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Joel Robuchon - Las Vegas - Mansion & L'Atelier

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The following is a lengthy excerpt from my blog post about my recent meal at Joel Robuchon at The Mansion. If you want all the details plus the visuals, visit the ulterior epicure.

I never ate at Jamin, Robuchon’s first blockbuster temple of haute cuisine in Paris, or its successor at the Hôtel Le Parc on avenue Raymond Poincaré, before his first “retirement” from Michelin three-stardom. My only experience with Robuchon has been two lunches at l’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York. The first one was an expensive yawn.  The second one was a yawn revisited.

So, given the lackluster response by trusted friends to Joël Robuchon at The Mansion – the only three-starred Michelin restaurant in Las Vegas – why would I be remotely interested in spending a king’s ransom on another Robuchon meal?

Because Robuchon is a master chef and genesis of spectacular dishes mimicked the world around.*

And Joël Robuchon at The Mansion would be, perhaps, my only opportunity to see what the man can do at one of his top outfits (he has two other three-star restaurants: Joël Robuchon a Galera in Macau and Joël Robuchon in Tokyo).

But this was misguided reasoning.  Even I knew that.

First, Robuchon is rarely in the kitchen anymore. To think The Mansion will give you Robuchon hand-to-mouth would be delusional.

Second, quite a few of the selections from The Mansion’s menus are essentially the same as those served at his l’Ateliers.


But I expect The Mansion to be something more than a phoned-in snippets of ditto sheets from Robuchon’s “workshops.”  This restaurant should offer something special.  At this level and with these prices, I shouldn’t be able experience the food anywhere else.

But putting this issue aside, was The Mansion thrilling?


Was it flawless?


But it was certainly an engaging meal, full of eye-catching presentations and interesting flavors and textures.

While the kitchen was in pretty good form (an unfortunately overcooked piece of veal notwithstanding), the front of the house was unforgettably sloppy:

I arrived on time. My table didn’t.

I didn’t mind waiting in what I call the vampire lounge, a dark, chic lounge with a small bar displaying decanters of fine liqueurs.  The low-and-long soft leather chairs were quite cushy and comfortable.

What I did mind was the nearly half-hour wait that met no apologies, explanations, or updates.

Silverware seemed to be habitually missing and misplaced. At one point, one server swooped in to clear the setting that another server had just put down in front of me, replacing it with the proper utensils for the next course.

Questions went unanswered.

Lest you think I am an over-eager pedant with too many questions, I only asked two questions the whole evening: (1) “What was the white, crisp root vegetable in the “Racines” course?,” and (2) “Where do you get your cheeses from?”

The answer to both was “I don’t know.” With the first question, the server offered to check with the kitchen. But she forgot. I didn’t. I re-posed the question at the end of the meal. This time, she found the answer: “It’s the vegetable used to make tapioca.”

What is this, Jeopardy?

“What is cassava?” I responded, winning the Daily Double.

The deuce next to me sat for a good half-hour between their last savory course and dessert.

It didn’t go unnoticed by me or the servers. Two of them convened within earshot to discuss that couple’s unnaturally long wait. But they said nothing to the couple – no acknowledgment, no explanation, and no apology – not even when the gentleman politely asked whether or not he was mistaken in thinking that they had ordered dessert. Interestingly, the desserts arrived not promptly, but ten minutes thereafter. So, I guess they waited forty minutes for their desserts.

And, you know those fabulous little gift baskets that one often gets at the end of fancy dinners? The ones at The Mansion were particularly nice. I wish I knew what was in them.**

Call me petty, but it left a bad taste in my mouth that I was the only party at my late hour that didn’t get one. No, I didn’t ask.

But back to the food, which was, for the most part, quite good.

I chose the restaurant’s top tasting menu, the “Degustation” – 12 courses (more or less) for $385. That price also includes petits fours and coffee or tea. I supplemented a cheese course, which the restaurant comped. I’m going to guess that it was a show of contrition for the dry and overcooked veal, which I hardly ate (”Le Veau“). My server did acknowledge the rather large piece of meat left on my plate and apologized for the kitchen’s botch.

No, I did not want another piece. And, no, at that point, I really didn’t care to see what else the chef could prepare for me.  I politely declined both offers.


I won’t fault any chef for following standard operating procedure if the meal is truly spectacular from head to toe.

This one wasn’t.

