L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
At a Glance
What is it?
One of the best restaurants in the city… and one of the most expensive.
Where is it?
At MGM Grand on the South Strip.
What kind of food is served?
Fine French tasting menus of amazing, creative concotions.
What is the atmosphere like?
Sit at the counter so you can watch the kitchen staff prepare your food.
How is the service?
What are the prices like?
What else do I need to know?
Don’t eat much the day of your visit so you have plenty of room for the food here.
What’s the bottom line?
An unforgettable dining experience.
“Food should not cost this much.”
That’s what I was thinking as I was looking at the menu. Of course, I’m the kind of person who is usually quite content with a $3 burger ordered from a clown’s mouth and consumed at 65 miles per hour while I steer with my knees. So the thought of paying roughly 50 times that for a meal seemed insane at best.
But then I took a bite of my first dish and I thought, “Oh, okay, now I get it.”
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is widely considered to be one of the finest restaurants in the country and certainly one of the top three or four in Las Vegas (if not THE top). Created by famed French chef Robuchon, who was once called “Chef of the Century,” the small bistro at MGM Grand has racked up more awards, plaudits, and frame-worthy gushing reviews than any other in the city.
The name is French for “workshop” and the restaurant acts as sort of a staging ground for the even more insanely expensive and lauded Joel Robuchon also at MGM Grand, where guests get complimentary limousine service just for making a reservation.
There are a few tables but I highly recommend getting one of the seats at the counter surrounding the open kitchen. This will give you a front row seat to watch the artistry involved in creating fine cuisine. They don’t just ladle the spaghetti into a bowl and throw it in front of you, they twirl the bowl as they layer it into a towering construction worthy of placement in the Louvre. When you see a chef using tweezers to pull off a fine sliver of radish just so they can garnish the braised short ribs, you know this ain’t no 24-hour coffee shop.
Most of the menu consists of small tasting plates and you can either design your own meal or choose one of their pre-ordained feasts. The selections on both the ala carte and designed menus change often.
We decided to create our own tasting menu, starting with a selection of fine cheeses to get our palates prepared. This is where I took a bite of their brie and nearly collapsed from how rich, creamy, delicate, and yet dense it was. You know those $4 hunks of brie you get at the supermarket for parties to try to make it look like you’ve got better taste than you really do? Forget it. That’s sawdust in comparison to this. Ditto the bleu and camembert.
Absolutely do not miss the L’Atelier style spaghetti if it is being offered when you visit. Our table ordered it as an appetizer and a fight almost broke out over the delicate, creamy strands done al carbon with insanely flavorful bits of bacon. We probably should’ve ordered more but we knew there was a lot more food coming.
Next we moved onto a braised short rib, small slices served cold on a disc of potato and dressed with shallots and the aforementioned tweezered radish. The flavors – savory meat set off by the surprisingly tangy shallot – were heavenly together and I actually took the time to appreciate the textures and how they played off one another.
Salty Spanish ham with a bruschetta style tomato bread followed and was devoured, as was the onion tart topped with crumbled bacon and sprigs of aspargus. The latter was declared the thing we would marry had it been human.
Then we moved on to the main courses including veal stuffed ravioli in a light gravy, foie gras topped kobe beef mini-burgers (complete with French fries of course), and their signature foie gras stuffed free-range quail. Each bite of each dish provoked eyes rolling back in the head reactions and a need to restrain ourselves from slamming our hands on the counter while we chewed.
Dessert was a selection of tarts including white and dark chocolate, lemon, cinammon, and raspberry and a concoction called the Chocolate Sensation, with layers of mousse, oreo cookie crumbs, cream, and chocolate buttons. If we were going to marry the onion tart, we decided that the Chocolate Sensation would be who would have an illicit affair with.
The entire experience – and yes I have to call it an experience rather than just a meal – takes hours to get through but time sails by and of course the cost of it is stunning. If you get out of there for less than $200 per person including cocktails, appetizers, dessert, tax, and tip you have probably missed something you will regret missing later.
You can do it cheaper. There are multi-course tasting menus that range between pricey and “really?” and range between satisfying and mind-blowing or you can order ala carte and pay attention to your spend. But know that you can also do it a LOT more expensive by ordering more stuff or getting the larger, non-tasting portions.
Right. Food should not be this expensive. But here’s the analogy I came up with.
A used Kia and a new BMW are, at their core, the same basic thing: automobiles with four wheels, a motor, seats, a steering wheel, and headlights. But one is made with better materials (leather instead of vinyl, carbon fiber brake pads instead of graphite, etc.) and has a wealth of more serious engineering behind it that provides a wholly different driving experience from a handling and performance perspective.
The food at L’Atelier and the food ordered through the clown’s mouth are also basically the same thing. It’s the finer ingredients and masterful preparation that bring the extra cost.
Is it worth it? Well, this restaurant isn’t for everyone obviously from both a price and experiential perspective. But it is remarkably easy to spend $200 per person for dinner in Las Vegas and if you’re going to spend that kind of money, you should do it here. There is no finer dining experience in town, regardless of the cost.