I had to chose a nice French restaurant for my birthday dinner while in Las Vegas! Joel Robuchon's L' Atelier was at the top of my list!When the economy took a down turn a few years ago, Joel Robuchon changed the menu at many of his restaurants to be better suited for the clientele. Joel Robuchon was one of many great chefs that changed the entire menu and theme to smaller tapas portions of cutting edge French food and modern French comfort cuisine entree. Joel Robuchon also offered a pre fixe tasting menu of the finest offerings at each of his restaurants. Classic modern French comfort cuisine and creative tapas is the medium of success for fine dining chefs during the economic depression.
L'Atelier has always been a comparatively casual restaurant. Dress nicely when dining at L'Atelier, because you never know which of the rich and famous that you may be sat next to!
The strategy of adapting a menu to tapas style portions with lower prices is the reason that L'Atelier is a success during this economic depression. Joel Robuchon has two restaurants at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Robuchon is the name of the finer of the two restaurants. Robuchon was closed until further notice for a short time, due to the poor economy in Las Vegas. The temporary closure of Robuchon was a wise choice. Changing the menu from very creative high end classic French cuisine to lighter fare or less gourmet ingredients would have meant possibly losing a highly respected Michelin Star.
The Michelin rating system is the most accurate and the least corrupt of the classic restaurant rating systems. There are only a handful of 4 star Michelin restaurants worldwide and most of them are located in France. Las Vegas has several 3 star and 4 star Michelin rated restaurants. In fact, on a one mile stretch of the Las Vegas Strip, there is over fifty Michelin star rated restaurants! That is part of the reason that Las Vegas is the number one food destination in the world.
I have worked in two Michelin three star French restaurants in America. The last restaurant where I worked as a professional chef, was at a 3 star French restaurant. Most American fine dining restaurants are only rated as Michelin 1 star restaurants.
From star to star in the Michelin rating system, there are various new marks and standards that must be met, so the restaurant can earn that star. One way to not earn a 4th star, is by using food carts to offer desserts or to serve entrees. We found out about that cart requirement, when we were rated by Michelin at the last French restaurant that I worked in. The Michelin critic denied our fourth star because we were serving entrees on carts.
The executive sous chef and I both looked at each other and we agreed and said "If he nailed us with the cart rule, then there are many more things he would more than likely deny us with too." Then we both looked at the sous chef's culinary school externs that were using far too many short cuts in their cooking techniques. We both just shook our heads! The school kids either were not well trained or they did not learn perfection cooking.
Anyway, we honestly did not want to deal with the pressure of maintaining the status of a 4 star Michelin restaurant. Joel Robuchon has stated in the past, that he has no flavor for the pressure and stress of cooking 4 star, high end French cuisine. With four star cuisine, there can be no mistakes and the competitive level of the food is much higher. The stress can be fatal!
Joel Robuchon created a restaurant called L'Atelier at the MGM Grand with an open view kitchen and a very casual atmosphere. L'Atelier is a very high end, French style tapas bar! Tapas are small portions of food on smaller plates with little or no accompaniments. The French chef de cuisine at L'Atelier created the most sought after Michelin rated tapas in the world!
The L'Atelier menu has many classic combinations of traditional French flavors combined with modern creations and some diverse international fusion items. There are two sensational pre fixe tasting menus to chose from.
Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier cuisine is perfection! There is no tapas and tasting menu restaurant anywhere else that can even come close to the quality of the menu items and selection of ingredients at Atelier!
Like many executive chef's, Joel Robuchon has to appoint a qualified chef de cuisine to be the head chef at each of his restaurant locations. Let me tell you, choosing a chef to represent your cuisine is not easy to do. One thing that French chefs do have in their favor is communication with other great French chefs back home. Even though the French chefs are competition for each other, they never lose sight of keeping French cuisine number one! Finding a great French chef who wants to "move up the ladder" is simply a matter of selection, when a network of chefs is in comunicato. Joel Robuchon has some great French chefs de cuisine cooking at each of his restaurants.
