I have a new favorite restaurant in Las Vegas. It's L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.
I don't care where you stay or what you do when you're in Vegas. You absolutely must make a trip to the MGM Grand Hotel to experience this place. It's that good.
The restaurant is like one big sexy Top Chef episode -- perpetual Quickfire Challenges amidst sleek and shiny black countertops.
Behold our vantage point. We ate at the counter and watched all the chefs hustle and bustle in the completely open kitchen. So fun! Cheesy Benihana show, this is not.
With great delight, we sampled two different tasting menus. Often, restaurants require that all members of the party participate in the same tasting. L'Atelier, however, had no such requirement.
Instant love just for this? Pretty much, yeah.
Mr. Monkey, of course, was pleased as punch that he could wear jeans without anyone raising an eyebrow at him. Even more instant love for this Michelin-starred restaurant.
DISCOVERY MENU ($168)
Foie gras parfait with port wine and parmesan foam.
A little bit sweet. A little bit salty. A lot rich. A lot delicious. Great amuse bouche.
Smoked salmon in an herb gelée with a light wasabi cream.
Very cool -- both in the interesting and temperature senses. Mr. Monkey liked it more than I did.
Poached baby Kusshi oysters with French Échiré butter.
Extraordinarily fresh and delicate. Savor your slurps!
Maine lobster in a tomato sauce and green asparagus.
These giant meaty chunks didn't disappoint. The broth was warm and savory, and the lobster was just huge and fantastic.
Foie gras ravioli in a warm chicken broth with herbs.
Crazy amazing. This was like somebody went nuts with a wonton soup recipe and decided to infuse the little suckers with foie gras. Smooth and luscious and oh-so-decadent. Made my head spin.
Dover sole with a warm leek salad and crispy potato.
Doesn't look like much, but imagine some perfectly prepared fish, and this would be it.
Foie gras-stuffed free-range quail with truffled mashed potatoes.
Nom nom nom! Tiny fowl! Stuffed with foie! Was there any doubt I'd adore this? Crispy! Succulent! Minuscule! Awesome!
Traditional savarin, Tahitian vanilla cream, and aged dark rum.
I felt like I was eating a fancy gulab jamun. This rum-soaked cake was a tad heavy for me. Didn't stop us from eating it all, though.
Strawberry meringue around a fennel parfait and crème fraîche ice cream.
Extra points for insane presentation. It was tasty, but its appearance was tastier.
Even your coffee comes all prettified, complete with a gold-laced chocolate.
CLUB MENU ($75)
Mediterranean vegetables layered with buffalo mozzarella.
Ah, if only all of our vegetables could come in this scrumptious tower form.
Crispy langoustine fritter with basil pesto.
Incredible. Lightly fried to a lovely crunch. Golden on the outside. Juicy on the inside. One of my faves of the night.
Braised pork belly with confit sweet onion.
Are you drooling? You should be. So tender. So yummers.
Selection of imported cheeses.
Meh. Fine. I love cheese, but it is always a letdown for me during tastings.
Damn near exquisite. Hats off to the pastry chef!
Our dining neighbors at the counter were quite amused by my photographing our meals. They not only insisted that I capture a few of their dishes, too, but we even traded several bites! We had such a great time sharing stories and food!
Executive Chef Steve Benjamin prepared a large array of off-menu treats for our dining neighbors, who are frequent patrons. These were just two of the many dishes they enjoyed. The bites I had were so insanely delicious that my eyes rolled to the back of my head. The beef cheeks, in particular, were a melt-in-your-mouth fantasy. Chef Benjamin takes great care of his regulars.
The four of us shut the place down. At the end of the night, we had some photo fun with Chef Benjamin and Executive Chef Claude le Tohic, who helms the kitchen next door at the super-duper-crazy-expensive Joel Robuchon.
Perhaps some day we will make it to Joel Robuchon, where the tasting menu is a whopping $385. Until then, we're more than content to make repeat visits to its little sister, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.
Next: A sustainable sea lunch.