But there were enough interesting tidbits along the way – a dazzling caviar starter [a (not-so-)cheap thrill, admittedly]; a ripe and summer-kissed tomato duo; a comforting egg scramble; a wonderful langoustine raviolo; an inventive sea urchin cappuccino; and a refreshing and complex fruit soup – to keep me engaged.

Having had sustainable/seasonal propaganda beaten into me – if not by upbringing, then by the current state of food media – I did raise my eyebrows at a few seasonal anachronisms.  Morels, asparagus, and sea urchin are generally not the feature or focus of late July. But, I suppose, longer growing seasons in that part of the country sustain certain vegetables and products longer than in my part of the country.  I’ve even gotten reliable reports of excellent sea urchins being harvested off the Oregon coast at this late season.  And, well, there’s always overnight delivery.

Despite my previous gripe that a few of the dishes were swiped or rehashed from l’Atelier menus, The Mansion does offer a remarkable repertoire that is different from any other restaurant in the U.S. – and definitely in Las Vegas.  And, I must say that it is one of the most handsome restaurants I’ve ever seen.  From the checkered marble entryway to the plush, purple banquettes and settees, it drips luxury.  Despite the lofty ceiling, the space is quite intimate, approximating a great room in one’s French country home – framed photos of Robuchon’s family line the ledges; a gas-powered fireplace casts a warm glow; and huge, satin curtains frame a set of double French doors that lead out to a faux patio.

Would I return to The Mansion? Sure. But a lucky hand at one of the tables not ten yards from the restaurant’s front door wouldn’t hurt.

But these pleasantries aside, Robuchon has yet to convince me that he deserves the praise and reverence that so many throw at his feet. I fear that I have missed the apex of the great’s chef’s career.

Of course my judgment means nothing to Monsieur Robuchon, he of the many internationally acclaimed teets, and he who had a butt in every seat at The Mansion for both services the night I was in – most of whom had ordered the top Degustation.

It is unfortunate that the front of the house was a bit hapless. Of course, it could have just been an off night. But at $500+, no diner should be subjected to an off night.

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I had a wonderful dinner at l'Atelier on Friday. Sat by myself at the counter and had the Menu Decouverte. It's a lovely place to sit and eat as solo diner - I felt very well taken care of. I loved some of the warm, savory dishes - in particular the foie gras ravioli, the quail stuffed with foie, the lobster/langostine custard amuse, the fish carpacio with the salt/oil/seeds, and there was a white fish dish that preceded the quail that was wonderful. I was eating myself into a nice happy glow up unitl the last couple of courses.

I felt like the desserts were a little bit of a let down. They were both very one-dimensionally sweet, which turned me off. The first one had chopped peaches, vanilla custard, and white chocolate covered corn flakes. It was like eating a super sugary children's breakfast cereal, and totally broke the luxurious mood. The second included rasberry granita, and a puff of cotton candy on top. I understand what they were going for, that cotton candy is suppposed to be all retro kitsch, but this just tasted like sugar. This was my ONE splurge meal of my trip to Vegas, and I definately got my money's worth from the meal as a whole, but I feel like at a restaurant of that caliber, I would have expected more thoughtful, complex dessert offerings. The entire rest of the meal was exceptional.

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Had dinner with a couple other friends at Joel Robuchon at the MGM Mansion last thursday night. All three of us did the four course tasting menu.

We started with an amuse of caviar on top of crab which was pretty bad and seemed like it sort of ruined the caviar as a poor pairing. None of us really enjoyed this much, yet hoped it would definitely get better as the standard was getting set rather low.

Around came the bread trolley prior to our first course with a wide selection of breads my favorite was the basil bread which was extremely nice. My friends were quite fond of the cheese breads which I didn’t get around to trying.

Our first course was the appetizer course, I had the salad of tomato, basil infused olive oil, and tomato gelee topped with dots of mozzarella. This was a very boring and not that adventurous of a course. The tomato with basil was good but the gelee with mozzarella dots was only ok. Overall an ok course but I sort of expect more from a place like this and prices like this. I would expect this course from an average restaurant in nyc not here.

We continued with our soup course, we all had the lettuce veloute with nutmeg and sweet onion foam. The description on the menu is described exactly as this nothing more. One of my friends does not eat pork for religious reasons and the hosts were made very well aware of this during the reservation and even confirmed it when we sat down. Low and behold as the second spoonful comes up my friend takes a bite of a bunch of pork. Now not only were they aware of this but something like this should have been listed on the menu as a component of the dish. The sweet onion foam tasted like nothingness and the soup was very average. The pork component didn’t even really add anything to the dish worth putting it in there for. Its almost as if they just had it sitting around and figured they’d throw it in the bottom of the soup instead of the trash. I've had much better soups at a casual lunch at bouchon bakery. Again not exactly what I'd expect from a place like this.

