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Joel Robuchon - Las Vegas - Mansion & L'Atelier

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This picture kept bugging me.

gallery_13301_251_54155.jpg

It's from John Mariani's review of The Mansion (I keep archives of his reviews).

By the way - Sokolov had a review of Guy Savoy and The Mansion today in the Wall Street Journal. Kind of luke warm on Guy Savoy. Enthusiastic about The Mansion. WSJ is by subscription only - but - if you are interested in the review - I'd be glad to email you a copy if you PM or email me. Robyn

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"A great restaurant is one that is there to please you." Robyn

And some restaurants are there to fleece you.

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I'm with robyn. I'm a congenial guy, and I'm nice to the staff cuz it's my nature. But I don't want to make being nice to the staff the focus of my experience when I'm dining out. I want to make my dining companion, and the food -- by which I mean my appreciation of the food -- the focus. If I have to get there early, before any other customers are there, and take pictures of the empty restaurant to get treated well . . . well, I'm not going back (and if I know it in advance, I'm not going there at all).

I live in New York and I've never eaten at Per Se. Because I'm simply unwilling to do it on the terms they impose on people like me, who aren't known to them. You can say it's my loss. But there are lots of good places to eat, and my life is such that I really have to do it at my convenience.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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I'm with robyn.  I'm a congenial guy, and I'm nice to the staff cuz it's my nature.  But I don't want to make being nice to the staff the focus of my experience when I'm dining out.  I want to make my dining companion, and the food -- by which I mean my appreciation of the food -- the focus.    If I have to get there early, before any other customers are there, and take pictures of the empty restaurant to get treated well . . . well, I'm not going back (and if I know it in advance, I'm not going there at all).

I live in New York and I've never eaten at Per Se.  Because I'm simply unwilling to do it on the terms they impose on people like me, who aren't known to them.  You can say it's my loss.  But there are lots of good places to eat, and my life is such that I really have to do it at my convenience.

Actually Per Se is not bad in terms of treating strangers. We ate there in 2004 (had a "blind date" with someone whose dining companion couldn't make it for a hard to get reservation). I don't think we were treated badly (except for having to dine at 5:30). Still - other people have told me that we didn't get the "full treatment" because we weren't known to the kitchen.

Of course - "not bad" is faint praise when you're talking about spending $750 for 2 for dinner with modest alcohol.

I am simply very confused about these restaurants. I don't know how a picture from a John Mariani review wound up in an e Molto review here (maybe they dined together - maybe they're friends - or maybe e Molto simply got the picture from the Mariani review like I did - cut and paste). Whatever - the pictures are identical.

All the big deal critics seem to love the place - but who knows how they are treated compared to average folk (whose reviews in general are not quite as stellar - there aren't any bad reviews - just reviews that make one pine for the old days and tastes at Jamin)? I am quite sure that Mariani makes himself known to the kitchens in the places he dines (that just seems to be his nature) - and Sokolov is a former NYT critic who has a very distinctive look these days (he'd be recognized - even assuming he doesn't introduce himself).

I guess my general impression is if I were in Las Vegas - I'd have to try it - but I wouldn't travel almost 3000 miles from where I live just to dine there. In general - I think that Las Vegas is a pretty gross place (maybe I'm too old) - and I'm more comfortable in places that are mellow and polite to everyone.

As far as places fleecing patrons - high end dining is expensive these days (except perhaps in countries with low costs of living). High end ingredients are expensive -whether or not they're good (e.g., truffles don't tend to travel well - but they're not any cheaper if they're 2000 miles from home and a month old). Although I must say that when a restaurant depends a lot on stuff like foie gras to get exclamation points - I find it kind of boring. Even I can make delicious dishes using foie gras. What I am more impressed with is dishes/meals that are labor intensive (common - but not as common as they used to be - in high end restaurants) - things that I couldn't duplicate at home in a million years. And attention to detail. The perfectly hulled strawberry. I am totally unimpressed with tasting menus where 80% of what I'm eating was prepared long before I ate it.

