As far as foodie towns go, Las Vegas is near the top of the list. Nearly every major chef, from Nobu to Guy Savoy, has an outpost there.
But Joël Robuchon’s restaurant in the Mansion at MGM Grand (the resort’s exclusive boutique property), is undoubtedly the city’s best restaurant. Run by executive chef Claude Le Tohic and pastry chef Salvatore Martone, it’s the only one to have earned three Michelin stars, and is ranked #1 by Zagat.
As a reporter who often writes about food and restaurants, I’ve long heard tales of “chef of the century” Robuchon.
The French chef made a name for himself at Paris’ Jamin, regarded as one of the best restaurants in history. Jamin showcased Robuchon’s fresh take on fine dining for 15 years, earning ample praise and three Michelin stars. Andy Hayler, the man who has eaten at every Michelin three-starred restaurant, even said, “I’ve not had better food than the food at Jamin.”
After retiring from Jamin, Robuchon helped his protégées open a series of restaurants bearing his name (he has also mentored celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Eric Ripert).
Now with 22 locations in eight countries around the world — and more on the way — Robuchon travels from city to city, updating the menus alongside his executive chefs with seasonal, fresh ingredients.
I was lucky enough to try Robuchon’s famed restaurant, where the tasting menu costs $US425 per person, on a recent trip to Las Vegas. I knew the food would obviously be spectacular: Robuchon and his team are famous for accentuating only two or three ingredients, making the food intensely flavorful.
Yet even with these high expectations, I was still blown away.
Disclosure: Our trip to Las Vegas, including travel, food, and lodging expenses, was sponsored by MGM Resorts International.
But the main dining room is truly impressive, with its huge chandelier, soaring ceiling, velvet couches, and purple accents.
There's also a separate terrace room with different plants cascading down the wall and a few more intimate tables.
The restaurant pays great attention to the table decor. The plates are all designed especially for the Joël Robuchon location, and we were told that the water glasses and ribbons adorning the menus all change colour with the seasons.
The menu was printed on thick, shiny purple stock, and even had my name at the top: 'Mademoiselle Willet et Convive (guest).' We were given the 10-course tasting menu with the veal and cod as our main courses.
Our waitress started the meal by wheeling over the bread cart, which could have made an excellent meal out of alone. There were 16 different types of bread on the trolley, including: milk bread, basil bread, bacon bread, croissants, baguette and mini baguette, cheese brioche, saffron brioche, and more.
After we chose our bread selections, our waitress left to warm them up. A different waiter came by our table with a huge block of slow-churned butter and olive oil.
He cut off a long scroll of the butter and topped it with sea salt, then poured the olive oil into a little dish.
The waitress soon brought out (warm) bread back to the table. I tried the bacon bread (not pictured since I ate it so quickly), a mini baguette, mini croissant, and the saffron brioche. The butter was wonderful, but it was the olive oil from Spain that stood out to me. It was the most flavorful olive oil I've ever tasted.
Next, we were brought a spiced beet gazpacho with burrata and extra virgin oil. The beet flavour was extremely fresh, and the creamy, mozzarella taste of the burrata was a perfect accompaniment.
The foie gras course was next with a carpaccio of rolled foie gras standing on slices of potatoes. Truffle and Parmesan shavings topped the dish along with a truffle vinaigrette. This was a very earthy and savory dish.
The caviar course consisted of three separate plates. The square plate in front contained lemon-flavored yellowtail with red turnip and shavings of carrot. The round bowl was filled with a creamy radish velouté (a type of French sauce) with clumps of caviar.
But the best dish was the tin in the corner called the 'caviar surprise.' Our waitress told us to dip our forks all the way to the bottom to get the best bite, and we were rewarded with caviar, fresh fish, and fennel cream.
The chef's famous Langoustine dish came out next. The truffled langoustine (which tastes like very tender lobster) was served in a ravioli casing and topped with truffle shavings.
This dish was really spectacular. The broth was creamy, and the ravioli went well with the chopped cabbage (in the background), which was cooked with a hint of salt.
The cod came out next on a gorgeous sunken gold platter. As with the ravioli dish, the waiters removed a cloche (a see-through topper) when the dish arrived at the table so the scent really smacked us. The mushroom-infused sauce was excellent and the cod melted in our mouths like butter.
Finally, it was time for the veal. And while the veal was good, it was the extras that really made this plate for me. The tower of pesto vegetable taglierinis were delicious, and the chef's famous, rich mashed potatoes ruined all other mashed potatoes for me -- they tasted like equal parts potato and butter.
Just when we thought we couldn't eat any more, dessert arrived. This first was a fresh papaya sauce over guava mousse with a huge blackberry on the bottom. The coolest part though was the presentation -- dry ice made the small ladle smoke as the waitress brought it over.
While waiting for the second dessert course, we were asked if we wanted tea or coffee. When we requested tea, another server in white gloves appeared with a whole cart of potted plants, and asked us to choose our preferred tea leaves.
He snipped off the leaves (we chose lemon balm and 'best mint') and let them sit in a pot of hot water before pouring the tea into our cups. It tasted was amazingly fresh and helped calm our bulging stomachs.
The last dessert of the night was 'Le Chuao.' The chocolate sphere was filled with orange caramel and sat on a fruity sauce. The edible sugar flowers gently rested on a red cookie that really made the flavours in the chocolate sphere pop.
By the time the mignardises cart came around, I was already stuffed. The selection here was truly staggering just like the bread cart before it, and it was all I could do not to try everything.
But of course I had to try something. My companion and I chose the vanilla caramels, a few macaroons, citrus sugar lollipops that melted in our mouths, a few chocolate truffles, and the chef's favourite dessert -- a lavender-flavored candy that we ate in one bite (front and center).
One of the tables next to us was celebrating a birthday, which was fun. Though we didn't get to try the cake, the presentation was lovely.
Finally, we were given our rolled (and signed menu), a booklet about the restaurant and the dishes we tasted, as well as an incredibly moist loaf of cake. Then we left, incredibly full and blown away.
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