Joel Robuchon (Las Vegas, NV)

Joël Robuchon
MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 3/28/11

exterior

When people ask me what my favorite restaurants are, this one always comes up. I have been here twice before, and they are two of the most memorable meals I have ever had. I’m not alone; the restaurant gets the top rating in almost every culinary publication (3-star Michelin, Forbes 5-star, AAA Five Diamond, 19/20 on Gayot). It even garnered a rare 4-star review from LA Times critic S. Irene Virbila.

The restaurant is unabashedly extravagant, excessive really, starting with a complimentary limousine to the restaurant.

A number of a la carte options are available, as well as a 16-course tasting menu. The restaurant doesn’t necessitate the same menu for everyone, which I thought was really nice. As a result, my mom had a 4-course of her choosing, while my dad and I had the 16-course.

The first thing that came around was this amazing bread cart. Seriously, I’ve seen bakeries with less selection than this.

bread cart

The picture isn’t even a full representation – there were more breads on lower shelves of the cart. I didn’t count, but I think there had to be around 20 varieties.

Given that I had 16 courses coming, I had to control myself a little here.

Milk bread (top) and Bacon epi

bread2

Olive oil bread (left) and Gruyere roll

bread3

These were all excellent – I especially liked the bacon bread because of the extra bacon-y flavor. But I also enjoyed the subtlety of the milk and olive oil bread.

Le Citron lemon and basil gelee, anise fennel cream

le citron

There was a bright citrus flavor here from the lemon, balanced nicely by the fennel cream. Just a little bit of basil flavor was a nice touch too – a good start.

Le Cerise cherry gazpacho with sheep ricotta and pistachios

le cerise

The gazpacho was slightly tart, but again balanced well with the creamy sheep’s milk ricotta. This was a rather unique meld of flavors, and I liked the crunchy pistachios as well.

Le Caviar green asparagus with lemon balm, delicate seafood gelee topped with smooth cauliflower cream, maki of thin couscous

le caviar3

This next dish was a trio of Osetra caviar dishes. First was quite simply asparagus with caviar. Perhaps not the most dynamic pairing, but the vegetal quality of the asparagus was an interesting pairing with the salty caviar.

le caviar2

This was one of Robuchon’s signature dishes of a seafood gelee, cauliflower cream and caviar. Really good. The custard was warm and so soft, with a subtle but present seafood flavor. The cauliflower cream was a nice touch too, especially with the salty caviar.

le caviar1

Lastly, a play on a sushi roll – looks like something Urasawa would serve. I really enjoyed the crunchy daikon and couscous in the roll, while the caviar really heightened the flavors.

La Noix de Saint Jacques seared scallop, heart of palm in coriander scented coconut milk

la noix

So pretty. The scallop was cooked perfectly, and I enjoyed the broth with flavors from the coriander and creamy coconut milk.

Les Petits Pois light green pea veloute with peppermint on sweet onion cloud

Les Petits Pois

The ham made the difference for me in this soup. The pea-peppermint  flavor was well-balanced, while the richness of the ham really added some extra depth of flavor. Very good.

Les Crustacés lobster in sake broth with broccoli and nori, baby octopus in saffron rice, truffled langoustine ravioli

This was probably my favorite dish of the night. There were actually three parts – the lobster, baby octopus and the langoustine.

Les Crustacés 2

First, the lobster was cooked well, with a tasty sake broth with a strong sea essence.

Les Crustacés 1

Secondly, this baby octopus on top of saffron rice was very much like paella, though a very well-executed one. The rice was a nice al dente with a vibrant saffron flavor; the octopus was cooked perfectly too, leaving it quite tender.

Les Crustacés 3

Lastly, one of Robuchon’s signatures – langoustine ravioli, here topped with black truffle. Perhaps the best bites of the night, the ravioli was stuffed with chunks of langoustine, which was really tender, sweet and full of flavor. The black truffle added another dimension, with a more subtle earthiness; a haute surf-and-turf if you will. Excellent.

Le Black Cod black cod in daikon bouillon with yuzu

le black cod

Compared to the previous courses, this wasn’t quite as exciting. The black cod was prepared beautifully, served with tender daikon and some nice citrus from the yuzu. Well-executed, but I felt I’d had these flavors on the same plate before.

Le Chou crispy fried cabbage with vegetable medley

le chou

The cabbage was really nicely crisped and kind of sweet. The carrots, artichokes and morels were all very good, though I’m not sure the composed dish was greater than the sum of its parts.

Le Volaille farm chicken supreme with foie gras, fricassee of young leeks

Le Volaille

There were two parts here – foie gras stuffed chicken and a grilled yakitori-style chicken. I thought the stuffed chicken was a bit dense and not the most flavorful, but the foie gras was very good; meltingly rich and flavorful. The chicken prepared yakitori-style was delicious – tender, moist and just a little smoky.

We requested a side of Robuchon’s famous mashed potatoes (pommes puree) as well – really rich and creamy, these were excellent. Lots of fat, for sure.

mashed potatoes

Les Pousses de Soja risotto of soybeans sprouts, lime zest and chives

Les Pousses de Soja

This was an interesting dish – soybean sprouts were prepared in a sort of faux risotto. Instead of rice, the sprouts gave a little bit of a more ‘fresh’ flavor and were still kind of starchy. I’m not sure how they got the richness of a risotto as well, but this was a very successful “low-carb” variation of the dish.