I don't mind spending a lot on food - but - when we're on vacation for an extended period - 2-3 weeks - I don't want a food budget that would buy me a new Lexus :smile: . So we frequently do 2 things to keep food costs in line. First - we tend to eat our main meal at lunch instead of dinner. Same great food at a lot of high end restaurants - much lower prices. This works especially well when we are traveling west - and are hungry for our big meal of the day early (works particularly well in Japan - where we were ready for dinner at 11 am!). Second - we don't spend a lot of money on alcohol. Spirits (usually relatively inexpensive) - perhaps a glass of champagne - and perhaps modest wine - if we want to do a "big wine" - we will buy it at a local wine store and drink it at home. Anyway - I've rambled enough. Robyn

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Actually Per Se is not bad in terms of treating strangers.  We ate there in 2004 (had a "blind date" with someone whose dining companion couldn't make it for a hard to get reservation).  I don't think we were treated badly (except for having to dine at 5:30).

Just for the record, that's all I mean. 5:30 is just too early for dinner, and although as a general matter I love to eat late, I can't do multi-course tasting menu on their late shift.

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Actually Per Se is not bad in terms of treating strangers.  We ate there in 2004 (had a "blind date" with someone whose dining companion couldn't make it for a hard to get reservation).  I don't think we were treated badly (except for having to dine at 5:30).

Just for the record, that's all I mean. 5:30 is just too early for dinner, and although as a general matter I love to eat late, I can't do multi-course tasting menu on their late shift.

Agreed. I am not a breakfast person. I usually eat lunch at about noon - and dinner at about 8. I had to organize my eating to dine at 5:30 at Per Se and have anything that resembled an appetite. Wasn't really worth it in my opinion - and I won't do it again (I mean what the heck do you do when you're on vacation in New York when you've finished dinner 3 hours before you go to bed and an hour after theater time - and you're too old for clubs!). By the way - the worst part with a 5:30 reservation is you can't even arrive early and have a drink at the bar. The "gate" to the restaurant doesn't open until exactly 5:30. Robyn

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A French 3-star restaurant can not be replicated in Las Vegas, Tokyo, or New York - it's base cynicism for those who open them, and foolishness of those who dine there.

I mean, come on Joel; you decry the French 3-star eatery as a thing of the past; you hate Ducasse for it, the globe-trotting, absentee "Executive chef"... then you do the same...

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A French 3-star restaurant can not be replicated in Las Vegas, Tokyo, or New York - it's base cynicism for those who open them, and foolishness of those who dine there.

I don't see any justification for this statement. Care to explain yourself?

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A French 3-star restaurant can not be replicated in Las Vegas, Tokyo, or New York - it's base cynicism for those who open them, and foolishness of those who dine there.

I don't see any justification for this statement. Care to explain yourself?

Live in France for ten years, and work in 3-star restaurants, as I have and you'll understand. You ever eat Tex-Mex in Berlin? Silly.

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Live in France for ten years, and work in 3-star restaurants, as I have and you'll understand. You ever eat Tex-Mex in Berlin? Silly.

If there are no Tex-Mex places in Berlin, perhaps no one is interested in eating Tex-Mex food there. I too would be interested in knowing why you believe a French 3-star restaurant can not be replicated outside of France.

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I think there are several reasons why a 3-star Michelin restaurant in France can't be duplicated outside of France.

The first and most obvious is sourcing of ingredients. Yes - you can overnight fedex cheese from France - but with more perishable items - fish - produce - etc. - you will have a time delay much more significant than from the French market to the French table. Note that I don't think there's anything wrong with using local US ingredients in US kitchens (and I happen to love a fair number of US restaurants that specialize in local ingredients). It's just that French ingredients are different than US ingredients (and ingredients from other countries - I can buy haricots verts here in Florida - but they're probably a week or two old - and from south America - and they don't taste like the ones I've eaten in France).

Second - there is the matter of labor. In decades past - high end French restaurants ran on an apprentice system. One would start at the bottom - hulling strawberries and doing similar things. Perhaps work one's way up to sous chef - or higher. Working in a 3 star French restaurant was a life-long career begun at an early age.

Now I think it is much harder to do this even in France these days - perhaps impossible given French labor laws. But it has never been possible to do this in the US. At least not on a consistent basis for all diners on a given evening. I can recall 2 miserable experiences in higher end NY restaurants (Per Se and Jean Georges) dealing with staff wine recommendations (for lesser wines - but one of my best recollections of French dining was the staff coming up with recommendations of excellent local wines at modest prices). Another best recollection was having staff fight over which were the best local cheeses we should try - or the best specials on the menu - sometimes with the diners near us joining in the fray.

