Joel Robuchon Las Vegas
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 18:56
While in Las Vegas for New Year’s Eve, we decided to dine at Joel Robuchon. Chef Robuchon has been named as Chef of the Century and his Las Vegas restaurant has 3 Michelin Stars. In regard to wine service, the restaurant has “3 Glasses” from Wine Spectator, the highest award possible.
As we approached the restaurant, Oz asked me to take her picture standing in front of the restaurant. She was immediately noticed by the Maitre d’ who came outside the restaurant and kindly offered to take our picture. This set the tone for the evening as we saw that we were being made to feel welcome at the restaurant. Even though we arrived a bit early, we were taken to our seats immediately, in a quiet back corner of the restaurant. This was actually in a separate room off the main dining room that made it appear as if we were seated in an outdoor garden. Had I not known that we were inside the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, I would have thought we were dining outside on a perfect evening.
The waiter explained the various menu options and we chose to go with the 16 Course tasting menu. He explained that there are 3 different tiers of wine pairing, and we chose the top tier (you only live once!) The wines were to be paired such that there was one pairing for each of 2 subsequent dishes. Shortly after ordering, the procession of fantasy food and wine began.
First, we started with bread. However, there was no basket here – they brought a beautiful cart filled with all kinds of unusual breads. I tried an olive oil bread and a milk bread. The olive oil bread was a light bread with mild flavor. The milk bread was heavy in substance but light in taste. There was nothing especially distinctive in regard to flavor in either bread. On the other hand, Oz had saffron, basil and cheese brioche. The saffron bread was the one that stood out, in terms of both flavor and appearance.
Champagne, Bruno Paillard “Brut Premiere Cuvee”
Champagne, Billicart-Salmon “Brut Reserve”
Peach, pear, apple, but more than anything, tiny bubbles. We ordered the Bruno Paillard as soon as we sat down and then the Billicart-Salmon came with our wine pairing. It was fun to compare these two side-by-side. Although we were enjoying the Bruno Paillard, when we directly compared to the Billicart-Salmon, the latter was the clear winner. Dry, tiny bubbles that paired perfectly with the Sanguine.
L’Orange Sanguine Emulsion of blood orange on a wild berry gelee
For lack of a better comparison, picture the best jello you’ve ever eaten. Sweet, but not too sweet. Not too acidic. Very refreshing, Just right.
Le Foie Gras Carpaccio of foie gras and potatoes, covered with black truffle shavings
I had never had foie gras like this before. It looked like tiny little pieces of bologna rolled up like a scroll. The taste was remarkably elegant yet rustic. It was a very unique dish with the pure earthiness of the potatoes and black truffle with the richness of the foie gras.
Alsace “”Clos Sainte Hune” Maison F.E. Trimbach, Riesling 2003
When we first got into wine, one of the things the piqued our interest was in reading that Riesling tasted and smelled like gasoline. Well, this is the wine that finally delivered that experience. The wine was not sweet but was pleasantly fruity with great minerality. A pleasure to see on their list.
Le Caviar Green asparagus with lemon balm, chilled corn veloute with croutons, salmon tartar with shiso sprouts
This was a highlight for anyone who loves caviar. The diversity of the preparation was a story unto itself. The green asparagus with lemon balm was along the lines of pairing Pizza with a Harlan. It was interesting and I liked it, but it was not something that I would regularly want to eat. I enjoyed the salmon tartar, but it was very “fishy”. I loved it, but it was a little too fishy for Oz. The chilled corn veloute was elegant and delightful with a good balance of flavor. It was fun to try one of the five mother sauces, veloute, prepared in the kitchen of Joel Robuchon. Minerality of the Riseling perfect.
La Truffle Crispy black truffle tart with onion confit and smoked ham
When I saw this dish, it blew me away. A truffle lovers dream. I could not believe the beauty and opportunity to eat a black truffle tart. It was exactly as you would expect – rustic, earthy and fulfilling. If this is not enough truffle for you, it’s time to admit your addiction.
Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Domaine Jean-Marc Morey 2008
An outstanding Grand Cru burgundy from the Cote de Beaune. Although slightly immature, we enjoyed the wine paired with the gorgonzola and the seafood, les Crustaces. Honey, apricot and general bright fruit on the palate. This wine was satisfying and delivered everything we expected from a Grand Cru.
Le Gorgonzola Custard of Gorgonzola with poached pear and sage tomatoes
I admit that I picked out the tomatoes which likely robbed the dish of some of the intended acid. However, it was still a tasty combination of salty and sweet.
