The world-class workshop of Joël Robuchon
Joël Robuchon is a culinary legend who was once designated “Chef of the Century” and has 25 Michelin Guide stars to his name. And Las Vegas is fortunate enough to be home to not one but two of his restaurants, situated side-by-side at MGM Grand. The bastion of fine dining is his eponymous venue but next door is L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon—his more “casual” dining experience.
Understand that the word “casual” is applied loosely to L’Atelier, as it is still a Robuchon restaurant. But literally translated to “workshop” in French, what the restaurant offers is culinary theater, as a 26-seat counter lets you peek directly into the showcase kitchen. Those seats afford some of the finest sights in Vegas as they pull back the curtain on what The Wizard—executive chef Steve Benjamin—and his crew accomplish on a nightly basis.
What’s most intriguing about L’Atelier is that while it is a restaurant grounded in the traditional French stylings of Robuchon and his protégé Benjamin, the menu doesn’t fully commit to a single culinary cause. La Saint-Jacques is a buttery steamed scallop served atop a tart seaweed butter tinged with Espelette pepper, melding traditional French ingredients with Japanese influences in an epiphany showcasing the mild bivalve without overwhelming it. Also Far East-inspired is Le Hamachi, a salty and sweet comingling of sashimi yellowtail swaddling uni with a dollop of caviar atop for good measure. And Le Saint-Pierre delivers crisped-yet-flaky John Dory with immaculately funky geoduck ravioli in a swirl of flavor and texture.
Along more traditional lines, L’Asperge serves blanched asparagus in a creamy butter sauce—Robuchon is known for his affection for butter—finished with paper-thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, while La Caille explores the fields with an unctuous foie gras-stuffed quail served with his famous pommes puree, also rich with butter. And L’Amuse-Bouche delivers more foie gras in the guise of a parfait with a port wine reduction and Parmesan emulsion serving as a foil to its richness. On the lighter side, La Ricotta delivered herb-imprinted ricotta tortellini in a sharp vegetable broth not leaving you wanting for meat. And Le Bar consists of seared sea bass in a light garlic butter with chorizo and an umami-full porcini cream.
But as difficult a task as it might be, don’t overeat on the way to dessert where Le Chocolate awaits. Chocolate combines with caramel, Guinness ice cream and a whimsical pretzel “rocher” in a whirlwind of decadence.
While the most grand way to experience L’Atelier is to partake of the seasonal discovery menu, the venue also offers à la carte offerings and a trio of prix fixe menus including a pré théâtre option. As this is accessible as a 25-star Michelin chef can be, while in Vegas you should take the time to explore the world of Robuchon.
MGM Grand, 5-10:30 p.m. daily. 702.891.7358