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Vegas Report: Joel Robuchon

loriannkru Dec 4, 2010 05:48 AM

Summary: A mixed bag. And since it’s a 3-star Michelin, we’re not really pleased when it’s a mixed bag…we’re looking for our socks to be knocked off. So disappointing overall.

Evening started off on the wrong foot. The car they sent to pick us up didn’t show, and we didn’t get a call warning us. They apologized for it when we showed up, but didn’t do anything else, which I thought was surprising. (Like pick up the tab for the cab?)

In any case, here’s the story on the important part…the food!

Standout dishes:
*The amuse bouche with caviar was truly outstanding. I could eat this 3x/day. We also loved their Bruno Paillard champagne – terrific match.
*Foie gras and artichoke – very refreshing, very interesting to have artichoke as the highlight. Unusual and delicious.
*Cheese cart – what a great cheese cart. I loved that they weren’t afraid to put some off-putting choices on there- Epoisses, Muenster, Pont L’Eveque. We love cheese and are familiar with a lot of cheeses, but they had one we’d never heard of called Boulette d'Avesnes. It makes my heart go pitty pat when restaurants have a cheese cart in the first place, don’t dumb down their cheese selection, AND when they put unusual stuff on the cart. So they totally got a gold star from us! And I should mention that our server was also really nice, friendly, helpful. Perfect service from him.
*Mashed potatoes – totally amazing, tremendous.
*Hazelnut crème brulee with pop rocks – utterly delicious, absolutely fun.
*Mignardes. Just entirely too much fun to have 40-some odd dessert bites rolled out in front of you. Loved the lemon lollipop. Loved the cannelle de Bordeaux(?)—looked like a little Alsatian Gugelhopf, but tasted different. Even the caramel was a standout.

Just ok
*Langoustine ravioli with black truffle. I think Chowhounder uhockey warned against this, but I dove right in anyway. And the langoustine was a little tough. And the sum of the parts wasn’t magical. At this point, I said to my husband, “Oh dear. I’ve had a LOT of better meals this year. “ And he responded, “I’ve had a better meal TODAY. ”
*The bread cart. We were so looking forward to this, but I really wished they would have had 3 great breads rather than a ton of breads that were just ok. We tried the rosemary, gruyere, comte, basil, bacon/mustard, olive oil and plain baguette. All solid efforts. But by comparison, the mushroom brioche served over at Guy Savoy blows the doors of any of those breads, IMO. The butter and olive oil they served were fantastic, though.
*Chestnut veloute. I am a lover of soup. This was nice, but not something I’d run back for. The chestnuts were interesting, and we’re happy to find foie gras anywhere, including at the bottom of a bowl of soup. But again, not a standout dish.
*Sole. My husband and I agreed the fish was perfectly cooked, but I thought the delicate flavor of the fish was completely overpowered by the Mediterranean flavors in the dish. I didn’t think this was an improvement on a sole meunier.
*Duck & foie. Basic/basic. Sigh. And the fat on the duck really needed a bit more rendering.

Sommelier – so we’re super tolerant about accents, happy to stretch to give non-native English speakers a break. But their sommelier’s English was pretty tough to understand. I could catch names of grapes here and there, but really couldn’t get enough of what she was trying to say as descriptions of the wines. And then…on top of that…we’ve got to say that we didn’t really “get” her pairings. They were fine, but nothing happened where 1+1 = 4, and that’s what we’re looking for our sommelier to do. She still gets kudos for having that Bruno Paillard Champagne on the menu. And we found two unusual dessert wines we’d never heard of, tried, and loved (Charente Pineau des Charentes; Vin de Constance). But they definitely need a better sommelier on all counts listed above.

Décor – OMG, there were tacky LED candles on the tables. I wouldn’t put those out for a formal dinner at my HOUSE. In a room full of stunning floral arrangements that probably cost thousands of dollars, LED candles? Confusing.

A few last notes– I went to Per Se for the first time just a few weeks back, so I had that 3-star Michelin experience fresh in my mind. In that case, we just kept getting served one mind-blowing dish after another. So that’s what I’m looking for. This dinner had its moments, but totally paled in comparison. We’ve also been to Twist within the last year, and had a much better experience there. We felt Twist was swinging for the fences on every dish, and we thought they hit it out of the park more often than not. We just didn’t get that mind-blowing “out-of-the-park” experience here. We’ve also been to L’Atelier twice and found it more inventive and exciting.