Les Crustaces Truffled langoustine ravioli, grilled spiny lobster in green curry, “chaud-froid” of sea urchin on fennel potato puree with anise citrus
One of my favorites. The flavors in the menu were spot-on. I would have added a touch of spice to the curry!
Condreiu, Mathilde & Ives Gangloff 2008
Condreiu comes from the northern Rhone and is exclusively Viognier. Mineral, pineapple, peach. Outstanding.
La Chataigne Light chestnut cream on bacon foam
Chestnut is a taste that often comes through in Chardonnay and essentially comes through with the oak. Condrieu is occasionally aged in chestnut barrels. Although I did not detect any chestnut notes in regard to the wine, it was interesting to pair the dish with a condreiu, and it really worked. Contrasting the light cream, the bacon foam brought in rich flavors while staying light from a textural standpoint.
Le Turbot Turbot and artichoke cooked in cocotte, barigoule jus
Notorious for being difficult to pair with wine, the artichoke was the friend of the wine in this dish. Moist and hot, the turbot was flavorful and left us wanting more. Well paired with the Condreiu.
Pessac-Leognan, La Mission Haut-Brion 1996
Earthy yet chocolate with dark fruit, a well balanced full bodied wine. Not including the d’Yquem, my favorite wine of the evening.
Le Veau Sauteed veal chop with natural jus and vegetable taglierinis flavored with pesto
This was the only dish of the night that neither of us enjoyed. I ate mine but Oz did not finish hers. It was not as flavorful as the other dishes, and frankly, it was tough to cut. I was glad to have the La Mission Haut-Brion as an accompaniment.
L’Epeautre Sault farrow prepared risotto style, gold leaf
This dish perhaps had the most “Wow!” factor when they brought it out and presented the dish. Literally a ball of gold sitting on our oats. It was fun to eat and wound up being a warm, expensive, comfort food. Nice touch.
Sauternes, Chateau d’Yquem 1998
The d’Yquem came out and showed us why Joel Robuchon is a 3 Michelin Star restaurant. Earlier in the night the topic arose that we had never tried d’Yquem. Viola! Out comes a d’Yquem. This blew us away. The wine was luscious, sweet and smooth with notes of honey and apricot. This made the night. Thank you Joel Robuchon.
The desserts were outstanding and we are going to let the pictures be worth a thousand words.
L’Ananas Pineapples infused with vanilla, gingersnap cookie crumbs, pumpkin spice ice cream
Le Chocolat Poire Williams mousse and cookie crunch hidden beneath a dark chocolate sphere
The evening ended on a sweet note. There was also a “dessert cart” with numerous different sweets, but we requested the cheese cart instead. Needless to say, there were all types of cheeses and we tried several with which we were unfamiliar.
The service throughout the night was impeccable. To any who may be intimidated to make reservations at Joel Robuchon – don’t be. Rather than trying to intimidate, they go out of their way to welcome their guests. When we did not know what something was, either wine or food, we asked and they explained. It must be incredibly hard to put together a team that functions at that level, and this was one of our favorite evenings. Joel Robuchon is now one of our favorite restaurants. We will be back!
Graham Elliot, Chicago
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 November 2011 17:36
Having experienced the cuisine of Alinea, Moto and WD-50, we decided that we needed to try Graham Elliot. This would complete our Tour of the Americas in regard to molecular gastronomy. Graham was named Best New Chef by Food and Wine Magazine in 2004, four stars by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times, and was awarded the AAA 5 Diamond award. Before venturing out on his own, he worked for Charlie Trotter. Charlie Trotter is Charlie Trotter, but if you have ever been there, you know that you can hear a pin drop in the restaurant. Excellent food, but a stuffy, formal atmosphere. Graham takes the approach that food should be delicious and fun. His restaurant echoes that philosophy and as soon as we walked in, the restaurant struck us as relaxed and lively. As we waited at the bar for our table to be ready, we found that the cocktail menu had a number of playful drinks. However, because we intended to do the Repertoire (15 courses listed, 20 in reality) with wine pairing, we decided to skip any pre-meal drinks. We are not going to review the details of the pairings, but in the spirit of keeping things interesting and staying a little outside the box, the pairings included carbonated sake, beer, dessert wines, tea with shaved mushroom and interesting red and white wines.
