Utter decadence. Royal Opulence. Over-the-top.
These are just a few words that come to mind when I think back to my experience dining at Joel Robuchon. Up until that point, I had never felt so much like a king while dining at a restaurant.
We're lucky to even be able to dine here, actually. Back in 1996, Joel Robuchon, one of the most acclaimed French chefs in history, felt "stifled" from cooking at the age of 51. He closed his famous restaurant in Paris (Joel Robuchon) in 1996 while "at the top of his game."
Fortunately, after six years, he got the itch again. He came "straight out of retirement" to open his first French restaurant in the US - Joel Robuchon, The Mansion, in Las Vegas.
This is the only three-star Michelin restaurant in all of Las Vegas. Having enjoyed two other three-star Michelin restaurants in NYC, I was curious what a three-star Michelin outside of NYC would be like.
The craziest thing you can order is the Menu Degustation (8-courses for $385 pp!!!). I wasn't feeling so crazy, and we had a show to catch at 7pm, so we opted for the 4-course tasting for $148 pp.
The Incredible Bread Cart
Moments after we had settled into our plush, velvet seats, this gorgeous bread cart rolled up right next to our seats.
Definitely the most amazing spread of bread options I had ever seen in my life. Typically at these nice restaurants, a waiter comes by holding a tray of various breads and allows you to choose as many as you want, which is always fun. Here, the waiter wheeled this massive cart filled with gorgeous, perfectly formed mini-baguettes, herb rolls, large crusty breads, milk bread rolls, and on and on and on. It was mind-blowingly full of options, and every single piece looked tantalizing.
I think between the two of us we almost tried every single piece of bread (heh), and they were all fantastic. If I had to pick our favorites, I think it would be the mini-wheat baguette, the basil roll, and milk bread. But really, they were all incredibly enjoyable.
And that was only the beginning of this insanely over-the-top meal.
We started with the most amazing amuse I've ever had at any restaurant. At first I thought they gave me an entire can of caviar to eat, which would have been crazy. Instead, it was a beautiful taste of a simple crab salad topped with a layer of caviar. Look inside!
I made sure that every tiny bit of caviar was cleaned out of that can! The dish was simple, elegant, and of course, had wonderful flavors. I'm not sure if it was creative or innovative, but just solid, good French food made with top notch ingredients.
I LOVED my first course. I still have mixed feelings about eating gold, but I can't deny that it makes the dish feel over-the-top extravagent. I loved loved loved this dish. Salmon tartare topped with caviar and a gold leaf - how can you go wrong? Flavors were delicious, but would you even expect this combination to fail? This course was super enjoyable, and I savored each bite.
Bryan got a crab salad that was recommended by the waiter. Solidly prepared, although I liked mine better. 🙂 I just might be a bit biased, seeing my love for all types of fish raw. 😉
And then it was time for the soup. Because I don't really like liver or fois gras, I opted for the black truffle mushroom soup, which had an additional "add-on" of $40 pp (ouch). After having tried some top notch white alba Italian truffles at Daniel, I was curious what I would think of black truffles (I know I don't like the black truffle oil as much as the white truffle oil).
Although the veal broth was amazingly rich and flavorful, I only though the black truffles were OK. (Isn't that so sad??) I guess it was sort of an expensive experiment, but now I know that I vastly prefer the tasting of white truffles to black truffles. Black truffles are not bad - they are earthy and musty. However, they don't have that intensely fragrant aroma that I think comes from white truffles. Oh well, the soup was still delicious.
My main entree was a sole that was excellently prepared. Nice balanced flavors, perfectly cooked fish texture, and a nice flavorful sauce. Nowhere as good as Le Bernardin, which makes the most amazing fish I've ever had anywhere in the world, but solid.
Bryan's main entree was more of an Asian-flavored fish and octopus dish. We both liked mine better, although both were pretty good.
The mashed potatoes are a signature Joel Robuchon side dish. They are amazingly smooth - I have no idea what he does to give them this incredibly velvety smooth texture. It was delicious.
Dessert was beautifully presented. I got a layered passion fruit ice dessert that was light and refreshing. Solid, although nothing to "write home about." Similarly, Bryan got an espresso/chocolate themed dessert which was very good. Again, we were not wow-ed by either dish, but we definitely enjoyed them. And there's just something to be said about the level of detail that goes into the presentation. Absolutely mind boggling.
And then the mignardises tray. Wow. That's all I can say. I have never seen a more impress cart of mignardises in my life! The possibilities were endless, and every small cookie or cake was delicately designed, beautifully presented. I had a hard time, but I ended up choosing the French macaron, the poppyseed "lollipop," the rum custardy thing (sorry, don't remember), the mini-cheesecake, and a silver dusted rice crispy treat. These were very well made and it was the first time I got to choose, so I highly enjoyed the procss.
Just look at that spread. Gorgeous.
Oh, and as a final really nice touch, they gave “the lady” a box of chocolates to take away. It was beautifully packaged, and tasted divine. Again, several pieces of chocolate dusted with gold or silver. Crazy opulent!
In some ways, it's unfair to compare one restaurant's signature 8-course tasting with another restaurant's 4-course tasting. So, instead, I'll just give my general impressions. There are many aspects of the ambiance at Joel Robuchon that are more opulent than any other restaurant I have ever visited. The room is washed in various shades of purple. Purple velvet “couches” perch regally in the corners while purple ribbons hold together white linen napkins placed gingerly on delicate dishware. It seems like the entire wait staff speaks English with a French accent, and the room is adorned with more chandeliers, mirrors, and jewels than you can imagine. Over the top. Royalty. Opulent.
In a similar way, many of the spreads are there to wow you. Both the bread cart and the mignardises cart did just that - we were tickled and amazed at the same time at the vast array of choices we had. Especially when every choice looked so amazing. I've never seen anything quite as good as Joel Robuchon in these respects.
Definitely top-notch French cooking. Although I cannot complain about anything we ate, at the end of the meal, I was not nearly as wow-ed or utterly satisfied as I was after leaving both Le Bernardin and Daniel. I think part of it comes from the fact that we were rushed in finishing our meal so that we could make our show. But it's more than just that. In the end, nothing on the Joel Robuchon menu wow-ed me. I love love love caviar, and I thought those dishes were amazing. But in the back of my mind, I also thought that it wasn't THAT hard to make something taste good if you put caviar on top.
So, I'm not sure what to think. The table next to us was enjoying the Menu Degustation, and of course I couldn't help but continue sneaking peeks over there to see what they were having. I have to say, their dishes looked phenomenal, and it's quite possible that you can't enjoy Joel Robuchon's most amazing and signature dishes unless if you order the Menu Degustation.
I guess you can think of this as a limited review of a first time experience.
The restaurant is definitely incredible in terms of the high-class environment that it offers. As I mentioned earlier, the space is beautiful, adorned with gorgeous chandeliers, royal purple seats, and mirrors all around. Perhaps it’s a French thing, but we were a little disappointed in the slight distance of the wait staff. I think “stuffy” might be a bit harsh, but they were not as warm and friendly, which was something we really appreciated about Daniel. I might make an exception for the bread guy, who was happy to entertain our giddy excitement in trying all the breads, and even allowed me to take pictures of the cart. In general, though, Joel Robuchon is one of those places where you feel like you should speak in hushed voices, move daintily, and smile politely.
Nevertheless, it’s totally worth trying. A great way to enjoy this restaurant “on a budget” is to try the $89 tasting. You still get to enjoy the over-the-top ambiance, the awesome bread cart and the mignardises cart, not to mention the awesome amuse and the excellent food. It really is steal.
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