On to our main courses, I got the duck and seared foie gras as my friends got the beef ribeye, spiced spinach and crispy veggies. My duck was okay but poorly seasoned. The foie gras was pretty tasty but I was really looking forward to a nice piece of duck in this dish. Both my friends were very unhappy with their beef dishes one of which I tried and it was extremely tough to chew and seemed like a poor cut and excessively fatty. The veggies on the meat dish however were quite nice.

For our desert and final course I got the perle of chou, tahitian vanilla cream with fresh raspberry and my friend got the melting araguani chocolate refreshed with a hint of peppermint. This is about the only course were we all agreed everything was really quite tasty and well done all around.

We ended up with the chocolate trolley with a ton of selections. I tried several of them and wasnt impressed with anything. The espresso during coffee service was nice however. As a parting gift they gave us one full size fruit cake for the three of us. This seems rather bazaar for a parting gift but perhaps it’s a french thing. We didn’t end up tasting that and just binned it.

Overall this was one of the worst meals of my life none of us really enjoyed it after looking forward to it so much. The service was very average if not downright poor and nobody seemed to really care. They brought out the wrong champagne to start with and completely forgot to bring my wine. They seem to put a considerable amount of focus and emphasis on the serving vessels and the room to a point where it is almost tacky. In fact the neon lights under the cheese trolly are in fact quite tacky, it was like the french meet walmart! Definitely not what we expected from the highly esteemed "3 Michelin star" joel robochon and a complete waste of money. I would do a charge back on my amex if I could get away with it. The meal and experience was that bad.

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thats shocking. what was their reaction when you told them this?

i find it hard to believe you didnt like any of the bon bons or had you just given up by this point and inside you had turned off and couldnt wait to leave? i would have done, i cant believe he has his name behind something as bad as that.

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thats shocking. what was their reaction when you told them this?

i find it hard to believe you didnt like any of the bon bons or had you just given up by this point and inside you had turned off and couldnt wait to leave? i would have done, i cant believe he has his name behind something as bad as that.

I was a bit unhappy to say the least after seeing the huge bill for what we had and the poor quality. I really wasnt in a mood to discuss anything with them with so many mistakes and the reservation was made by my friend who said he'd be taking it up with them later.

I actually didnt try the bon bons but several other selections from the desert trolley.

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thats shocking. what was their reaction when you told them this?

i find it hard to believe you didnt like any of the bon bons or had you just given up by this point and inside you had turned off and couldnt wait to leave? i would have done, i cant believe he has his name behind something as bad as that.

I believe it. Here's what I wrote about the petits fours in my blog post:

As for the petits fours: “Forty sweets, all made in-house,” she boasted. And not one of the half dozen or so I tried was anything to write home about. The cannelé was soggy, the infused chocolates were bland, and the orangettes – well, I’ve made better ones at home. The couverture on the orangette was gritty and the rind had been over-candied – it had lost all of its citrus fragrance. The best thing off the candy trolley I tried was a half-domed pear gelée filled with Brandy. Gosh, I wish they had reminded me to pop it in one bite. The Brandy ended up on my jacket. I should have known better.

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Just a few pictures from my visit. I agreed that the service is a bit lacking considering the high price. Nothing wrong with the food at all. In fact, all courses were excellent, but I guess everyone of us expected a bit more for a $300+ per head dinner.



Le Caviar





More photos HERE!

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Joel Robuchon Mansion inside MGM is known to be one of the most expensive restaurants in the US. It’s supposed to show off Robuchon’s best cooking where nothing will be spared, from top notch ingredients to luxurious furniture. 3-star Michelin experience is what this place offers to the lucky 40-people to dine here

Food (and wine) - 95/100

I’ve been to other Robuchon top’s restaurants in Macau and Tokyo. I suppose this visit is simply to complete my experience of all the top 3. Similar to my other experiences, I ordered the restaurant full degustation menu. Some of the memorable ones are,

- Caviar dish served with crab and fennel cream. A smart combination of crab’s sweetness, caviar’s saltiness and texture contrasts – could be equal to Robuchon’s famous cauliflower cream with caviar dish

- Scallop … poached to near perfection. The scallop itself is plump and sweet, well-enhanced with butter kumquat sauce

- I’m amazed with the consistency of the langoustine ravioli. This one was about as good as the one I had in Tokyo. The meat is succulent with creamy and sweet sauce though the truffle did not make much impact

There are more dishes not mentioned (I will let you see the pictures). Some are just fine such as the asparagus trio – they’re quite interesting, but not memorable in your palate. The tomato salad and mozzarella are more pleasing to the eye. The kobe beef was delicious, but the overall dish itself quite simple.