The service was terrific and everyone from the bartender, to sommelier, and certainly our waitress made us feel at home. They were smiling, nice and well informed. As always, however, there is a caveat. One of our courses had been an unlisted item brought as a “surprise” (one of many). It was a Foie Gras Lollipop coated with pop-rocks and it was delicious. Picture rich and creamy foie gras popping in your mouth! Much to our surprise, at the end of the meal, this was listed as a separate item and we were charged $5 each. This was a miniscule amount relative to our total bill, but we don’t like being “tricked”. Thus, we dropped the tip from %20 to %15 to cover the cost and we came out $15 ahead. This little snafu by no means left a bad taste in our mouth, but it’s worth mentioning because there is a lesson in that experience for all (customers, waitresses and Chefs!).
Because the list of dishes was so extensive, we are not going to write a summary on each dish. Let’s cover some of the more interesting dishes and then talk about the experience as a whole.
First came an amuse served in a shot glass. This was fun in spite of it being somewhat of an old trick. I like it when it’s meant to be “shot”, but in this case it was eaten with a spoon. The amuse had caviar underneath a custard base. There was dill and a pickle (get it?) on top. Although fun, the caviar was not detectable and had I not seen it on my spoon, I would not have known it was there. The custard was not flavorful, likely by intent, and thus the overwhelming taste was dill. Fun, yes, impressive no.
The deconstructed Caesar salad was one of our favorite dishes. The menu lists the components as romaine, brioche, parmesan and anchovy. That’s exactly what it was and defined deconstruction. Each component was rich, pure and true to taste. The anchovy was “fishy” to the core, and in the setting of the dish was delicious.
The pumpkin soup was another favorite. It came in a teacup with the dry components of crust, pepita (roasted pumpkin seeds), cinnamon and marshmallow. There were some other components such as a bay leaf and a cranberry. The hot pumpkin broth was then poured by the server over the dry components, and we were instructed to stir until the marshmallow was melted. Again, fun, interactive and delicious.
The scallop dish was one which delivered an intense scallop experience but was a bit overly abbreviated in regard to portion size. I would like to have had one whole scallop rather than a couple of thin slices. I don’t know if there was something in the way the scallop was cooked that it needed to be sliced to deliver that flavor, but the scallop itself was delicious. It was served with a popover which is a hollow roll made of egg batter, and this was a bit too dry. Interestingly, the dish also included salsify which is a plant in the sunflower family with a taste like scallop. Salsify is sometimes called the “poor man’s scallop” and adds a touch of sweetness. Perhaps this is where some of the dish obtained its intensity? It worked.
The desserts were interesting and included “Bitters”, “Rhum” and “Chocolate.” In spite of being common to a fault, the chocolate was our favorite of the desserts. The dish included different varieties of chocolate including caraibe and ivoire. Nibs are small pieces of cocoa beans which you can see in the picture. It was a nice variety of chocolate. He mercifully included coconut ice cream which was probably my favorite component on the dish.
We enjoyed the meal at Graham Elliot. The restaurant is more WD-50 than Alinea and if I had to play “which of these is not like the other?” then I would pair Alinea with Moto and WD-50 with Graham Elliot. Graham Elliot and WD-50 use molecular techniques, but have a bit less emphasis on deception and surprise than Moto or Alinea. Graham Elliot focused on flavor and an (odd) case could be made that he is the “farm to fork” of the molecular gastronomy. With all this said, we feel as if we have had our fill of molecular gastronomy for now and feel more focused on simple, local ingredients. Trendy, I know. But there is something to be said for simplicity, and the genius required to make simple into something remarkable.
Our next venture is to Lantern with Chef Andrea Reusing, James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Southeast. We have been there many times and look forward to our return.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 November 2011 22:33
We just returned from Chicago and had quite the itinerary:
1) Purple Pig: Tried the pig ears, cheese and prosciutto. Awesome. http://thepurplepigchicago.com/
2) Graham Elliot: we had the 15 course tasting menu with wine pairing. http://www.grahamelliot.com/ge.php
1)Wildberry: so-so breakfast. I had oatmeal with walnuts and cranberry. Oz had an omelet. http://wildberrycafe.com/chicago.html
2) Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Seafood. We had Stone Crabs (what else?), salad and scallops. http://www.joes.net/chicago
3) The Publican. This rocked. We had reservations for Girl and the Goat later that night which we canceled due to having such a good time here. http://thepublicanrestaurant.com/
We will hopefully have a review to post on Graham Elliot and The Publican soon. But you never know....
