|Vegas from the Air|
So recently, I got to go to Las Vegas with a close girlfriend from California (more on that in my next post). And for our last lunch in Vegas, I had chosen RM Seafood just to get something different, and to visit some other casinos, so we headed to Mandalay Bay, which turned out to be much further than it looked to walk. (The Strip seems to do that—you can see that resort, it looks so close!). But as soon as we settled in, we noticed that our server Cliff was exceedingly helpful and knowledgeable about the menu and the wine. He was mellow, but extremely enthusiastic about food, and the restaurant in general. We chatted with him quite a bit about various options and decided to share a couple of things (as usual). We shared a lobster roll ($27) and tuna poke ($20). The lobster roll was completely lovely. Served in a wonderfully buttery, crunchy but light rolls, the inside had mainly lobster and was seasoned with celery, fennel and instead of your usual mayo, they were using crème fraiche which gave it a wonderfully tangy, creamy richness that made it seem more “Vegas.” Our server had recommended we trade out the chips that usually came alongside and get the fries that are tossed with herbs. He was totally right about that. The fries were wonderfully crisp and salty and a nice balance to the creamy sandwich. And it was cut into 2 nice sized halves, making it extremely easy to share.
The poke is cubes of raw tuna (they have an extensive sushi menu as well) that are seasoned with soy, and served in a sort of salad with lots of crunchy shreds of veg-- green onions, red onions, radish and some microgreens. This was nice and light and refreshing. I really enjoyed it as well. Around this point, the manager came over to chat with us for awhile (they weren’t very busy, it was Sunday) and he was also exceptionally friendly. As we talked more (and they both gave us lists of restaurants to try as well as their contact information if we had questions) we discovered that the manager (Chris) was also the Chef Rick Moonen’s son. It explained why he was so interested in customer satisfaction—I mean he was great at his job. So as we were talking, and he was explaining how the restaurants started as a seafood place, but has so much wonderful beef as well, I told him about how I had read somewhere about the beef tartare and how wonderful it was (but it wasn’t on the lunch menu). He and our waiter agreed and then he disappeared only to return with a special (and complimentary) little taste of the tartare. I was amazed at the customer service. While I found nearly everyone in every restaurant very friendly, helpful and professional, this restaurant was the clear winner in the service experience. And really, the food was just as good. Everything was perfectly prepared and presented. And yes, the beef tartare was perfect. Smooth and rich with capers, cornichons, mustard, crispy onions and even a couple of slices of black truffle on top. And this was just a little sample, an amuse bouche ending, as it were. I can only imagine an entire order, which I hear is served normally with those lovely fries…. Oh well, next time. And if you go, be sure and ask for Cliff to be your waiter. This place has got it down, both food-wise and service-wise.
3950 Las Vegas Blvd., South
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Our last dinner was L’Atelier de Joel Robouchon. Hubby had just been recently on a business trip and wouldn’t stop talking about it, so I thought I needed to go and see what all the fuss was about. It is a completely open kitchen, and the majority of the seating are bright red bar stools around the kitchen. There are a few tables (maybe 6-8?) but I think it was more fun to sit at the bar. Although, if there were more than 2 of you, you may want to ask for a table because I think it would be hard to talk amongst yourselves. So they have a large, small and larger plates-type a la carte menu as well as two different tasting menus. We went with the smaller 6 course “club” menu (7 really if you include the amuse bouche) at $97 per person. Ok, these are fancy French items with many layers and ingredients and I shall endeavor to remember them all as well as possible, but just keep in mind, it is hard to remember all the nuances, with so many things going on in the dishes. The amuse bouche was a foie gras parfait with a port wine reduction and parmesan foam. Wow, this was amazing. You dipped your little spoon deep down to get some of the custardy foie flavor and came back not only with it, but the port and cheese flavors as well. Amazingly rich and decadent.
The first official course was mussels and mimolette veloute with croutons. So, it was an intensely rich, but not thick, soup with several whole juicy mussels at the bottom. There were dots of red pepper on top and some little crunch saffron croutons alongside. The saffron flavor with the mussels was perfect. Although, my friend and I decided we needed even more to soak up all the drops of the soup, and also used large hunks of bread from the wonderful bread basket (that puff pastry roll was divine.)
The next course was the one I was looking forward to the most I think after talking to hubby. It was a langoustine, which is sort of like a teeny tiny lobster, but so much better. The meat of the langoustine was wrapped in a light pastry wrapper with a couple of basil leaves inside and fried just crispy. The thing about langoustines is they are so sweet and don’t seem to have the tendency to get overcooked the way shrimp and lobster so often do (not that you would likely have that problem at L’Atelier). There was a little basil sauce (they called it pesto, but to me it was more like the pure essence of basil with maybe just a touch of oil) and a teeny little salad of baby green on the side that was dressed with a lovely acidic dressing that was a perfect balance of the sweet shellfish. I saw a regular a la carte order come out of the kitchen and it had three of the fritters. Hmmmm….next time perhaps.
The main course was a choice of beef cheeks or John Dory. I went with the John Dory and it was lovely as well. Two small pieces of fish that are cooked on the hibachi right in front of you. Each piece of fish was topped with chopped tomatoes and capers and served alongside was the most amazing buttery Napa cabbage. It was so tender and buttery, you sort of forgot it was a vegetable. And of course, you get the side of the famous “Robouchon potatoes” which are whipped potatoes which are basically made in a ratio of one part potato to one part butter. True story. And delicious.
A lovelysmall cheese plate was next (and you know that always makes me happy). There were three nice pieces. An Epoisses, a creamy goat cheese, and a third I can’t remember. It was simply served with just some slices of bread, and I would have loved just little fruit or jam, but the cheeses were perfectly a temperature, which seems to be something that very few places pull off.
Lastly there was a dessert course, which was a choice of a selection of tarts or a selection of ice creams and sorbets. We got one of each to share. Honestly, I thought dessert was the weakest part of the meal, although it was fun to try all the different things. My favorite tart was one that involved caramel, chocolate and big salty peanuts. The two best sorbets were the raspberry and the pear. Both tasted of the pure essence of the fruit which is what I enjoy in a sorbet.
L’Atelier is an interesting place though. You would have to be an intensely disciplined to make that kind of food all night in front of your customers I would think. And there’s no yelling and cursing like I sort of imagine a lot of kitchens are like. And watching one of the staff pick celery leaves with tweezers and place them around a fancy dish is an experience. The Chef would make an appearance frequently and mutter lowly about things, rarely smiling. A very serious man for sure. In fact at one point when my friend and I were sort of laughing about some random thing, he sort of turned and glared a little. Eventually we had a chance to speak with him for a moment and tell him how delighted we were with the food and he seemed to soften a bit. But it made the meal memorable for sure, as if the food wasn’t enough.
3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109