The level of the presentation of the entrees L'Atelier is impeccably tasteful! The presentation of the quail entree in the pictures is perfect! The plate is not overly complicated and every item on the plate is meant to create complimentary flavors for the the featured ingredients in the recipe.
I personally learned a few Joel Robuchon recipes many years ago. His recipes are like an education in taste! Refined flavors are required at a high level of cooking.
Finally I was able to sample some of Joel Robuchon's cuisine on my birthday! I chose to dine at the tapas bar with the full view of the kitchen, rather than dine at one of the tables. I was having trouble seeing the menu because my eye sight is not as good as it used to be in a dimly lit finer restaurant. The brighter light from the kitchen on the other side of the tapas bar did help me to see the menu better. Believe me, the menu at Atelier is worth reading!
There are so many great fine French tapas items on the menu to choose from! Joel Robuchon and his chefs have the ability to write impeccable menus that are works of French culinary art! I wasn't hungry enough to try one of the two tasting menus. The tasting menus are the best two items to choose from if you want to have the complete Joel Robuchon experience at L'Atelier.
There is nothing better than when the top chef of the century chooses the menu items for you to taste! A chef that presents a pre fixe menu will design the menu to taste and look like an artistic masterpiece of flavors. The order of the flavors of the menu items on the pre fixe menus at Atelier are very well thought out. Just looking at the L'Atelier pre fixe menu, I noticed how masterfully the chef created the flavors of some of the menu items to flow into the next item on the menu. Some items cleared the palate for the flavor of the following item. The L'Atelier pre fixe menus are brilliant masterpieces of artistic culinary talent!
The bright light of the kitchen at Atelier is the focal point of the restaurant. All the attention is on the chefs that are doing the cooking! So, I sat at the tapas bar and watched how the kitchen was run. The French kitchen at Atelier was regimented and designed like a few French restaurants that I have cooked in. Classic French kitchens do have similar design features from one restaurant to the next.
An expediter directed the show and it was his final word that gave an entree the stamp of approval, before the entree would be served to the customer. The expediter job is usually handled by a qualified sous chef. If any item is out of place on the plate, then the item is sent back to the cook to be corrected before it is served to a customer. The presentation on every plate of food at Atelier is made in a consistent manner. Every plate of food at Atelier has a specific presentation design! Designed consistent menu item presentations are one quality requirement that a restaurant has to achieve to become a Michelin star rated restaurant.
This view of the kitchen at Atelier turned out to be good for me. I have not cooked as a chef in a fine French restaurant since the year 2002. The view of the kitchen gave me the urge to really get back to work as a chef and continue my career. I have said before that I am very sad about the turn of events that caused me to put my chef career aside. Serious illness, 2 years of chemo therapy, 2 years of recovery and now it is nearly two years of having to work outside of the Las Vegas restaurant business due to the economy. Dining at L'Atelier rekindled my desire to be a chef, once again.
Just then, the waiter handed me the cocktail menu. Perfect timing! Thank you Joel Robuchon! A Las Vegas style Joel Robuchon French signature cocktail was exactly what the doctor ordered to erase the pain of my status quo!
The cocktail menu had some very nice creative drinks that were intriguing creations! I had the French Ginger Chartreuse item on the cocktail menu. The exact name of this cocktail I cannot remember. The cocktail creation was well designed, well crafted and it's flavor was perfect for the moment. I also had a signature cocktail at Julian Serrano's Tapas restaurant at Aria earlier in the day. I had the pleasure of sipping on two signature cocktails in Las Vegas that were created by two top chef's choice of bartenders in one day!
While sipping on the great tasting cocktail, I looked at the menus. I wasn't interested in in eating more than a small portion of food that evening. There are two menus that are al la carte. One is for the smaller size plates of tapas and the second menu is for larger portion items. I was hungry enough for one of the full portion menu items. It was nice to see the menus written by pre fixe or portion size.
