Joël Robuchon was named France's Chef of the Century by the esteemed Gault Millau restaurant guide. He is one of the few three star Michelin chefs in America, the L'Atelier (meaning “the workshop”) in Las Vegas is a one star restaurant, I don't know why and I don't care. Coming out of retirement to open his first restaurant in the United States, Joël Robuchon caters to a sophisticated palate that features a menu of his finer specialties. There is no question that this and the main restaurant next door are the finest restaurants in Las Vegas and possibly in the world. L’Atelier's menu is based on serving “tasting plates”, similar to Gordon Ramsay’s Maze. Lisa's sister, Tema, was in town and we went out for a fantastic meal.
We had eaten at the main restaurant last year and had a wonderful meal. The L'Atelier is a less formal restaurant (with lower prices) but the same superb food.
The restaurant offers his eclectic French fine dining cuisine in a Japanese-style dining bar setting.
This particular restaurant has both counter dining and a few tables with a clear view of the kitchen.
Even though the setting is smaller, the elegant niceties are indulged, a grouping of ten fresh roses on the table and a crisp linen napkin.
We began with sparkling water and a lovely bottle of white Sancere wine that had overtones of green apples. The bread basket was lovely, not quite the selection of the restaurant but delicious nonetheless. What is really special in this picture is the French butter or buerre. In France the butter has a deep yellow color and tastes completely different than anything in the US. Many say it’s the quality of the cream, or what the cows eat. It’s also due to the fact that the butter is made from slightly-soured or cultured cream, which gives it a nutty, mellow tang and reacts differently when baked. The most obvious difference is butterfat: By law, American butter must contain at least 80 percent, while the minimum for French butter is 82 percent, it doesn't sound like much, but it makes a huge difference. Beurre d'Echire, with a minimum of 84 percent butterfat, is la creme de la creme in France because it is made as it was more than 100 years ago and tastes as truly of the terroir, or the soil, as it did then. In fact, it is for these reasons that Beurre d'Echire, like France's finest wines, has appellation status, as do butters from Charentes-Poitou and Isigny. By taste this was without a doubt two lovely large disks of French buerre.
We began with an amuse bouche of parmesan foam with port wine parfait over fois gras. Tasty, although I personally prefer country pâté over fois gras. In defense of Robuchon, this was French fois gras, and as good as I have tasted. In addition he is well known for his fois gras stuffed quail.
My appetizer was beef cheek which was amazing, deliciously soft and succulent…just amazing. Not to be outdone, that tiny pile of vegetables on top of a lovely mushroom mixed with remoulade was one of the best bites of the evening.
Tema had an artichoke and endive salad with baby portobello mushrooms. This salad was as delicious as it was visually attractive.
Lisa had the L’Hamachi (En tartare aux sucs de tomate pimentée) yellowtail tuna tartar with spicy tomato coulis. Delicious.
In between we had the lovely lobster salad. Normally I am not a great fan of lobster, but this was covered by a checkerboard of remoulade. This lobster was another unforgettable bite in the meal. I would eat this lobster for the rest of my life.
We all had lobster bisque as the next dish. Tomato bisque is all about creme and overripe tomatoes. This was delicious.
For my plat, I ordered the French classic duck confit with white truffles added on the top. This is a tricky dish to pull off as the duck is rendered in its own fat. Mine had the crispness of Peking duck with succulent softness of duck confit. The white truffles added an earthiness, which made each bite a little bit of heaven.
Tema and Lisa both had the hanger steak with roasted shallots. It was cooked perfectly.
This was accompanied by Robuchon's signature whipped potatoes, lots of French buerre with creamy soft potatoes.
For desert we all had Les Noix de Pecans which included maple creme with coffee sorbet interspersed with roasted pecans and caramel. Another memorable dish of the evening. Every dip of the spoon into this lovely mixture yielded another surprise.
I finished up with a decaf espresso, with a lovely little chocolate truffle to accompany the coffee. Even though the portions seemed small, we left feeling stuffed and satisfied. A truly memorable meal that you should try if you are ever near one of his locations.