When a Quiet Man Reaches Perfection
Impression by the "Manet of the
Robuchon gained stardom status in spite of himself,
for he has always been a discreet character: unconcerned
with publicity; occupied with his research and dreams
in his workshop, a.k.a. “atelier”; imbibed
with spirituality since his studies at the seminary.
Fame came to him naturally. Why? Because genius does
not need trumpets, even in Las Vegas. Make no mistake:
he is one of the few who made contemporary gastronomy
what it is today. Were we to compare cooking to painting,
he would be one of the very first impressionists,
a Manet of the ovens. Honestly enough, Robuchon never
forgets to mention the now defunct Jean Delaveyne,
who in the '60s shook the tyranny of the great
Escoffier and thus paved the way for a totally new
culinary world, dubbed “nouvelle cuisine”
in the '70s by GaultMillau/Gayot.
Robuchon opened the cozy but smallish Jamin in the
16th arrondissement of Paris in 1982 with very little
fanfare, he immediately earned, without even asking,
an 18/20 rating from GaultMillau/Gayot. “Le
tout Paris” rushed to Jamin, savoring his caviar
in cauliflower crème and what became a cult
dish, the “pommes purée.” The quiet
man, continuing to work his way to the summit, received
the top rating of 19.5/20 in 1988, the highest award
ever bestowed on a chef. In a larger and more elegant
setting, in the very chic Le Parc Hotel on avenue
Poincarré in Paris, more enthusiastic diners
could gain access to Robuchon’s art.
kitchen: Here's where magic happens
was stunned when, quietly as usual, Robuchon announced
his retirement in 1996, at the age of 51. Reason was
probably that it’s an almost impossible task
to produce masterpieces every day. Although he had
left the kitchen, the food world agreed with the choice
of GaultMillau/Gayot to name him “Cook of the
Century” in 1999. The honor—shared with
Freddy Girardet and Paul Bocuse—was not enough
to lure him back to the ovens. As time passed, Robuchon
probably missed the action and the climax that rises
in the kitchen during service, and he tiptoed his
way back with casual, sub-Robuchon ventures, first
in Macau, then in Tokyo and finally in France.
enough, at Joël
Robuchon, there re-appears a full-fledged
In the food universe that’s breaking news. Why
in the world would he have elected to operate such
a perilous comeback almost ten years after his eclipse
in the fine dining galaxy, and why would he do it
in a location—at least for his Old World admirers—as
unexpected as Las Vegas?
being too emphatic, Las Vegas is in the process of
becoming if not the, at least one of the
capitals of the world of gastronomy. Many top chefs
shine there and more are coming soon, such as Parisian
star Guy Savoy. The arrival of Robuchon is a milestone
in this evolution. His presence is recognition of
the status of Las Vegas. Sin city exists now as a
room, softly illuminated by a
teardrop crystal chandelier
also has it that Robuchon, who rejected numerous offers,
was charmed by MGM
Grand President Gamal Aziz. He was so convincing
and open-minded, we are told, that the French chef
decided to take the risk of returning to haute cuisine
in grand style. There’s also the murmur that
Robuchon opened his two restaurants at the MGM on
the faith of a handshake, no contract having been
signed. Not a surprise, when one is aware of his true
we are entering into Joël Robuchon,
welcomed by the experienced and knowledgeable general
manager Loïc Launay through a gleaming foyer
opening on the main room, softly illuminated by a
tear-drop crystal chandelier hanging from a high ceiling.
On the sides of the foyer, a private dining room on
the left faces the bar on the right. Architect Pierre-Yves
Rochon found his inspiration in the Art Deco era,
using black, purple and crimson hues to create a refined
and cozy atmosphere centered around a monumental black
fireplace with an actual fire. Don’t miss the
anecdote placed on the mantelpiece: a statue in the
very Art Deco style represents two lions, a humoristic
allusion to the famous MGM symbol.
supported by his landlord, Robuchon and his team wanted
this setting to be nothing less than perfect. Air
conditioning is modulated to make diners comfortable.
Lighting has been measured to properly illuminate
the dishes and to create enough shade to soften the
wrinkles. The black lacquered tables are positioned
just so, well separated but close enough not to feel
isolated. The seats are comfortable enough for diners
to remain at ease for as long as a sixteen-course
dégustation menu lasts. The reduction of noise
aims to shelter our ears. Indeed, this is the perfect
showcase for Robuchon’s feast, prepared by executive
chef Claude le Tohic, who worked with Robuchon at
on your appetite and your wallet, two dégustation
menus are offered, composed of ten or sixteen courses,
paired with a selection of wines by the glass, some
of modest origins but flavorful (and affordable) such
as the Coteaux du Languedoc Bronzinelle.
first mouthful of his lemon gelée flavored
with vanilla and topped with an anise cream tells
us right away that Robuchon stands as high as can
be in the culinary Gotha, for the refreshing and complex
taste of this amuse-bouche can be found nowhere else.
Robuchon has not changed, pursuing his eternal quest
for the best, trying new ideas and products in the
intimacy of his kitchen when the fever has subsided.
He researches and experiments with new ideas and submits
them to the jury of his impeccable palate. When they
pass they will flourish on the next menu.
could have imagined the extraordinary marriage of
caviar with a green asparagus garmented with melisse
leaves? Chlorophyll dots wrap the fresh tomato and
king crab millefeuille in a verjus coulis. This incredible
constellation of miniscule green spots necessitates
a workmanship of twenty minutes per plate. After seducing
the eyes, the beautiful art caresses the palate. A
light lettuce cream in a silver pot is meant to be
poured over delicate sweet onion custard. The plate
comes with a tiny bouquet as pretty as it is tasty,
composed of garlic flowers wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
This is the most delicate and exquisite rendition
of a consommé that one could ever think of.
When the seaweed lemon butter scallop melts in the
mouth, it’s like breathing in the ocean. We
stay in the marine environment with a superb pan-fried
sea bass with lemon grass foam with baby leeks. When
you think you have reached heaven, the sautéed
veal chop with natural jus and vegetable taglierini
flavored with pesto boosts you up to new heights of
satisfaction. Let’s admit it: this is the best
veal we ever tasted.
must be a secret for that, one of the many secrets that
Robuchon has uncovered and that make him so unique.
We could explore the confit of lamb with Mediterranean
semoule, the tuna tartare with a confit of red bell
pepper with bergamot and ham, or the extravagant Brittany
lobster under a disappearing saffron hostie in a seafood
bouillon, but even in the minute details, we would
find that Robuchon’s bill of fare is flawless.
chef Kamel Guechida brilliantly brings the Robuchon
festival to an end with his tequila sorbet and fresh
strawberries in lime syrup, and his melting Araguani
chocolate with a hint of peppermint. The wine list
contains 750 labels with many good finds from small
American and French producers at reasonable prices.
Let’s put it simply: there’s only one
Robuchon in the world. An evening there is a unique,
unforgettable experience worth the money it will cost.
Robuchon and his mentor Gamal Aziz wanted this place
to reach perfection. As far as it is humanly feasible,
they’ve made it. We are glad to bestow on Robuchon
his first 19/20 rating in America.
Grand Hotel & Casino
3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109