Fair warning: The information in this post is a slightly edited review that was part of a long trip report from early December, so you can skip this thread if you've already read it here: http://www.vegasmessageboard.com/forums/showthread.php?t=100814 If you're interested in seeing the full trip report or want to read my thoughts on Gordon Ramsey Pub and Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars or Onda Ristorante, Heritage Steak and Carnegie Deli at Mirage, just click the link above and scroll until you see the boldface for each restaurant. -- L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is my favorite restaurant. I would definitely make the four plus-hour drive to Vegas from L.A. just for a meal here. I love the relatively small size and the counter seating and the open kitchen where food preparation is treated as performance art. My party of three set aside three hours for a Friday dinner, figuring that our meal would be the entertainment for the night. Who needs Cirque du Soleil acrobats when you have culinary daredevils performing their own feats of derring-do in the kitchen just a few feet away? There are a few standard tables near the back wall, and I always feel sorry for L’Atelier customers who don’t know better than to allow themselves to be seated there, thus missing the Food Network show that is about to play out nearby. But we know better, and insist on the counter that surrounds the kitchen on three sides. My seat is in a prime location at the far corner, which means that I will be able to see the kitchen while interacting easily with my party and eavesdropping on patrons lining the long row of counter seats stretching from our location back to the entrance. The best part: I will get a front-row seat as dishes are served to fellow diners seated just around the corner to my left. My girlfriend helps her elderly mother navigate the menu and its French words and gourmet selections. Our server, Eric, also pitches in to help, and the two ladies end up ordering a handful of selections from the small plates and a la carte menus. I insist that they order the La Langoustine dish with its amazing basil pesto fritters that make me tear up just thinking about – and they consent to let me experience the full seasonal discovery menu and its nine courses. Because I was otherwise occupied with my own fit of gluttony, I can’t comment specifically on the tastes of their orders other than to say that each one was met with delight upon arrival and cleared quickly from the plate with zeal. In addition to sharing the langoustines, they each had an order of Le Macaroni (with green asparagus and smoked veal bacon), and they added a wonderful seasonal salad that we watched being prepared by a chef utilizing tweezers for just-the-right placement of every leaf and vegetable. One of them also ordered Le Boeuf (ribeye steak with roasted shallots), according to the receipt we saved, but I don’t recall the reaction. They shared Les Tartes for dessert, which the pastry chef kindly modified to my girlfriend’s liking because of her chocolate allergy. The lemon tart was her favorite. The centerpiece of our dining experience was the seasonal discovery menu, which I noticed being served that night to a good portion of our fellow diners. At $159 per person, the price was reasonable for the amount of food and creativity of the selections, and I counted at least five other orders: 1-2) two men – one about age 30 to our immediate right and the other around age 60 around the corner to my left – both dining alone. 3) a group of three (two attractive, tipsy and handsy women accompanying one seemingly-about-to-get-very-lucky-in-Vegas man) who were finishing their main courses as we were seated. 4-5) two separate couples who arrived during the course of our meal and gave the impression that they were first-timers looking for a special meal to remember. Judging by the oohs and ahhs and photos they were continuously snapping, they proceeded to get it. My meal began with the restaurant’s usual serving of a L’Amuse-Bouche (foie gras in a port wine reduction with parmesan foam). We asked our server for a copy of the menu, which he happily provided (with all the other tasting menu patrons soon following suit). Having the menu close at hand was a great way of helping us to decipher the goings-on in the kitchen (“Did you see the head chef order that cook to completely replate that dish he just spent 5 minutes assembling?”) and also to remind me of exactly what I was eating (“Oh, so that’s Matsutake”!) I did not get the associated wine pairings, but the older gentleman to my left did so, and he was no longer dining alone for the night – instead, he had a sommelier to narrate almost the entirety of his meal thereafter. They were just a bit too far away for me to hear everything that was said, but I definitely got the impression that the gentleman knew his food and wine and was looking to see how well L’Atelier would meet his expectations. Now, the serving staff at L’Atelier are always just a few feet away as they lean over the counter to serve dishes, clear plates and take orders, but I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such personalized service at a restaurant as what I saw that Friday between the sommelier and the older gentleman. They chatted almost continuously, breaking only when another patron had a question about a wine or when a new dish arrived to be explained by the serving staff. At one point, I noticed that the sommelier seemed to depart from the set pairing choices to offer a sip of three different wines for comparison’s sake. If you’re a lover of fine food and fine drink and you’re in Las Vegas alone at a convention or on business trip, I can’t imagine a more satisfying way to spend an evening than to partake in the entire tasting and wine menu at L’Atelier (particularly if you have a generous expense account). I could easily expend 500 words on each one of my courses. But I’ll try to get through it with a brief bulleted list instead: L’Amuse Bouche: See above. Great as always (presuming you do not object to foie gras on moral grounds). L’Hamachi (a light fish often used in sushi, served with a ravioli of sea urchin and lemon vinaigrette): An excellent starter, with some zest in the sauce to wake up the taste buds. Le Crabe Royal (roasted king crab served over spiced eggplant soup): Delicate and delicious. The smooth flavor of the crab gets jolted by the spice of the soup (which is really more of a puree, by the way). Le Foie Gras de Canard (seared duck foie gras served with sweet and sour grapes): Foie gras is so rich that a little goes a long way for me, but the contrast of the grapes works well. Since I can’t really tell a sweet grape from a sour one by sight, each bite is a bit of a surprise. Le Matsutake (a type of mushroom, served in bouillon with gingered leeks and quail egg): I had no preconception regarding this dish, which was served as a soup and was probably my favorite single item of the meal. It pained me to finish the last spoonful. Le Saint-Pierre (john dory over artichoke hearts with a warm wine-based sauce): Yes, another fish dish, but it’s so very different from the others that I didn’t actually notice the preponderance of fish until writing this summary. I remember that it was good. But this was about the time that my second vodka and tonic was kicking in, so my recollection of the specifics are a little hazy. La Caille (caramelized quail with foie gras and mashed potatoes): Having shotgunned a few quail of my own back on the family farm in the Midwest, I’m not particularly enamored of quail as a main course. But the other option was a steak and I knew that I would be getting full by the time this dish arrived. It was fine, but it was the third item with foie gras and it doesn’t stand out in my memory as a dish I would definitely order off the a la carte menu. The potatoes were the same buttery Robuchon puree that I remembered from previous visits, however, and my girlfriend saw them and promptly ordered two additional servings for herself and her mother. Then, when they sew our additional servings arrive and get devoured with gusto, the two Italian-speaking men who replaced the threesome to my left ordered servings of their own. If you like butter and like potatoes and don’t care overmuch about your waistline or your arteries, then this side dish is not to be missed. Les Baies Rouges (chiffon cake with raspberry sorbet, mixed berries and vanilla cream): Just. Reread. The. Ingredients. Good dessert, right? Very good. Le Dulce (chocolate fondant with dulce cream and cherry sorbet): This one seemed like a perfect dessert to have with a cup of cappuccino. And I do. And it is. The total for the meal came to $385, and we added $80 for the tip. I bill it back to our room, and the casino ended up covering all but the tip and my two drinks with an F&B comp. Someday, we will dine at Joel Robuchon’s other Vegas restaurant next door, and I may discover that my favorite restaurant in the world is a mere shadow of its pricier and more lavish cousin. But on this night I feel like I’ve been to Utopia — along with my significant other and her beloved mother. And it only cost us a hundred bucks.