(Note that our best server in about the last 12 months in the US was our server at Chez Panisse. She knew everything about the menu - and I mean everything. Wouldn't be surprised if she could take me to the field and show me the exact place where the radish on my plate came from.)

Third - there is the matter of educated customers. It made me very sad reading a few messages here. Like the one where someone studied food a lot before eating - and didn't have a wonderful experience. While other customers showed up to dine in shorts - or ate things with their hands from the dessert trolley (which BTW - was conceived by Ducasse - not Robuchon - and copied in non-Ducasse places before it wound up in Las Vegas). Perhaps this was several messages - not one. Don't remember. But I don't want to see some guy's hairy legs when I'm dining at a fine restaurant.

High end French dining (and a lot of lower end French dining too) was always about "terroir". That is a characteristic of dining in parts of the US too. It is an aspect of dining that pleases me greatly. Any idiot can take some foie gras and sauce it and make it taste good - whether he's in New York - or Las Vegas - or Stockholm. But a great chef who has a connection to the land - and the seasons of the land (things like ferns, peas and lamb in the spring - and game in the fall - etc.) - and a gift for cooking - well that is fabulous. To die for. I ask you - will Robuchon serve asparagus in Las Vegas in November? Don't know - but - if he does - he's not the Robuchon I knew - however briefly. Time will tell. Robyn

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What robyn said.

And, my main point, is that if Robuchon wanted to run a 3-star place again, he could very easily do it for real in France.

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What robyn said.

And, my main point, is that if Robuchon wanted to run a 3-star place again, he could very easily do it for real in France.

I don't think this is about 3 star for real. It is about "cashing in".

Not that I blame Robuchon or other chefs (why should ordinary lawyers like me retire on more than they do?). Still - I think I would probably be disappointed trying to recreate a 3 star dining experience in France in Las Vegas. That's one reason I'm reluctant to go.

For what it's worth - on my last trip to Las Vegas - I had mixed experiences in terms of restaurants. Michael Mina was quite good. Le Cirque was awful. I wrote a letter to Sirio Maccioni after the meal at Le Cirque - and his letter back said next time you're in New York - be my guest at Le Cirque 2000 for lunch. Took a year - but next time we were in New York - we took him up on his very generous offer and had a fabulous meal. Based on that experience - I think Mr. Maccioni is a class act in my book. But if he - as one of the great restaurant operators in the US - can't get things to work in Las Vegas on a consistent basis - who can? Robyn

P.S. Seeing that Big Boy Dan is from Austin - I'll throw in a "home town example". We were in Austin last year for the first time - and spent an afternoon eating Texas BBQ in Lockhart. Never had Texas BBQ (mostly beef) before. That fatty brisket was to die for. Now I'm sure places everywhere could try to duplicate that - but - except for maybe some other places in Texas or other places nearby - they wouldn't make those 20 foot long smokers and cook the briskets all day and night. They would make pale imitations of the real thing. And that's not what fine dining - or really good eats (the only difference between the former and the latter being a matter of price :wink: ) is all about.


Edited by robyn (log)

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Sorry, but I think the idea that it is "impossible" to create a 3*-restaurant/experience outside of france is just plain silly.

Cannot comment abou the US, but I guess some of you have traveled enough around europe to know that by now many of the most satisfying 3*-experiences are to be had *outside* of france...

Best

kai

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Um, Robyn: I can grow a friggin' haricot vert in Utah, by gawd, that's as good as any bean in France. That is to say that local beans are local beans. Fresh is good. Fresh is close. Las Vegas is close.

Cut me a snobby break. I've never written in to this site before, and perhaps this is why. I know the new sous chef at The Mansion. Yes, he can cut that bean into perfect little pieces and steam or saute or roast it as well as any French kid who was viciously berated since birth by some French trainer.

Sorry, I disagree.

Ciao

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Um, Robyn: I can grow a friggin' haricot vert in Utah, by gawd, that's as good as any bean in France. That is to say that local beans are local beans. Fresh is good. Fresh is close. Las Vegas is close.

Cut me a snobby break. I've never written in to this site before, and perhaps this is why. I know the new sous chef at The Mansion. Yes, he can cut that bean into perfect little pieces and steam or saute or roast it as well as any French kid who was viciously berated since birth by some French trainer.

Sorry, I disagree.

Ciao

I've never had a haricot vert grown in Utah. So I can't comment on those. I've had ones grown in other parts of the US - and other countries - and they vary.

