30p-11:30p

After enjoying dinner the previous night at Guy Savoy, it was only natural to pay a visit to the restaurant's arch rival, Joël Robuchon, to see how the place was holding up, especially given that my first meal here nearly five years ago remains one of the best that I've ever had. Unlike the kitchen at Savoy, which has been the charge of four different chefs, the stoves here have been manned by one man since the restaurant's debut in 2005: Claude Le Tohic.

About the Chef: Le Tohic hails from a family of restaurateurs. His parents owned a crêperie in Brittany, and the Chef started working there when he was only five years old. He went to culinary school at Collège Charles Langlais in the nearby commune of Pontivy, and following graduation, secured employment at the Michelin-starred Les Hortensias After two years, he started working for Ghislaine Arabian at Le Restaurant in Lille. Soon thereafter, in 1987, Le Tohic met Joël Robuchon while serving as a restaurant consultant, and began cooking at Robuchon's three-star Jamin in Paris. He worked there until 1990, then spent some time in the kitchens of La Chaumière, L'Assiette Gourmande, Château de Locguenole, and Restaurant Yours Faithfully all the way in Kotturpuram, Chennai, India.

Le Tohic then took on the role of helming the apprenticeship program at the Centre de Formation d'Apprentis Interconsulaire de l'Eure, a vocational school in Val-de-Reuil, and even won the Meilleur Ouvrier de France award during his tenure there in 2004. However, at the request of Robuchon, he moved to the United States the following year to help open his mentor's eponymous restaurant inside the MGM Grand. Le Tohic has been doing quite well for himself since then. He's been given the honor of Maître Cuisinier de France (“Master Chef of France”), and in 2009, was a semifinalist for James Beard's "Best Chef: Southwest" award, winning the title the following year.

Joel Robuchon Interior
Penned by noted French designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, the interior is as luxurious as you'd expect, modeled after the grandeur of a 1930's-era Parisian salon and awash in shades of aubergine. There's also an "outside" dining terrace replete with a wall of greenery, as well as a private dining room, which is where we were seated (note that there's a $250 fee for the privilege).

Joel Robuchon Menu Degustation
As far as Joel Robuchon's menu goes, you can order à la carte, and there are a few prix fixe options ranging from $120 to $240 per person, but we were clearly here for their flagship Menu Degustation, a 16-course tasting menu extravaganza priced at a wince-inducing $425 a head. Wine pairings, meanwhile, were an additional $295pp (and go all the way up to a blistering $995). Click for a larger version.

The 'Right' Cocktail
The "Right" Cocktail [$19.00] | Right Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Raspberries, Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice, Tonic, Lemon Zest
Arriving early, I began with a cocktail from the restaurant's posh, intimate bar. The "Right" Cocktail was a refreshing, summer-y drink, with an unabashedly fruity, floral essence and just enough countervailing tartness from the citrus. You could hardly taste the alcohol, which could be good or bad, but personally, I really would've liked a bit more gin character to show through the sweetness.

Joel Robuchon Bread Cart Joel Robuchon Bread Basket
The City's best bread cart (though M. Savoy may have something to say about that) offered us over a dozen varietals: bacon-mustard, wheat, olive oil, Gruyère, Comté, pain de campagne, natural bread, olive bread, herb brioche, rustic brioche, rosemary-sea salt brioche, basil brioche, saffron brioche, and finally, a pain au lait.

La Pomme Verte
1: La Pomme Verte | en émulsion sur une gelée de pamplemousse ruby et avocat, rafraichi à la menthe (Green apple on ruby red grapefruit gelee with avocado and fresh mint)
Tintero Elvio « Sori Gramella » Moscato d'Asti 2011
Our amuse bouche course comprised an emulsion of ruby red grapefruit and avocado, along with apples, set in a base of dry ice (and a Playa-esque plate) for the requisite theatrics. It was a refreshing, even bracing dish--effective as a palate opener--with a subtle avocado character balanced by the tart, tangy notes of apple.