The dessert – here is the pattern, the first one will be fruit-based (more function as a palate cleanser) and the next one will be chocolate-based, usually sweet to create some ecstatic and feel good experience towards the end. Nothing is cheap here. I only had 2 glasses of wine – both are from Napa Valley, I like drinking locals’ whenever I eat. Overall, the tasting menu is very enjoyable. One can taste many tasty dishes with just the right portion – the score above reflects 2 ¾* in my notes. Thus, it should be expected to be the only 3-star in Vegas. Yet, it’s still nowhere compared to the Paris 3-star. Based on this “complete” experience, I’m a bit doubt if Robuchon could ever provide dishes as delicious as the ones I had at L’Arpege, L’Ambroisie or Gagnaire Paris. Is it possible that his old days at Jamin somewhat overrated? Comments anyone, especially the one who was lucky enough to eat there around the 80’s?

Service (and ambiance) - 93/10

Staffs are professionally friendly, helpful and unobtrusive. They’re doing what’s required to give diners good experience, but not trying hard to go the extra miles. At least, here the service was a lot better than the one in Robuchon a Galera a few years ago. The drawbacks are that these staffs themselves neither know nor have experience eating at other 3-star establishments. Hence, by the time you talked with them about dining at top places as comparisons, they hardly have anything to offer back. At times, they’re not that knowledgeable about the dishes; nevertheless they still offered their best smiles and tried to find out the necessary information from the kitchen.

The salon looked like Paris in the 30’s and it’s done on purpose of course. It’s indeed very luxurious. The patio provides an option to have an ‘outside’ dining experience. The restaurant was about 70-80% full. However, it’s not really spacious. I wish the table were bigger and distances among diners are wider. It’s nearly as crammed as Arpege’s dining room, but Passard never intended to have luxurious dining room. The overall experience here is 94.5/100 – about 2 ½*. The hardware and menu are top notch, but once you experience the dynamic of hospitality, dishes etc. it’s normal one would expect more when you charge him/her more than $400 per head.

Here are more detailed reviews - Robuchon mansion review

Here are the pictures - Robuchon vegas pictures

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Just came back from L'Atelier, I wanted to be able to go to the full-scale Robuchon, but unfortunately it is closed until the 18th of August (must be some sort of curse for me, as Per Se is also closed for the entire time I'm in NY).

I was going to order the full tasting, but in some ways I'm glad I didn't. Although I'd eaten lunch about 7 hours before, and by some strange turn of fortunes, I still wasn't particularly hungry. I instead settled upon 4 courses from the tapas-style menu.

Hand sliced Belotta Iberico with tomato bruschetta was simply stunning, with the top grade ham simply shining in all its nutty, fatty, slightly-chewy glory. At $38 though, it was a very pricy plate of ham.

Seared duck foie gras with cherries and almonds was a great combination of flavours, although the foie was slightly overcooked, and could have done with a bit more resting time, and there seemed to be so much oil already drizzled on the plate, and the fat leeching from the foie made for a very oily plateful. Delicious oily plateful, but oily plateful nonetheless.

Quail stuffed with foie gras, served with a frisee salad, truffle vinaigrette and pomme puree was also respectable, although very small, and the pomme puree was nowhere near as rich or buttery as the version I've eaten in London L'Atelier.

A "chocolate sensation" was incredibly rich and decadent; a dark chocolate ganache and milk chocolate mousse layered in a bowl, topped with white chocolate sorbet, a tempered chocolate disc, and oreo crumbs was over the top in the best way possible, providing a very rich, satisfying finale.

I'm regretting I wasn't all that hungry, because at $155/head for ten courses, the tasting menu was much better value than the $117 I paid for four courses (that’s not including tax, beverages or tip). Maybe it’s just because it’s Vegas, but the prices are far more inflated than last year’s L’Atelier in London. I was also a little dismayed not to see a caviar dish on the menu, as there had been last year.

In all though, it was a good experience, but I certainly wouldn’t rate it at the level the pricing seems to suggest.

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