Thursday, November 4, 2010

Joel Robuchon Mansion

Joel Robuchon is the name that should be familiar to chefs cooking serious foods as well as people loving gastronomy. When he retired in 1996, it took him only 5 years before making a come back. It might be surprising that among all places, he opened his fine dining restaurant in Macau with the strong support from the Ho's family. Then, come big waves of all Robuchon's dining places in Tokyo beginning in 2003. And ultimately, Gamal Aziz, MGM Grand President, managed to persuade Robuchon to open another fine dining restaurant in Las Vegas two years later. Well, apparently this will not be the last one, as there will be other Joel Robuchon restaurants opening early 2011 in Singapore. I have been to both: the Macau's Galera and the Tokyo's Chateau - love the later one but not really the early one. So, the Mansion in Las Vegas will be my final judge about Joel Robuchon's cuisine.

Normally, there are a long and short degustation menu in addition to the a la carte menu at Joel Robuchon's fine dining restaurant. However, due to the economy crisis that affect nearly all industries, Robuchon took a quick step introducing several set menu priced as cheap as USD 89 for a main course and a dessert. The a la carte dish is always ridiculously expensive, for instance: soft egg with salmon and caviar ($235) or kobe beef with rock salt ($215) - it's even more than London/Parisian haute cuisine price. To give a fair chance in comparison with Robuchon Macau and Tokyo, I ordered its full tasting menu for Spring - 22 May 2009 - and let's discuss each dish one by one.

Le Caviar Oscietre en fine gelee de corail anisée, servie en surprise (Osetra Caviar on a coral gelee served as a surprise) - Robuchon is a master of creating caviar-based dish and this is without exception. Ample briny and crisp caviar on top, the surprise is below - fresh dungeness crab layered in fennel cream. A beautiful and balanced combination of crab's sweetness, caviar's saltiness plus some exploration of contrast in textures

La Tomate en salade, huile d’olive au basilic, tomate et mozzarella en gelee (Salad of tomato, basil infused olive oil, tomato gelee topped with mozzarella) - An imported tomato from Japan is rather sour tonight; the tomato gelee is executed in high precision and pleasing to the eyes. A refreshing dish

Les Asperges un blanc-manger aux substances d’agrumes, brouillarde cremeuse dans une voilette de pain dore, royale tremblotante de morille au vin d’Arbois (Pana cota with citrus oil, scrambled egg in golden toast, morel royale with yellow wine) - Asparagus with pana cota is alright; I like the creamy egg eaten together with the asparagus and the toast crust; lastly "the soup" has fragrant aroma, but the morels' flavor is not as intense as I want it to be

La Grenouille la cuisse en fritot à la purée aillée et au coulis de persil (Crispy frog leg, garlic and parsley puree) - One of Robuchon's famous dish. The frog leg is tasty by itself, the fried shell is crisp while the parsley sauce adds different flavor

Noix de Saint-Jacques a la plancha, condiment au kumquat et au caviar (Sea scallop a la plancha with a sauce of kumquat and caviar) - A butter poached of diver scallop is sweet and almost flawless. The kitchen enhances it with the buttery kumquat sauce and a dollop of Iranian caviar. It's about as good as my scallop dish (with fregola pasta) in Chateau Robuchon

La langoustine truffée et cuite en ravioli a l’emince de chou vert (Truffled langoustine ravioli with chopped cabbage) - A perfectly cooked langoustine (meaty and succulent) is delicious with truffle's pungent smell and creamy & sweet sauce. The cabbage balances the prawn's rich flavor. This dish is consistently good!

L'oursin a la puree de pomme de terre au café torrefie (Uni on mashed potato with roasted coffee beans) - An intelligent combination of ingredients that nicely complement one another. The uni is creamy and sweet, with buttery potato that thankfully not really sinful this time

Le homard rôti au curry et fines graines de chou-fleur (Roasted lobster on cauliflower with green curry) - The typical blue lobster taste is there except it's rather overdone for me. Decent contrast from the cauliflower

Les Petit Pois en fin veloute rafraichi a la menthe poivree sur un voile d’oignon doux (Light pea veloute with peppermint on top of delicate onion cloud) - It's a surprisingly complex dish ... warm pea veloute is mixed with bacon's strong flavor while balanced with some mint sensation - interesting