La Tomate
2: La Tomate | en salade, huile d'olive au basilic, tomate et mozzarella en gelée (Salad of tomato with basil infused olive oil, tomato gelée topped with mozzarella)
Tintero Elvio « Sori Gramella » Moscato d'Asti 2011
One of my dining companions deemed this the best tomato that he'd ever had, and I can certainly see where's he was coming from (though I may have to call out the momotaros at Totoraku as superior). It was a two-parter: first, a stout cylinder of tomato topped with herbs and balsamic; then, a jiggly, labor-intensive tomato water jelly dotted with nipples of mozzarella and basil/tomato purées. I first tried the tomato by itself, and appreciated its tart balsamic character and weighty hints of olive oil. Taken with the tomato water, the overall effect was like a reimagined insalata Caprese, with the wonderful heft of the mozz tying everything together in commendable fashion.

Le Caviar
3: Le Caviar | le navet rouge et le radis avec un carpaccio de hamachi (Red turnip and radish with yellowtail carpaccio)
Domaines Schumberger, Grand Cru Saering, Riesling, Alsace 2007
Our first of three caviar courses paired a fresh, supple cut of hamachi with the tangy, bitter crunch of turnip and radish, all while the caviar added a perfectly-placed kick of saltiness to the fray.

Le Caviar
4: Le Caviar | une crème de chou-fleur glacée tremblotante (chilled cauliflower cream)
Domaines Schumberger, Grand Cru Saering, Riesling, Alsace 2007
A chilled potage of cauliflower softly conveyed the inherent nature of one of my favorite vegetables. It was a cool, creamy, trembling soup that was beautifully set off by the included dollop of roe.

Le Caviar
5: Le Caviar | tartare de saumon aux jeunes pousses de shiso (salmon tartar with shiso sprouts)
Domaines Schumberger, Grand Cru Saering, Riesling, Alsace 2007
Here was perhaps the best salmon tartar that I'd ever had. The fish itself I found undeniably creamy, yet briny, with a great touch of caviar that deftly enhanced the natural salinity of the salmon, all while shiso provided an overarching tinge of mintiness to things.

La Grenouille
6: La Grenouille | la cuisse en fritot à la purée aillée eu au coulis de persil (Crispy frog leg, garlic and parsley coulis)
Domaines Schumberger, Grand Cru Saering, Riesling, Alsace 2007
Speaking of bests, this might have been the best frog dish that I'd ever had. We had here a leg, wrapped in a nest of phyllo, then served with shimejis, garlic purée, and parsley. It was fantastic, with the grenouille showing off a superbly satisfying, straightforward savoriness and wonderful crunch, keenly accented by the tang of parsley, all while the garlic added a palpable heft to the dish. This is one of M. Robuchon's signature dishes, and it's easy to see why.

La Saint-Jacques
7: La Saint-Jacques | la noix poêlée dans une nage au curry vert (Seared scallop with young leek in green curry)
Maison Olivier Leflaive, Chassagne-Montrachet 2009
A lone scallop arrived set in a green curry emulsion, topped with a brunoise of pepper as well as a pepper blossom. It was cooked spot on, with a delightfully sweet brine that was adroitly complemented by the tart 'n' tangy peppers. At the same time, the aromatic zest of the curry came through on the finish, and I quite enjoyed the astringency and crunch of the leeks here, too.

Les Crustacés
8: Les Crustacés | la langoustine truffée et cuite en ravioli (Truffled langoustine ravioli)
Maison Olivier Leflaive, Chassagne-Montrachet 2009
Another mainstay of Robuchon is this plump, snappy raviolo of langoustine. I found it pleasingly sweet and saline, enhanced by the depth and weight of the paired foie gras butter, along with a hint of earthy truffle. It was delicious alone, but the small mound of savoy cabbage provided a well-placed crunch and lightness to the dish that took things up another notch.

Les Crustacés
9: Les Crustacés | le homard rôti au vinaigre de riz, pomme ratte écrasée aux oursins et beurre salé (rice vinegar roasted lobster on crushed potatoes with salted butter and sea urchin)
Maison Olivier Leflaive, Chassagne-Montrachet 2009
Lobster here was nicely crunchy, though slightly tough, with a delectably ocean-y relish that was adeptly set off by the bits of sea urchin incorporated within. Mashed Ratte potatoes (the same variety used in Robuchon's legendary pommes purée), meanwhile, formed a perfect base to the dish, grounding and moderating the seafood admirably.

Les Crustacés
10: Les Crustacés | la crevette royale dans un bouillon coralline végétale (tiger prawn in a herbal infusion)
Maison Olivier Leflaive, Chassagne-Montrachet 2009
A dumpling of tiger prawn was fantastic, really conveying the inherent sweetness and salinity of the crustacean. I loved it alone, but the accompanying broth of daikon and herbs was excellent, providing a bright, piquant, almost Asian-y counterpoint that keenly played off of the seafood.

