Martin Gero knows his food, knows what he likes, and, more importantly, knows what I like when it comes to food – so his dining recommendations are to be given serious consideration. When Martin found out I’d be visiting Vegas, he insisted I visit two restaurants – the scenes of some of his most spectacular meals: Guy Savoy (booked for Thursday night) and Joel Robuchon.
Now I dined at Chateau Joel Robuchon in Ebisu a couple of years ago and, despite it being the final meal on an exhausting culinary excursion of Tokyo, it was a very memorable visit. Add to this the fact that I just finished re-watching Top Chef Vegas which, in one episode, featured the man himself, Joel Robuchon, Chef of the Century, as well as his lush, royal purple restaurant, and the prospect of following up on Martin’s suggestion became as obvious as truffle oil with squash risotto.
Joel Robuchon is located in the MGM Grand, a short hop, skip, and one loooong jump from where we’re staying at the Venetian - so we cabbed it and, unlike Monday’s dinner reservation, arrived well on time.
We were seated and offered the menus, but immediately informed the Maitre D we were decided. We’d be going with the Chef’s Winter Menu. At sixteen courses, it seemed a little daunting, but I was prepared. Mentally anyway. Unlike Marty G. who had readied himself by eating toast and water that day, I had yet to come down from the sugar high that two sundaes, a slice of chocolate pizza, and one large pistachio macaron had delivered.
As the waiter whisked away our menus, I began to regret that pisatchio macaron.
Well, fear not. I made it. Truthfully, I was full halfway through the meal but the dishes were so delicious, so exquisitely crafted and beautifully plated, that finishing wasn’t that difficult. Until it came time for the after dessert Dessert Cart.
But I get ahead of myself. Our meal at Joel Robuchon was spectacular, nothing short of epic. And it went something like this…
As we settled in, we were offered a selection from the Bread Cart. Now I usually don't partake in bread before a meal, especially a meal like this one, but I had to make an exception in this case. All the breads were served fresh and warm, loosening their tiny pockets of baked-in steam as they were pulled apart and -
Either dipped in exquisite olive oil or topped with house-churned butter.
Then, it was time for the main event…
Le Citron: Lemon and basil gelee, anise fennel cream. A delicate but flavorful start to the meal. Although the menu mentions lemon, I believe it was actually yuzu - the first of many Asian influences we noted.
Le Foie Gras: Carpaccio of foie gras and potatoes with black truffle shavings. The foie gras melted in my mouth - as foie gras is wont to do - and the truffle shavings lent the dish a wonderful aromatic earthiness, but it was the fingerling potatoes that surprised. Often the least interesting component in similar dishes I've had elsewhere, often because they're undercooked and don't offer anything in the way of true flavor, these were actually very flavorful.
La Symphonie de Truffe: Crispy truffle tart with onion confit, scrambled egg with golden toast, Paris mushrooms with veal raviolis cooked in broth. If you love truffles as much as I do, you'll want to hit Robuchon for this dish alone. The varying textures were remarkable: the firmness of the ravioli, the creaminess of the eggs, the contrasting snap and softness of the tart.
La Nois de Saint Jacques: Seared scallop, hearts of palm in coriander scented coconut milk, Mariner's style. The scallop was firm but very tender, its crown crusted, served in a broth this time Thai influenced.
Le Kabocha: Light kabocha pumpkin veloute, ginger foam and toasted pumpkin seeds. And now Japanese influence. The flavors of the soup took me back to my travels in Tokyo. Akemi marveled at the fact that it tasted exactly like the kabocha soup her mother used to make back in Osaka. Now THAT is praise.
Les Crustaces. Yet another stunning three-in-one. No, the starfish is not edible.
Lobster in sake broth with radish and nori. Akemi's favorite because, again, the dish was very reminiscent of Japan, delivering a sense of natsukashii that had her talking about it for the rest of the night. BTW - that's a lemon grass spear.
Sea urchin in a wasabi emulsion. The wasabi was quite delicate and married perfectly to the equally delicate uni possessed of a subtle sweetness you'll only find from the freshest variety.
Truffled langoustine ravioli. A tiny bite but bursting with truffled langoustine flavor. An incredibly dense and meaty pocket of seafood
Not picture – Le Black Cod: Black cod in daikon buoillon with yuzu zest. Damn. For some reason, I missed snapping a pic of this dish and it’s a shame because it was one of the highlights of among an entire evening of highlights. The cod was sweet and smokey, its accompaniments again redolent of the very best of Japan cuisine.
Le Chou: Crispy fried cabbage with vegetable medley. A more restrained dish than the others, but no less appreciated - here, the preparation allows the delicate flavors of the individual vegetables to take center stage. The crisp cabbage was also an elegant little addition here.
Le Veau: Sauteed veal chop with natural jus and vegetable talierinis flavored with pesto. The veal was nicely cooked and fairly subtle in comparison to the intense talierinis.
Martin goes "all in" with the wine pairing.
Le Soja: Risotto of soybean sprouts, lime zest and chives. Our final savory course and, alas, my least favorite only because I've never been a fan of sprouts.
L'Amande: Light almond panna cotta, tahitian vanilla and pineapple. Didn't really enjoy this dessert either - although I was odd man out at judge's table on this one. It contained an underlying flavor I found off-putting. I'd liken it to saffron - my least favorite spice.
La Framboise: Fresh raspberries and ginger infused sorbet, crunchy honey tuile. As most of you know, I'm not a big fan of fruit-themed desserts, but this was quite nice.
Sixteen courses, several fresh breads, some house-churned butter, and a few glasses of wine later we were thoroughly sated. And then some. At which point they rolled out the Dessert Cart.
The Dessert Cart. I figured it would be rude to pass.
My selection of mignardises - along with a few extras the waiter added because he obviously felt I hadn't had enough to eat.
Marty G. sizes up his religieux.
We capped off our meal with a tour of the kitchen where we watched the team in action, then met Executive Chef Claude Le Tohic and Pastry Chef Kamel Guechida.