Catch, Wilmington, NC, Top Chef Keith Rhodes
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2011 22:00
We have been a fan of Keith Rhodes’ since moving to Wilmington in 2008. Chef Rhodes was previously the chef at Deluxe (Wilmington,NC). Prior to his departure, Deluxe was our favorite restaurant in Wilmington. He eventually left Deluxe to open Catch, in downtown Wilmington. When Catch opened initially, it was intimate and primarily a lunch spot. As fans of Catch, we nominated Keith Rhodes for a James Beard Award, because his food was simple, local, fresh and flavorful. Apparently, others agreed with our assessment, and in 2011 he was a semi-finalist for the Southeast region. As Catch became increasingly popular, it became evident that Chef Rhodes had a customer following that could support a larger restaurant, and he moved to a new location. With the transition to a larger restaurant there were problems. On two occasions we tried the new restaurant and were met with sub-Keith Rhodes service, as well as food. We decided we would give him 6 months and then try again.
Catch is located in a small strip mall on a busy road. Upon entering, we were greeted warmly at the restaurant but waited over 5 minutes for menus and water. Our waitress apologized for the long wait and attributed it to a couple of staff being out for maternity leave. From there, the service was good and we were relieved in this regard.
For an appetizer, we ordered fried oysters which were served over shredded cabbage with a spicy aioli. They were lightly fried and not dripping grease. We enjoyed them. For entrees, we all ordered something different and sampled each other’s dishes. As a restaurant item, Shrimp and Grits were once a novelty, but are now commonplace and a little tired. The first place that we ever even heard of this, pre-foodie days, was at the James Beard Award winning Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill (Chef Bill Smith; 2011 James Beard America’s Classics Award). To us, these are the Shrimp and Grits to which all other Shrimp and Grits must be compared. The Catch version was a bit different than Bill Smith’s version in that he put chorizo sausage in the dish. This was a nice try at innovation, but ultimately would have been best left out. The shrimp were fried and trending towards being burned. They were dark in color and had that slight “about to be burned” taste. At times this is intentional with marshmallows, hot dogs, and asparagus, but I don’t think this was the intent with the shrimp. The grits were a little on the dry side. On the whole a fair dish, but we have had other dishes ala Keith Rhodes that put this to shame (hello Vietnamese fried rice!)
The Miso Glazed Crispy Salmon over fried rice and sautéed baby spinach was well prepared. The salmon was cooked beautifully, being moist on the inside while crispy on the outside. Keith imported his famous Vietnamese flavors into the rice, while sesame oil made the spinach very flavorful. Every component of this dish worked. We all agreed that we would order this again.
The pulled pork sandwich was served on a homemade pretzel bun with fries and barbecue sauce. Having recently tried Pork Buns at David Chang’s Momofuku in New York (multiple James Beard Awards), we wanted to see how Keith’s version would hold up. Keith’s food often has an Asian flair, but barbeque in North Carolina is an institution that is seldom altered. Chef Rhode’s presentation was very nice and the pork was flavorful. It was essentially what you expect when you eat North Carolina barbecue. It was high quality, but not as finely chopped as you would typically expect. There were a couple of problems with this dish. First, the pretzel bun did not taste like it was freshly made. It was almost certainly made a day or two prior, and judging by how tough it was to bite off, it may have been microwaved. The fries tasted and looked like Criss-cut fries from the freezer section of any grocery store. The slaw was light and delicious. There was a Texas style barbecue sauce served on the side. This was a clever move. This will satisfy the many vacationing non-Eastern North Carolina barbecue patrons. On the flip side, had this sauce been actually served on the sandwich, native foodies would have considered it a travesty. Thus, Chef succeeded in pleasing all kinds of barbecue aficionados. To those who do not live in a barbecue region, let me warn you before you travel to a barbecue area- add it to your list of topics not to discuss (Religion, Politics, and Barbecue). On the whole, the dish was a strong effort to breathe life into a familiar dish.
Overall, the meal was good but still not up to par with the initial Catch. We are optimistic that as time passes, the new Catch will continue to improve and offer a dining experience similar to that which Catch fans have come to expect. Chef Rhodes is currently renovating the old Catch which will again be open for lunch. Although hopeful, I have concerns that with obligations to the new restaurant, the “old” Catch will not have the magic prior to the move. As old fans of Keith Rhodes, we very much hope to see him succeed. When he is not stretched thin, his food is worthy of a James Beard Award.
NOTE: Keith Rhodes will be a contestant on the new season of Top Chef which airs on Bravo TV, Wednesdays at 10pm (EST). The season’s first episode is on November 2, 2011, and there will be a viewing party at Catch to watch Episode #1.