Final bummer – they sent everyone home with a chocolate bar instead of a loaf of cake/bread. Sadness.

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  1. uhockey RE: loriannkru Dec 4, 2010 08:55 AM

    I will completely agree that Per Se trumps Robuchon, but I found their bread cart vastly superior to Savoy's (though the Mushroom bread at Savoy was quite special.)

    Good trip reports, btw!


    1. a213b RE: loriannkru Dec 6, 2010 02:36 PM

      I agree with both you and u <wink>.

      I find Per Se to be far superior to JR. While my meal was not as clunky as yours, I just remember feeling that I had a good but not great/amazing meal ... to borrow your phrase, 1 + 1 always = 2, never 4.

      With that reputation and at that price point (I dined solo, had the full-blown tasting menu with a bottle of wine and it was $650 or $700 including tax & tip) I better have a revelatory experience.

      It's good, but hard to justify for me.

      1. z
        zippyh RE: loriannkru Dec 6, 2010 07:04 PM

        Speaking of bummers, when we ate there last year, our take home goodie was a box of those fruit jelly things like from the mignardes cart. You know, the ones no one ever eats.

        1. atdleft RE: loriannkru Dec 6, 2010 09:19 PM

          I'm so sorry! I guess this happens. Honestly, my experience at Joel Robuchon earlier this year was nothing short of phenomenal. However, I've heard some sad stories of mediocre meals there. Maybe they just have the occasional "bad days" like most other restaurants... But at their price point, there are NO excuses for "bad days".

          1. n
            nextguy RE: loriannkru Dec 7, 2010 08:22 AM

            I went to JR in March and Per Se in June of this year. I believe I preferred JR in everything except the decor and the parting gift. Per Se gave us some very nice short bread cookies while JR gave marshmallows.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nextguy
              a213b RE: nextguy Dec 7, 2010 03:19 PM

              I'd be kinda pissed if a restaurant noted for sending people home with whole cakes or loaves (which I DID , to JR's credit, receive) gave me marshmallows.

              I mean, I can make those at home in no time!!

              That being said, my meal there was certainly delicious, but for me though I am willing to shell out, when I do so at JR's price point I expect to be blown away.

              Cut my tab in half and I would be raving about this place.

            2. ellenost RE: loriannkru Dec 8, 2010 01:11 PM

              Since I'm one of those people who had a good, but not fabulous time at Joel Robuchon, all I can say is that I feel your pain. Three years ago I had a stellar dinner at Alex, and the next night I had a good (but not as good as Alex) dinner at JR. I'm returning to LV in April, and I was planning to give JR another try (especially since so many people love JR). After reading your report (which was very well done), I think I'll skip JR. Definitely planning to return to Alex, and will probably susbstitute Sage for Joel Robuchon.

              11 Replies
              1. re: ellenost
                uhockey RE: ellenost Dec 8, 2010 03:36 PM

                ellenost likes Alex better than JR? ::shock:: ;-)


                1. re: uhockey
                  ellenost RE: uhockey Dec 8, 2010 05:29 PM

                  Seriously, I had been planning to return to JR based on your high praise, but after reading the OP's post, which isn't too dissimilar to my own experience three years ago, I am wondering whether I would be better off trying Sage. I look forward to your review of Sage. BTW, when I had dinner at JR, they never even offered to drive us to the restaurant (we were staying at the Bellagio).

                  1. re: ellenost
                    uhockey RE: ellenost Dec 9, 2010 01:59 AM

                    I never even knew they offered that option till I started reading about it here on CH.


                    1. re: uhockey
                      zippyh RE: uhockey Dec 9, 2010 05:14 AM

                      When my wife called for reservations, they asked if we wanted a limo.
                      It's also mentioned on the website now http://www.mgmgrand.com/restaurants/j...

                      But yeah, I first found out about the limo reading about it here.

                2. re: ellenost
                  SDGourmand RE: ellenost Dec 10, 2010 06:51 AM

                  I'm a huge Robuchon fan but I much prefer L'atelier to JR.. JR is just too expensive for me and the times I've dined there Mr. Robuchon was there himself so everything was spot on.. I loved the experience there but I feel more comfortable at L'atelier.. Sage is a fantastic restaurant and you should definitely make a point to try it.. Food and service was all top notch and the dinning room is very elegant.. I think you will really enjoy it.. Just make sure to get the foie gras custard brulee..