Le Bar poele a la citronelle avec une etuvee de jeunes poireaux (Pan-fried sea bass with a lemon grass foam and stewed baby leeks) - A tender, flaky and delicious piece of Brittany sea bass prepared with Asian twist. The lemon grass and citrus produce slight contrast and generate piquant flavor. This is much better than bar with red wine sauce I had in Tokyo

Le Boeuf de Kobe, noix d’entrecote eminceem epinards au wasabet poivrons arlequins (Kobe beef ribeye, spiced spinach and crispy vegetables) - The marbled beef (A4) us prepared in Asian style with many different vegetables. The kobe beef was delicious and melted in my mouth, this entree was rather light which is nice after eating more than 10 courses

Les Racines Maraicheres couleurs de saison melees d’une semoule de ble perfume a l’huile d’Argan (Spring root vegetables stew with Argan oil couscous) - This seems to be a new regular dish at any Robuchon's fine dining tasting menu, except the vegetables vary according to the season. The rare argan oil match well with the several different crispy veggies - oh, it's also somewhat intense

Le Fraise confite au sirop de citron vert, rafraichi au sorbet Tequila (Strawberry compote infused with lime, tequila sorbet) - As expected that fresh dessert to cleanse the palate would come first. It displays a flair of the stewed strawberry's sweetness and the lime & tequila sorbet's sourness - not bad

Le Chocolat aux noix de Pecan, onctuosite au gianduja (Nyangbo chocolate cake, light gianduja cream) - Beautiful presentation accompanied by wonderful flavor in the palate. The chocolate is both bitter and sweet mixed well with some gianduja (aka refined version of nutella) intensity. A good ending ...

Similar to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon concept, chef Robuchon would like to make his 3 top establishments to serve almost exactly the same menu and dishes; they are indeed very much consistent. Some of the dishes I have were in fact the same as the one I had in Tokyo such as langoustine ravioli, lobster and sea urchin. As I checked Robuchon Galera's menu at that time, more than 75% of the items are the same as the one I had here. The meal itself is very pleasant in general. The caviar surprised with fennel and crab is excellent; the langoustine ravioli creamy sauce is delicious while the poached scallop is divine. Some weaknesses - the lobster is overcooked for my taste while 3 different asparagus preparation is nothing to be particularly memorable. The main difference I felt was that Robuchon LV long tasting menu excludes les fromages (one had to pay $30 extra) whereas Tokyo and Macau counterpart would give you for free. To save my wallet, I only drank 2 glasses of wine: Far Niente Chardonnay Estate Bottled 2007 (clean and creamy, layered with apple pear and having a long toasty finish) and Faust Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (complex yet precise, dry and firm integrating lush black cherry with intense taste and long finish).

As one can see, nothing is spared in decorating the dining room of Joel Robuchon restaurant. Pierre-Yves Rochon, a famous designer doing Four Seasons George V, was called to create a luxurious dining room that would remind diners of Paris in the 1930s. The first thing that most diners will notice is a dramatic black and white marble floor at the foyer that will bring guests entering the main dining room whose ceiling is more than 5 meter high. Then, there are turquoise and white Irish linens, turquoise water goblets and unique electric battery powered candles added a bit of fancy to the otherwise formal atmosphere. Despite providing over the top decor, there is a small fundamental issue - space; accommodating approximately the same number of guests, the dining room area here is only about half of the size of Chateau Robuchon. I could not help to fell a bit crammed. Moreover, I could clearly hear a conversation of a dating couple sitting next to me. It should not happen in the 3-star place generally. The service is like one would expect - polite, attentive and professional. The dining room and kitchen staffs were quite flexible when I requested to modify 2-3 dishes from the long degustation menu. While I enjoyed the hospitality provided, no maitre d' or waiter was particularly stand out (including the restaurant manager). Lastly, if I were picky and had to choose which Robuchon restaurant cooks the best food, it will be the one handled by Alain Verzeroli - perhaps his background leading Petrus HK and working for L'Arpege & Taillevent gave him more finesee. On the other hand, Jamin-alumnus Claude Le Tohic, like other Meilleur Ouvrier de France winners including Eric Frechon and Michel Roth, tends to cook in orthodox and monotone ways hence may lack creativity. It will be interesting to see how the current Robuchon Mansion no 2, Tomonori Danzaki doing as he will be chef de cuisine of Robuchon's 4th fine dining establishment starting in Spring 2011.

Please click here if you want to see the dishes I have,

Food (and Wine): 95 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 93 pts

Overall: 94.5/100