L’Amande light almond panna cotta, tahitian vanilla pineapple

L’Amande

This was the first dessert course. The panna cotta was delicious; light and smooth with a good almond flavor. I found the hazelnuts to be a little overpowering though because the almond flavor was so subtle.

Before the next course, a cart of fresh herbs came by. Spearmint, lemongrass and thyme were available for a customized herbal tea. I’d never seen anything like this before, and was super excited to try my thyme-spearmint concoction!

herbal teas

La Framboise fresh raspberries and ginger infused sorbet, crunchy honey tuile

La Framboise

The flavors here were reminiscent of strawberry shortcake, only with raspberries. It wasn’t too sweet, which was good, and I thought the subtle ginger flavor in the sorbet nicely balanced the raspberries.

Le Moka – Le Thé escortés de mignardises

mignardises

Lastly, the mignardises cart came by. The selection was (predictably) rather extensive. I only tried a few here as stomach room was limited.

mignardises2

mignardises3

Pistachio nougat and chocolate opera cake are centered in each picture; each sweet I tried was pretty good and a nice ending to the meal. I just wonder where they all go once service ends for the night.

Lastly, a bag with the menu, a brochure of the restaurant and a pistachio-pomegranate bread was given to the females…in this case, we got one.

bag

bread

This was an excellent meal. Thinking back though, there weren’t any dishes that were truly amazing, except for maybe the langoustine ravioli and the trio of caviar. For the cost (the tasting menu was $385), I might have expected just a little more. I had very high expectations and it didn’t disappoint, but it didn’t ‘wow’ either. Still, it was definitely a memorable meal – the sheer opulence almost guarantees that. However, I don’t find myself in such a hurry to go back as I do with Urasawa or The French Laundry.

Wazuzu (Las Vegas, NV)

Wazuzu
Encore Las Vegas
3121 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 3/27/11

One of the restaurants my parents always go to in Las Vegas is the pan-Asian restaurant Wazuzu at Encore. The chef is Jet Tila, an LA native, whose name I’ve seen in various places around LA (and occasionally on TV). The food is not restricted to one country; rather, Chef Jet uses flavors across Asia to create some traditional and some not-so-traditional dishes. The food isn’t the most imaginative, but it’s comfortable food executed well.

Cha Gio Imperial Crispy Rolls pork, shrimp, Vietnamese herbs, rice vermicelli, sweet chili sauce

These came out of the kitchen nice and hot. They were pretty meaty (which I like), while the lettuce, cucumbers and cilantro added some fresh, crisp flavors.

Wazuzu Hot Wings spicy sweet crispy hot wings

The wings were very large and meaty here and the honey-chili sauce was just oozing off of these guys. The batter was a little bit thicker than I usually like, but the chicken was cooked perfectly, and the spicy-sweet sauce had some good flavor.

Drunken Noodles with Shrimp fresh rice noodles with Thai basil, sweet soy sauce, chilies and onions

This is probably the restaurant’s most notable dish, and was even raved about on The Best Thing I Ever Ate by Giada De Laurentiis. This dish is kind of like a Chinese chow fun with its thin, wide stir-fried rice noodles. However, there are a number of flavors at work here: sweetness from onions, a little heat from chilies, and even small bursts of flavor from some grape tomatoes. Excellent.

Nasi Goreng spicy Malaysian fried rice with shrimp, barbecue pork, Chinese sausage, sambal oelek, fried shallots and topped with a fried egg

I enjoyed this fried rice – the rice had the perfect al dente texture. It wasn’t mushy at all and had just the right chew. Lots of things going on here with the Chinese sausage and dried shrimp being two of the most prominent flavors. The plump shrimp were cooked well.

Miso Marinated Black Cod marinated with miso, ginger, sake

A rather typical preparation, but executed well. The fish was cooked perfectly, leaving it buttery and moist.

Sashimi Plate hiramasa, bigeye tuna, mirugai, toro

Chef Jet said he has the best fish on the Strip, and I could see it. Each of these were very good examples – my favorite, as usual, was the toro for its rich, fatty flavor and tender texture.

Chef Jet also brought out some of his vegan dumplings (Steve Wynn is vegan and requires all of his restaurants to have options) to try.

White Lotus

Mushrooms and pea tendrils are two of the primary ingredients, and I thought this was pretty good. It had a hearty, earthy flavor from the mushrooms and a perfect gelatinous skin.

Palm Pocket

I wasn’t as much of a fan of this one, featuring hearts of palm. Fun name, though.

Jade Dumpling

A beautiful vibrant green color (from spinach in the dumpling skin) separates these apart. These were solid as well.

Siu Mai

I’m rarely a fan of vegetables mimicking meat – I’d prefer the vegetables stay true to themselves (as in the first three dumplings). However, for a chicken substitute, this wasn’t bad at all – the texture was right between a white and dark meat.

Thai Crêpe Thai roti crêpe, condensed milk, sugar, topped with coconut crunch ice cream

Next, we had something sweet. An excellent dessert here – the crepe was really crispy and sweet, and I thought the coconut ice cream was really good.

Espresso Ice Cream

A very strong espresso ice cream was last. I could see how this would be too strong for people that only like their coffee with cream and sugar, but I really liked it.

The food at Wazuzu met my expectations (which were a little higher considering my dad raves about it). The food was done well – flavorful and on point, and demonstrated skill of flavors all across Asia from Japan to China to Thailand and everywhere in between.