                  1. re: SDGourmand
                    ellenost RE: SDGourmand Dec 10, 2010 07:23 AM

                    The foie gras brulee is the main reason that I want to try Sage!

                    1. re: ellenost
                      SDGourmand RE: ellenost Dec 10, 2010 07:46 AM

                      I've had it twice now and it just keeps getting better.

                    2. re: SDGourmand
                      atdleft RE: SDGourmand Dec 10, 2010 05:34 PM

                      I can see where you're coming from. If one doesn't care too much for the "pomp and circumstance" of The Mansion, then L'Atelier is always next door (and nowhere near as expensive!). I still want to go back soon, but I think it would ruin the special experience of Joel Robuchon at The Mansion if I were to dine there regularly.

                      1. re: SDGourmand
                        uhockey RE: SDGourmand Dec 11, 2010 04:55 AM

                        I requested an extended tasting at Sage, so I look forward to seeing what their kitchen can do in that setting.

                        I'm also going to L'Atelier for the first time this trip. The winter menu lacks a lot of Robuchon's Uni dishes, unfortunately, but seems quite foie gras heavy. I think part of the "charm" of the flagship Robuchon restaurant is the pomp and circumstance - the bread carte, the mignardise trolly, etc.

                        Should be a good trip.


                        1. re: uhockey
                          atdleft RE: uhockey Dec 11, 2010 06:25 AM

                          "I think part of the "charm" of the flagship Robuchon restaurant is the pomp and circumstance"

                          Same here. Robuchon is one of the very few restaurants (not just here, but anywhere) where I truly feel like royalty by just stepping inside. I'm also hoping to go again next year... Maybe during Vegas Uncork'd?

                          Have fun!

                          1. re: atdleft
                            uhockey RE: atdleft Dec 11, 2010 06:46 AM

                            Having been to all the Michelin-3's in the US aside from Meadowood and Masa I can say it compares favorably to all of them in that "intangible" area of "wow-factor."

                            Even being located ~100 feet from a slot machine it feels miles away from "Vegas" - much like Per Se is 100 feet from the bumping music of an Armani Xchange and feels like it is in a whole different world.


                    3. t
                      TheFoodEater RE: loriannkru Dec 18, 2010 07:02 AM

                      I am surprised you didn't like the duck. I thought the duck with foie gras, almonds and cherries was the best thing I have ever eaten in my life. For me, that duck with the foie gras was a 1 plus 1 equals 4 experience. I wish I could eat some right now.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: TheFoodEater
                        uhockey RE: TheFoodEater Dec 18, 2010 08:01 AM

                        The Foie didn't wow me, but the duck aspect was sublime.

                        That said - the duck at Sage is the best in Vegas, so far.


                        1. re: uhockey
                          ellenost RE: uhockey Dec 18, 2010 05:22 PM

                          Okay uhockey, now you've got my attention. Please tell me more about the best duck in LV at Sage.

                          1. re: ellenost
                            uhockey RE: ellenost Dec 20, 2010 08:44 AM

                            I'll get a review up eventually of all our spots, but the care/service/experience we got at Robuchon last night tops anything I've ever experienced.

                            The Duck at Sage, and subsequently at TWIST were both memorable and will be covered in their own threads.

                            I've had three nights of absolutely wowing meals thus far this trip - it is skewing my "best ever" list daily. :-)


                            1. re: uhockey
                              ellenost RE: uhockey Dec 20, 2010 09:53 AM

                              Seriious question for you:

                              I have 2 dinner slots open when I'm in LV in April, so of Robuchon, Sage and Twist, what would be your recommendation? I just checked the Twist menu posted on their website, and I did notice fewer variations on a theme (which was my complaint last year).

                              Thanks, uhockey. I am eagerly awaiting your posts.

                              1. re: uhockey
                                shouzen RE: uhockey Dec 20, 2010 11:25 AM

                                So, which do you think was the better experience, Sage or Twist? I have one slot remaining for dinner next week and they're both calling my name.

                                1. re: uhockey
                                  SDGourmand RE: uhockey Dec 20, 2010 03:59 PM

                                  Sage over Twist all day. Twist was good but it wasn't anything special. Especially for the price of a tasting you'll have a much better time at Sage.

