Passion can be found in business, software, and even food as I recently discovered…
Remarkable. It’s the one word I use when I experience something that is truly worth “writing home about”. That word is appropriate to describe a recent restaurant experience I had in Las Vegas. I watch the Food Network often and had seen an interesting episode of Top Chef featuring the “Chef of the Century” Joel Robuchon. I had ever heard of him. The thing that stood out from this particular show was the way every contestant and the judges reacted when he entered the room. Sitting in my living room watching the show, filled with culinary masters in types of cooking and publications like Wine Spectator Magazine and Food & Wine, I was in awe to see everyone so starstruck about Mr. Robuchon. I knew this guy had to be extra special in the culinary world.
Joel Robuchon is apparently world renowned for his talent and artistry in innovative French Cooking. He retired in the late 90s only to open his only restaurant in the United States in Las Vegas. He stunned most food critics by opening in Vegas rather than New York or Los Angeles or other food hub. Apparently, once his place opened at MGM, Vegas began to attract high-end restaurants and now sports plenty of top names including Emerils, Wolfgang Puck, and Fleur De Lys from Chef Hubert Keller.
So, when I happened to be in Vegas, I was very interested to visit this restaurant and see what all the attention was about. I had read online in the weeks prior that their pastry chef in particular was pretty incredible. So, during the trip I made reservations at the Joel Robuchon Restaurant at MGM Grand.
I had no idea what I was in for. This experience would prove to be one of the most astonishing dinner experiences of my life.
The first thing that was nice is that the restaurant offers complimentary limo service wherever you are in town to and from dinner. That was cool and a nice perk, but your entire world changes as soon as those giant glass doors open and the hostess brings you into their world. The restaurant is located right within the MGM casino so it’s loud and smoky and there are all sorts of things going on. The restaurant’s façade sport two enormous giant glass doors that open into a small atrium where perhaps the most courteous hostess I have ever met greets you and welcomes you. Immediately you notice the entire restaurant is extraordinarily quiet and not smoky. You also notice that all of a sudden all the stress of walking and being out and about seemingly melts away.
Our group was seated right away and a corner plush blue velvet table. Attendants arranged the belongings, and settled us into our beautiful seating arrange filled with plush pillows, an enormous amount of individual space and a perfect view overlooking the entire restaurant. The entire place by the way only seats about 15 parties, with 6 tables seating for 2 so the place is small. The music playing is classical, the volume of everyone talking is incredible. You can talk and laugh and have a great time and not get interrupted by everyone else’s talking. The room is filled with brilliant chandeliers and elegant arrangements.
There was no formal waiter throughout the evening. Rather, roughly 12 attendants tended to everyone in the single room. Everyone had a very specific set of specialties. For example, I was not familiar with how to pair the French food with what wines and I was curious for a recommendation. After asking in the beginning, the attendant immediately summoned a wine specialist who very nicely paired several for me and mentioned I wasn’t under any etiquette or taste obligations to pair anything with every course. I ended up pairing only 2 items.
Then dinner began and one of the attendants brought out an impressive bread display featuring over 35 types of bread made only a few hours ago. She then asked us to select any or all of them to try. We selected maybe 8 and she promptly went into the kitchen to heat them for us. That bread was simply impeccable. Delicious crunch and the variety of flavors were amazing.
After about 20 minutes of just enjoying the bread, we placed our order. The menu is ridiculous and contains tons of items I had never heard about and includes up to an astounding 16 courses! But I was determined to enjoy so I tried plenty of things.
To begin, they bring you a delicious small tin of caviar on top, a layer of crab meat underneath, and a layer of fennel at the bottom. You dip your fork in all the way and bring all three layers into your mouth. I had had caviar before but had never been a fan. I was a fan of this blend for sure.
One thing we noticed about every single course was that the dish in which the course was served was matched perfectly to the food, color, texture and all! During one dessert for example, there were red chocolate flowers on the dessert and there the exact red-colored roses on the plate and red sand underlying the topmost plate (that dessert had several layers of dishes!). I later learned that each plate takes roughly 25 minutes just to prepare not counting the actual cooking!
This one salad in particular looked more like a cool childs toy than food but ended up being very good! It was basically a single tomato slice with some amazing stuff on it and a dish to the side with a crystal clear jam-like substance covered in very small dots of fresh mozzarella cheese.
During this time, we began to talk to some of the attendants as they were very friendly and also foodies. One of them even had a friend who was a food stylist on the Food Network that we had seen so that was fun talking to her! I commented that I heard the pastry chef Kamel Guechidawas supposed to very good here. She was excited to hear that and went to the back and brought him right out to meet us! I embarrassingly asked for a picture and he said he’d be happy to but only at the end of the meal. He also invited us back to the kitchen for the photographs and to see firsthand what happens in the back, which was most interesting to me.
For one course, I had ordered duck with apple and foie gras. I had heard of this ingredient many times as it’s almost always used in the Top Chef plates but had never experienced it before. I was determined to try this new ingredient. The duck came out with a slide of apple and two mint leaves on it and something else that looked like meat as well. I thought the two mint leaves were foie gras but then I learned (through a quick glance at my phone on Wikipedia) that it was in fact duck liver and that meat-looking thing was actually the famous gras. I told myself, okay that sounds gross but looks amazing. I decided to combine all 3 items as the attendants had described for us (thank you guys for doing that!). As soon as the perfectly made duck combined with the apple and foie gras, my mouth exploded with flavor. My face lit up and I could not believe what my palate was experiencing. The combination was easily one of the best things I had ever eaten, period. I’m now a huge fan of foie gras!
I could go on and on about this place, but it really is quite a dramatic transformational experience from a loud smoky casino into an elegant, nearly silent, total immersion of food that is so well cared for by everyone involved. While in the kitchen, the over 40 chefs scurrying about were very conscious of such things as the draft from the hallways tainting the food. In fact, there are no open flames anywhere in their kitchens, only infusion cooking!
We simply cannot wait to return, thank you to Kamel, Claude, and the rest of the crew that night, you all were simply fantastic and provided a truly amazing dinner experience!