Blowhard, Esq. writes:
Here at UR, we’re all about the pleasures of populist entertainment. Should you ever be unlucky enough to encounter any of us at a party, we can and will absolutely bore you endlessly talking about virtues of the Fast & Furious franchise, the genius of Jackie Collins, or the underappreciated intricacies of vernacular architecture. But look, we’re not merely knee-jerk anti-snobbery snobs. Heavens, no! We’re actual genuine snobs when the mood strikes us. Sure, low culture is fantastic, but sophistimacated high culture is just as essential.
All of which is a long-winded preface to the fact that I had the pleasure of dining at Joël Robuchon’s 3-Michelin star restaurant in the MGM Grand. Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket, you guys, is it ever fancy. We’re talkin’ European high art here from soup to nuts. It all begins with the complimentary gold limo that picks you up from anywhere in the city.
You enter the hotel not through the front door, but via a Secret Garden.
A hostess escorts you through a long winding hall, around the casino, and to your table. Take a moment to breathe in the atmosphere and luxury. (I have no idea why a picture of Dennis Hopper was right behind me either. Those wacky French!)
This joint is so classy there’s no way they expect the ladies to put their purses on the floor. Non non non! Instead, each table has a white leather stool.
The maître d’ quickly gave us our menus. There was a $425 per person 16-course tasting menu that surely would’ve been otherwordly, but c’mon, let’s not lose our heads. The Lady and I went with one of the “express” menus you see on the left hand side.
I wish I got a picture of the wine list, which was only slightly less comprehensive than Diderot’s Encyclopédie. While we were waiting, I snuck around to take some snaps. Here’s the bar, which you walk past on the way to the main dining room.
Here’s a side room for special parties. You can see the window opens out onto the casino floor.
The bread cart. There were about two dozen different varieties, all efficiently and lovingly identified by the server. Baguettes, crusty country loaves, bacon bread, milk bread, various kinds of brioche, pesto rolls…
After the bread course, a light palate cleanser. This was a corn velouté with three light milk marshmallows and three pieces of a sort of duck prosciutto. Refreshing.
The appetizer. I ordered the cheese flan-soufflé with morels in an asparagus sauce, pictured below. The Lady ordered the violet artichoke and fois gras salad with parmesan.
The main course. I got the Iberian pork with polenta and Belgian endives, pictured below. The Lady had the braised beef cheeks with red miso and ginger, and spring vegetables. We both got a scoop of mashed potatoes, which you can see in the upper left. Lordy, were those potatoes wonderful, the best I’ve ever had — buttery, with a very fine, silky texture.
The incredibly smooth and full textures along with concentrated flavors seemed to be a recurring theme. You’ll notice the portions are small. Believe me, we noticed it too. I wondered for a few idle moments if the night wouldn’t end on a Chipotle run for a burrito. But no, the meal was so well balanced and paced that neither of us was the least bit hungry at the end.
For dessert I got the raspberry compote in a violet milkshake topped with a white chocolate tuile.
The raspberry was intense but not overpowering. Although I realize the preparation and technique are at the highest possible level, I couldn’t help but wonder where they get their ingredients. How much is grown or raised locally? How much is flown in every day and from where? (I’m picturing a basket of perfect raspberries picked in the morning by some Gallic peasant and then flown to Vegas in their own first-class seat.) We’re in the middle of the godforsaken Mojave desert, fer crissakes. Death Valley, one of the planet’s most inhospitable terrains, is less than three hours away but you wouldn’t know it from the food.
Side note: I know, I know — pretty crass taking pictures of all this, right? Just sit back and enjoy! Don’t be one of those dumb Americans who has every experience mediated through a viewfinder! Well, OK, you may be right, but I wasn’t the only one and at least my camera is an unobtrusive pocketcam that doesn’t need a flash so I didn’t light up the whole dining room like halftime at the Super Bowl every time a new dish was brought out.
Back to ze food. The mignardises cart had forty different kinds of sweets. Petit fours, six different flavors of chocolate ganache, cupcakes, lollipops, eclairs, pecan praline…
Of course we wanted to try each and every one but we summoned Herculean reserves of strength to restrain ourselves.
A little post-dessert coffee.
About the service: it was superb. Everyone — the hostess, maître d’, sommelier, the servers — were all extremely professional, polite, warm, and accommodating. I mean, it was clear from the outset that we were half-educated rubes when it came to all this shit. At one point the couple at the table next to us was engaged in a diligent colloquy with the sommelier about what wine would make for the ideal pairing with their entrees. Not us! We pretty much looked at that menu and said, “That thar sounds good, bring me that, gar-sun!” then waved our 10-gallon hats in the air while firing our six shooters. Yet, despite our lack of Continental refinement, not once were we made to feel like we didn’t belong or that their job was not to make this a pleasurable and unforgettable 3-star/5-diamond experience. So bravo to the staff whose performance was as enjoyable and impressive as the food.
Oh yeah, you’re wondering about the bill. With tip it was $565. “I don’t know if mom would be impressed or disappointed by this,” I thought. And I can already hear my dad saying, “You paid how much for mashed potatoes?!?!” followed by some mumbling in Spanish ending with pendejo! But hey, sometimes you gotta live a little (or a lot), right?
Afterwards, we went to Mix at the Mandalay Bay for the best view of the city…
…and a cocktail.
What’s the last high-class meal you had? Were you impressed, disappointed? The French really know how to put on a food performance, don’t they?
- According to Saveur magazine, Robuchon’s mashed potatoes are what earned him his Michelin stars. Here’s how to make them at home.
- Wikipedia’s entry on Joël Robuchon.
- The Wall Street Journal reviews the restaurant. Interesting to learn that Robuchon loves Coke.
- The restaurant’s Yelp page.
- What did we eat the next day? Double-doubles and fries at In-N-Out.