                                  1. re: SDGourmand
                                    uhockey RE: SDGourmand Dec 25, 2010 02:26 PM

                                    Politely disagree on the "wasn't anything special" comment, but dollar for dollar Sage is perhaps a better deal.

                                    Robuchon is expensive - Expensive with a capital E, actually - but I feel it is worth every penny (never done the big 14 course, however.)

                                    Sage is a bargain and the food is excellent.

                                    Twist is expensive, the service is top notch, and it is the most "Adventurous" restaurant in Vegas - by far, in my opinion.

                                    If I could ONLY do two meals in Vegas and price were no option, I'd do Robuchon and Savoy - but all things considering, they are very similar experiences. If I wanted something "Different" it'd be Robuchon and Twist.

                                    If I wanted to save some money and have a damned solid meal, it'd be Sage - but all in all I'd put Sage a peg below Robuchon/Savoy/Twist - on Par with Alex (which I know ellenost loves) and Picasso.


                                    1. re: uhockey
                                      SDGourmand RE: uhockey Dec 25, 2010 02:41 PM

                                      I agree with what you are saying but I would switch savoy for Alex.. I personally didn't enjoy Twist, I didn't like how he prepared an ingredient 5 different ways on 5 different plates, I had to maneuver my wine glass around a sea of plates just to have a sip..I also found that at least 1 of the 5 components was completely disoriented from the others . A lot of Twists dishes contained strong bitter flavors that I'm also not particularly fond of.. Sage on the other hand I love and is my second favorite restaurant in LV with L'atelier being first.. So when asked either Twist or Sage, I'm for Sage...

                                      1. re: SDGourmand
                                        shouzen RE: SDGourmand Dec 25, 2010 04:05 PM

                                        I've eaten at L'Atelier in NYC and I think that experience of Robuchon's cuisine was sufficient. Recently, I find myself tending more towards more progressive "American" cuisine (I'll save the debate on what constitutes American cuisine for another time). That being said, I'm very intrigued by the Gagnaire approach, and like I said I was never impressed by Spring or Green Zebra. I suppose a caveat about Twist is that a general consensus on Gagnaire's cuisine seems to be that it's significantly better when the man is actually present.

                                        I think we're just going to see how the cards fall. We're in Tuscon now and am eating more and better food than I had expected, so food fatigue might set in soon. The only thing I'm absolutely sure we'll be doing right now is the 15-course kaiseki at Raku. I think I'll have to let my better half decide on the other meals, when the time comes. The disadvantage of dining with others is having to accommodate them sometimes :)

                                        1. re: shouzen
                                          uhockey RE: shouzen Dec 26, 2010 04:24 AM

                                          Multiple sources have named TWIST's Chef one of the best, if not the best chef in Vegas currently - I fee that kitchen operates on an insanely high level given the complexity of the dishes.

                                          I agree with SDG that, at times, there was a component in the dish where I thought "wow, that is out there" but only once did it fail to work for me. If anything, I actually felt some of the flavors to be a built in palate cleanser or refresher that simply allowed me to experience subsequent bites in a whole new way.

                                          I really think the answer varies from diner to diner, obviously. I often eat alone and as such I think the interaction with the food and the staff is an itegral part of the meal - Twist is very deliberate in its conversation - it WANTS you to think about what you are eating, it wants to create an emotion.


                                          1. re: uhockey
                                            shouzen RE: uhockey Dec 26, 2010 06:01 AM

                                            I'm not too surprised - Pascal Sanchez has been with Gagnaire for a long time. Ah, I wish I had the luxury of dining solo sometimes :) But I think I'm relatively blessed with dining companions who enjoy thinking and reflecting about food. 5 hours of dining always seem to go by in a flash. In any case, thanks for the input - can't wait to see your report.

                                            1. re: shouzen
                                              lvnvflyer RE: shouzen Dec 26, 2010 08:25 AM

                                              Tucson is a surprising source of good food...but in terms of Sage, don't judge it by Spring or Green Zebra: it is several notches above either. I guess chefs can improve with time just like wine!

                                        2. re: SDGourmand
                                          ellenost RE: SDGourmand Dec 26, 2010 08:25 AM

                                          Thanks SDG! I think you and I have similar tastes since I too prefer Alex to Savoy, and thought there were too many variations on a theme at Twist. I think I'm definitely adding Sage to my list, and may add Robuchon too (just to give it another try).

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