I thought about the steak tartare menu item that L'Atelier was famous for. The sweetbread item on the menu is one that I will try next time when I go to see Kylie Minogue at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas during the month of May 2011. I have cooked tons of sweetbreads in French restaurants and it has been a long time since I have seen them on a menu.
L'Atelier had several foie gras menu items that were very classic and prepared far better than most foie gras that I have seen on other restaurant menus lately. Many delectable seafood items were on the menu too. The La Caille caught my attention! I liked the way the free range quail entree looked on the menu. Quail is the perfect flavor for dining light!
First a signature Joel Robuchon marquis puree salad arrived before the entree. Joel Robuchon got raves over this salad creation for many years. The salad was served in a lightly frosted glass that is not much bigger than a shot glass at a bar. Layers of pureed tomato concasse and pureed gourmet lettuces are the two man flavors. The purees were masterfully made! The very light amount of dressing gave the salad a nice light gazpacho kind of flavor. I did not ask what ingredients that the dressing was made with, but it tasted like a nice lightly seasoned creme fraiche. The salad was very refined in flavor. The puree salad was meant to be eaten with the tip of a spoon.
I liked this salad so much that I kind of ate it all with two large heaping spoonfuls! How crude of me! I wanted to be overwhelmed with the great flavor of this salad to set the mood for the flavors of the entree that was yet to come.
The quail were expertly prepared by deboning all but the leg bone on each quail half before being stuffed with foie gras. The quail were cooked perfectly. Plump, juicy and very tender! When you stuff quail with foie gras, the fats from the foie gras melt and the foie gras infuses the flavor of the quail with a very nice goose liver flavor. The foie gras fats are like melted butter and they keep the quail succulent and moist while cooking. The quail looked like it was gently roasted by braising or by sauteing and braising. The respective caramelized glace was perfect with the quail too.
The classic flavor combination of the quail entree was expertly crafted and the delicate flavors of the recipe were not overwhelmed by using too much black truffle. Using too much black truffle is a mistake that many second rate chefs make. Because black truffle is one of the finest flavors that there is and because black truffle has a very rich flavor, it is best to go sparingly when adding black truffle to an entree that has a succulent light flavored meat like quail.
The apple is the medium of the puree and it is no longer a simple apple flavor after being pureed with the black truffle. The apple is what the truffle flavor needed to give the flavor combination a brisk lively flavor. The foie gras stuffed quail combined with the truffle to create a vey refined distinct rich flavor experience that is unforgettably delicious!
The balance of the combined flavors of this La Caille entree is what made this entree so special. This was the best combination of fine flavors that I have ever had on my birthday! The quail entree's flavor was exciting, very refined, classical and very elegant! La Caille a L'Atelier was probably the best choice on the menu for me that night.
The accompanying truffled mashed potatoes were so perfectly made! There are mashed potatoes. There are creme mashed potatoes like the ones that I have posted in my blog. At the 3 and 4 star Michelin level, mashed potatoes are less creamy and more buttery. The butter has to be a very rich quality unsalted butter like a plugra butter to make potatoes like these. One little taste of these potatoes will cause you to agree with all fine chefs and critics concerning the portion size. A little accompanying portion of truffled mashed potato is all that is needed for a refined classy plate of food.
I found myself eating these truffle potatoes with the tip of a spoon! The flavor was very rich and satisfying! The butter gave the potatoes a very nice rich smooth glutinous texture.
There is wide range of entrees on the L'Atelier menu that will appeal to anyone who dines there. Las Vegas is the number one best culinary destination in the world! L'Atelier is a very nice culinary experience that I recommend for anyone who enjoys fine sophisticated classic French flavors as well as cutting edge modern French flavors.
Joel Robuchon is the number one chef of the century! One taste of his food and you will agree. This was the finest food that I have had cooked for me in many years. Watching the chefs cooking at L'Atelier brought back memories of my love for cooking fine French food.
I highly recommend Le Altelier! Bon Appetit! Yum! ... Shawna