Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas (L'Atelier Robuchon Review)

Day Six (Evening): Shining Stars of Another Kind
Christmas Dinner 
After glorious days of riding across magnificent vistas and camping under shooting stars and lunar eclipses, cruising down “The Strip” in Las Vegas is the “re-entry” to beat all.  Startlingly disconcerting doesn’t begin to describe it.  But it’s a phenomenon, admittedly of a different sort, that should not be missed if one happens to be in the area.  This would be a great spot for urban geocaching, and I had planned to do just that, but I think the lights affected my brain.  I completely forgot.  In any case, the Vegas Strip is one of this planet’s most bizarre and curious places, but also one of the best places to eat bar none.

Search results for vegas, baby
Christmas in Vegas.  Weirdest. Christmas. Ever.

So, on Christmas Day, finding herself in the midst of  the Vegas hubbub, what’s a girl to do for dinner?  Why, have a nine course meal at a Michelin  starred restaurant, that’s what!

The Michelin Red Guide, as opposed to the Green Guide which is a different beast, is the original touring and eating manual.  The first edition was published in 1900 as a way to convince people to burn through their car’s (if they had one) Michelin tires in search of fine food while touring France.   These days you can buy a red guide to some twenty or more cities around the world, including Las Vegas.  Although some say it’s biased to “fancy” (ie ungodly expensive) restaurants, I wouldn’t drop big bucks  on dinner without consulting one first.  Zagat’s guide or the equivalent US rating of AAA Diamonds just don’t match up when it comes to deciding where I’m going to plunk down a week’s pay for dinner.  It’s one of the few restaurant guides that is truly anonymous with its  “expert” reviewers (admittedly a vague description) rather than any old customer who might give two thumbs up just because the table cloth was clean and the service hoity-toity.  Chefs live and die (quite literally in one tragic case) by their star designations.  The New Yorker magazine (November 2009) has a fascinating (to me, anyway) undercover interview with a Michelin “inspector” which you can read here.

Las Vegas has a statistically decadent concentration of Michelin starred restaurants.  I wanted to be fed by the man with the most Michelin stars of any chef worldwide: Joel Robuchon.  His three star Vegas kitchen in the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino (“exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey,”  the highest Michelin designation) was booked for weeks, and definitely wouldn’t look too highly upon our dirty touring outfits (new riding jacket not withstanding), but “L'Atelier Robuchon” (one star - “very good cuisine in its category,”  and right next door) was willing to take (lots of) our money for dinner on Christmas (or any other evening).  “Very good cuisine in its category” doesn’t really begin to describe it.  These are really, really good eats.  I’ll let the photos below do the talking.  And yes, the food tasted even better than it looked.

I’m breaking my rule again, using photographs not taken by my own hand (well I stretch that for photos of me, although many of those I've taken myself as well), but it was nice to have someone else do the work while I was enjoying dinner.  Plus a meal this expensive should be photographed with the most expensive camera available to you at the time.

L'Atelier Robuchon (1)

L'Atelier Robuchon (25)
The best seats offered a peek into the kitchen.

L'Atelier Robuchon (3)
Roses everywhere.  Hundreds of 'em.

L'Atelier Robuchon (5)
Thank goodness we had the presence of mind not to fill up on bread.  It would have been easy to do.

L'Atelier Robuchon (6)
Foie gras parfait with port wine and parmesan foam.  Or, as we called it, a "meat shake." Yum.

L'Atelier Robuchon (8)
Lobster on a turnip slice with a (the only one I've ever liked) sweet and sour sauce.  Turnips never tasted so good.

L'Atelier Robuchon (9)
Sea scallop cooked in the shell with chive oil.  Our favorite course, although it was a tough decision.

L'Atelier Robuchon (10)
White onion tart with smoked bacon, asparagus and black truffle oil.  I decided the asparagus should have been cooked about 10 seconds longer.  Perhaps that's why this place has only one measly star.

L'Atelier Robuchon (11)
Dover sole (the real thing - usually it isn't) with baby leeks and ginger.  Also a strong contender for first place, in my opinion.

L'Atelier Robuchon (14)
Lamb shoulder confit with sweet spices, couscous and black truffle.  Or you could have had venison with black truffle and poivrade sauce.  Between the two of us, we had both.  But this photo was the better of the two.

L'Atelier Robuchon (17) 
Why not cleanse your palate with a fresh mint white rum granite with lychee fruit?  Fun!

L'Atelier Robuchon (22) 
Hazelnut dacquoise, light mascarpone mousse  (dessert and cheese course in one, I suppose) flavored with almond liquor.

L'Atelier Robuchon (24)
A little coffee wraps things up.

If you’ve been counting carefully, you are correct.  There are only photographs of eight courses (bread doesn’t count).  We forgot to photograph course five, the egg cocotte topped with a light Jerusalem artichoke cream.  Oh well.  We decided it was our least favorite, anyway.  Not that we were complaining.

Motorcyclists are everywhere.  It’s like a secret society.  One was masquerading as our bartender (we ate at the bar – some bar food, eh?).  He gave us a great tip - Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area.  (He got a good tip, too.)  We camped there that night (taking wrong turns and finally setting up in the wee hours, on what had become a cold and rainy night), and detoured the next morning via the Red Canyon Back Country Byway  before we carried on our way.

Here are a few photos snapped haphazardly from the back seat.

Red Rock Canyon (2)
The rain of the night before gave way to cool clouds.  I'll bet that's a rare sight. I think I could have touched them if only I had had my 36" pasta rolling pin on board.  A bit much to tote on the moto, perhaps.

Red Rock Canyon (17)

Our next meal couldn’t have been more different…

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