Le Kabocha
11: Le Kabocha | en symphonie soyeuse au foie gras et gingembre (Delicate kabocha pumpkin veloute on foie gras custard with ginger)
Julien Pilon « Lône » Condrieu 2010
Given that I'm no fan of kabocha, I was a bit wary of this course, but it turned out surprisingly well. The saccharine nature of the Japanese squash was present, but not overwhelming at all, thanks in part to the contrast imparted by the ginger emulsion. Squash seeds, meanwhile, provided a lovely crunch and saltiness to the mix, and I appreciated the foie gras here as well, which added a palpable, countervailing gravity to the course. Probably the best kabocha dish that I've had.

Le Bar
12: Le Bar | cuit en peau aux cinq épices, avec une sauce au verjus (Pan-fried sea bass with five spices served with verjus sauce)
Julien Pilon « Lône » Condrieu 2010
A cuboid of sea bass was cooked flawlessly--supple and succulent--with a wonderfully refined brine and delightfully crispy, salty skin. Unfortunately, the paired sauce of five-spice and verjuice I found overwhelmingly tart, taking attention away from the natural goodness of the bass.

Le Veau
13: Le Veau | en côte au plat avec un jus gras et escorté de taglierinis de légumes au pistou (Sautéed veal chop with natural jus and vegetable taglierinis flavored with pesto)
Château Tour Seran, Médoc 2004
I'm generally not a huge fan of veal, but this sous vide chop was pretty impeccable. In fact, it was one of the strongest I've had: expectedly tender in texture, but with an immensely satisfying, rich, deep flavor. The meat easily stood on its own merits, but its accoutrements of garlic, olive, and mushroom were on point as well, and I especially appreciated the herby, minty zing of the basil pesto pasta.

Le Soja
14: Le Soja | les jeunes pousses cuites comme un risotto aux zestes de citron vert et ciboulette (Risotto of soybeans sprouts, lime zest and chives)
Château Tour Seran, Médoc 2004
Our final savory course brought out a wondrous "risotto" of soy bean sprouts, a completely new experience for me. I loved the sprouts' crunchiness, as well as how their bright, light, vegetal character was enhanced by the use of pistachio and lime, while, on the finish, the expected weight and lushness of a proper risotto showed through. Very nice--I could've eaten a big bowl of the stuff.

Le Fraise
15: Le Fraise | une panna cotta au « dulce de leche », glace au lait sur un biscuit chiffon toasté (Caramel panna cotta topped with fresh strawberries in a balsamic reduction, condensed milk ice cream)
Château Lamothe Guignard 2ème Cru, Sauternes 2009
The first of Pastry Chef Kamel Guechida's desserts was mélange of strawberry, balsamic, dulce de leche panna cotta, and toasted biscuit. It was marvelous, a perfectly integrated dish that smartly played the sweetness of the fruit against the caramel-y panna cotta and crisp, buttery biscuit.

Le Citron
16: Le Citron | en gelée de miel d'acacia, créme onctueuse sur un croustillant au Gianduja (Honey gelee and a light lemon cream with spiced red fruit coulis)
Château Lamothe Guignard 2ème Cru, Sauternes 2009
Finally, we had here a superb hazelnut ice cream, set in honey gelée and lemon cream, with a Gianduja crisp and dots of fruit coulis. The citric sweetness of the dessert struck me first, which then joined up with the nuttiness of the ice cream and transitioned to an intriguing complex of flavors that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

Double Espresso
Joel Robuchon Tea Cart Peppermint Tea
Joel Robuchon Candy Cart Mignardises
Le Moka - Le Thé | escortés de mignardises
We closed with some coffee and, more interestingly, some excellent teas from the restaurant's tea cart, served with French acacia honey and brown sugar. Accompanying the after-dinner drinks was an impressive array of various candies from the restaurant's cart, though we did temper our consumption given the amount of food that we'd just had.

Joel Robuchon Take-Aways
To take home: a bar of Robuchon-branded chocolate, a booklet with pretty pictures of the restaurant, and the evening's menu, printed on Robuchon's signature sparkly paper.