And I don't think it's only a matter of cutting. There was a hierarchy in the French restaurants of yore. And the sous chefs - like your friend - wouldn't be doing the prep work of cutting. That would be the kids - the apprentices - who - best I can tell - were never berated viciously. They just started at the bottom - and were taught. And worked their way up. It's kind of like in my kitchen. My husband is the apprentice. He does all the mise en place. I'm the sous chef (and executive chef too!).

Now I don't think that most French restaurants these days are like what French restaurants used to be. But - when I was in Tokyo this year - I ran into a French chef we know - and he showed me around his place. He's got a staff of about 70 for a dining room that seats 50. 6000 square feet of kitchens (half of which is only for bread/pastry). How does that compare with the Mansion?

By the way - it has nothing to do with being snobby. It's just that when I'm spending about $1000 for dinner - I'd rather have a 35 year old server who's been in the business for 20 years - not someone who was dealing blackjack last year. And my prejudice isn't only against Las Vegas. When we were at Per Se a couple of years ago - I thought our 2 servers acted like they were marking time between trying out for roles on Broadway. It's simply a question of the degree of professionalism - all around. In France - all of the roles in a restaurant were considered professions. And that is not what I usually find in the US - no mattter how much I'm paying. Robyn

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We at at L'Atelier last week and had a great meal. We had basically the same menu that Chef Metcalf posted pictures of earlier in the thread. One course that we had that isn't pictured was raw scallops marinated in some lemon juice. Really nice and fresh tasting. I wanted to like the oysters more, I think they actually could have used more butter sauce. The foie stuffed quail was one of the best things I've eaten this year. Service (with the exception of one minor slip that was quickly and appropriately corrected) was wonderful. At $129 for the tasting menu, this is certainly an expensive meal, but (IMO) well worth it.


Edited by jesteinf (log)

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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Yeah, I'm pretty sure it is. In fact, I think most of the menu is identical. I mentioned this to my girlfriend and we both had a good chuckle over the fact that we were actually getting a "bargain" in Las Vegas.

In NY, do they have $70 seared tuna belly? That was the only thing that jumped off the menu as laughable.


-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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yup.

also, an entree portion of the cappellini with ossetra caviar is $86.

still I had a very good meal there.

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I find Atelier Robuchon NYC to be one of the hardest places I've ever been to reach a real conclusion about. The prices -- or some of them -- are just stupid. But the food can be really really good. So it's like whether your comments are positive or negative, they have to end with a caveat acknowledging the other side.

Right?

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agreed...and from the sound of it, L'Atelier Vegas would be easier to come down on the positive side for...simply by virtue of more reasonable prices.

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It is an interesting issue. The tasting menu at the NYC branch is essentially the same price as the Tour at Alinea (Alinea is $10 more). So the question is, what would a rather have for my $165-$175?

My answer: While I really enjoyed L'Atelier, Alinea is still tops in my book. But, for $45 less per person, I was perfectly happy with L'Atelier.


-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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Hey all, so I will be dining at L'Atelier in just about a week and a half and I am super excited!

I'd like to get some tips/info from those who have been. What is appropriate attire? Would nice jeans and a collard (dress) shirt be ok? Have they changed the tasting menu up from the summer offerings? Is the tasting menu even the best way to go? Wine-wise, they don't seem to offer pairings but will they work with you to come up with some pairings of sorts?

This will be a special opportunity for me and want to make the most of it, thanks for the help! I will definately report back upon my return!

-Scott


"A man's got to believe in something...I believe I'll have another drink." -W.C. Fields

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Hey all, so I will be dining at L'Atelier in just about a week and a half and I am super excited! 

I'd like to get some tips/info from those who have been.  What is appropriate attire?  Would nice jeans and a collard (dress) shirt be ok?  Have they changed the tasting menu up from the summer offerings?  Is the tasting menu even the best way to go?  Wine-wise, they don't seem to offer pairings but will they work with you to come up with some pairings of sorts?

This will be a special opportunity for me and want to make the most of it, thanks for the help!  I will definately report back upon my return!

-Scott

Scott,

As far as attire, jeans and a nice shirt are fine. The tasting menu is probably the best way to try as many things and get a bit of a value. Look at the menu and they will substitute courses if you see something that you want. If I go with two people, one of us orders the tasting menu and then we order a la carte as well. They will do pairings so just ask about it when you are ordering.

Good Eating,

Molto E


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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