Fancy dinners are always a risk. After making reservations months in advance, reading numerous reviews, and spending the afternoon deciding what I'm going to wear, it is impossible for me not to get excited about the dinner. And all that excitement can easily lead to disappointment if the restaurant does not live up to my high expectations. Luckily, during my trip to Las Vegas last weekend, neither Guy Savoy nor Joel Robuchon at the Mansion let me down. While both dinners were quite good (and not dumbed-down for the Las Vegas crowd at all), my meal at Joel Robuchon completely blew me away.
Joel Robuchon managed a perfect balance between trendy art-deco decor, seriously good food, and a special occasion atmosphere without being stuffy at all. The meal actually started on a low note with an amuse bouché of lackluster sangria granita served over smoking dry ice. Thankfully, I was not able to lament the pointless theatrics of the dish for very long before the bread cart arrived and I was distracted by the numerous options. From the first bite of my gruyere mini baguette on, my meal was almost flawless.
My favorite course of the night was the lobster 'ravioli' which were served as small piles of lobster with thinly sliced turnips draped over them so that they looked like little raviolis. The dish was bright, fresh, and allowed the seasonal ingredients to shine. The dishes that followed were all incredibly impressive as well a pea soup poured over a savory flan with pancetta, perfectly cooked halibut with zesty lemongrass flavoring, and slices of tender pan-fried veal. My meal ended with a dessert of chocolate ice cream topped in a large puff of lime cotton candy and of course the obligatory petit four cart (with plenty of smooth, dark chocolates).
Joel Robuchon may come very close to the line of overdoing the presentation of their dishes, but they almost never cross it. More importantly, the dishes not only looked pretty, but there was substance, complex flavors, and high quality ingredients in each one. As a parting gift we were given a loaf of lemon pound cake that I am still enjoying toasted with ice cream five days later. I don't think I'll be going back to Las Vegas anytime soon, but I know for sure where I'll be eating next month in London!