After a three year hiatus, it was great to be able to experience Robuchon once again. As far as the food goes, everything, with perhaps the exception of the sea bass, was commendable, and in fact, several of the dishes were among the best of their respective types that I'd ever had. What we're talking about is sort of the height of classically-leaning French haute cuisine. The experience, though, wasn't quite as enjoyable somehow, vis-à-vis my pervious meals here. I don't know if it was because we were seated in the private dining room, but the service in general seemed colder, and a little less affable than we'd remembered. We were also not provided the opportunity to select our own breads from the bread cart, nor were the tea cart and mignardises cart presented automatically. Perhaps my advice for next time should be: don't go with a large party (we had eight), and sit in the main dining room.


Anonymous H.Peter said...

I miss Las Vegas.
re.: "wasn't quite as enjoyable somehow, vis-à-vis my pervious meals here",
You know the saying, "It's never as good as the first time..."

Monday, September 24, 2012 4:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Andy Gavin said...

If you don't mind me asking, what was the damage here? Vegas seems to have a 2X premium these days over even NY. My meal 6 months ago at Guy Savoy was over 2K for 4 people! It really should have been closer to $1200 -- although it was fantastic.

I haven't been to Robuchon myself since 2006 and it really looks to have evolved. There was very little asian influence at that time, and certainly plenty to show in this emal.

Monday, September 24, 2012 8:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

did you do the wine pairing? what did $300pp get you?

Monday, September 24, 2012 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger 12345 said...

Interesting review. I'm curious to see how Guy Savoy compared this time around. I asked for your recs prior to Jen and I going to LV this past summer. Sadly, we were disappointed with Joel. We found the dishes flat overall, 2 thumbs down on the tomato. I like what the climate does to tomatoes in Napa and I'll trust Thomas Keller's empire with tomatoes. The best dish at Joel was the butter (the best butter to date). I asked for some to go, but they refused. I also asked for mignardises to go and was refused. They charged me $20 for their "birthday" cake, granted it wasn't my birthday. I thought the service was pathetic for the type of place they are trying to be. Our bill was $1,382 out the door for 2 people with about 6 drinks.

On the other hand, we got the chef's table at Guy Savoy and requested the 10 dishes we thought looked the best from blogs and other pics. They were happy to accommodate. And dishes were better at Guy than at Joel. Try it if you get a chance and just tell them the dishes you want when making the reservation.

We went to a few places that weekend, but we had our top 3 as Guy Savoy, Lotus of Siam and then Joel Robuchon.

Keep up the good reviews...

Monday, September 24, 2012 3:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Bern Lunsky said...

My favorite restaurant.
Been there 8 or 9 times and Guy savoy once.
You need to pick your bread and cheese ( since your previous visit Joel has changed half the cheeses to us cheeses, a story unto itself). Also better than twist or Mix.

Monday, September 24, 2012 6:44:00 PM  
Blogger svnty3stingray said...

great post Kevin, Haven´t seen a blog from Aureole (charlie palmer) why not? I recall the best pheasant dish ever at the L.V. restaurant.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you sure do love the word "brine." at least you've gotten over your love affair with "sapor."

Thursday, September 27, 2012 7:17:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

H.Peter: I do know that saying, and sadly, more often than not, it does hold true for my meals.

Andy: I don't remember the exact figure on the bill, but I believe it was around $6500 for our party of eight.

Anon: Yes, I did get the pairing. The matched wines are listed beneath each course.

Bern: Wow, I find it interesting that you prefer Robuchon to Savoy that much. I do like the place better than Twist, and though I've not been to Mix, I really can't see it comparing anywhere close to Robuchon.

73: I've look at Aureole before, but it just doesn't seem on the same level as a Robuchon or Savoy.

Anon: I do love it, the word and the sensation.

Monday, October 01, 2012 7:22:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

Hey, I'm going to be in Vegas for one night in August and wanted to grab dinner at either guy savoy or Joel robuchon. Haven't been to either. Which one would you recommend I try first? Thanks!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 9:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Hungry and Thirsty said...


I was wondering about the wine pairings. Is it a glass per dish? Are you left with the bottle? Do they serve the whole bottle? Wasn't sure what you get for the money, although I am sure it is quality.


Sunday, January 12, 2014 7:30:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Daniel: Obviously this is far too late, but which did you end up choosing?

H&T: If you look at the pairings listed underneath the course names, it's a glass every couple plates basically. Definitely not the entire bottle.

Sunday, January 12, 2014 10:57:00 PM  

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