Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Un-frugal Foodie: Joel Robuchon at The Mansion

Last week my incredibly indulgent in-laws took Ian and I out to the very un-frugal Mansion at Joel Robuchon. Obviously, they know how to please. Joel Robuchon was voted chef of the century by the esteemed Gault Millau restaurant guide and The Mansion is the only restaurant in Vegas to have earned three Michelin stars. The Mansion is also Robuchon's only fine dining restaurant outside of France.

The decor is beautiful, yet quirky. There are Cartier-like jaguars above the fireplace, deep purple fabrics, flashlight candles on the table, plastic plate garnishes, and framed black and white pictures of famous people, such as the dad from Growing Pains.

The meal, or experience rather, was phenomenal - a true work of art. Kerry and I each got the $168 four course menu while Ian and Larry got the $365 sixteen courser. Here is the photographic journey of our trip. (Pictured above: Amuse bouche: Caviar on fennel cream.)

After you select your gorgeous bread from the selection of the fifteen or so varieties (all made on site in their own around-the-clock bakery), they bring it to the back to warm before serving. In the meantime, they shave your butter from a block shaped like gyro meat and pour you a dish of the richest olive oil.

King crab and asparagus blancmange, medley of seasonal vegetables (my first course). I'm not a huge fan of eating gold, but I guess it screams opulence.

Crispy fine tart with melted cheese and shaved white Alba truffle (Kerry's first course). This may look like an ordinary pizzette, but when offered at a $60 surcharge on top of the four course menu price, it most definitely is not. Simple, exquisite ingredients touched by the hand of a culinary genius - unforgettable.

Course 1 of the 16 course tasting menu: Carpaccio of fois gras and potatoes, covered with white truffle shavings. I don't believe those words can be put in the same sentence without capturing the attention of a foodie.

Courses 2, 3 and 4: Crispy toast topped with cepes mushrooms, trembling parsley royal and ginger matsutake tea. I challenge anyone to accurately describe this 'chip'. Note the abundance of white truffles on top. The tea tasted like dirt, in a good way.

Course 6: Crispy frog leg, garlic and watercress coulis. I love the frantic look of this crispy coating. The frog leg inside it was just as appealing.

Course 7 (back right, pictured with courses 8 and 9): Delicate flan of sea urchin with mocha foam. Not bad, but not memorable. Perhaps this was because of his plate mates.

Courses 8: Truffled langoustine ravioli with chopped cabbage. Look at this dish and tell me it how it could not taste incredible.

Course 9: Roasted lobster on cauliflower with green curry. I wish I could report on how this tasted but my husband "forgot" to let me try it. Yes, I stewed in my anger until the next course.

Course 10: Chestnuts veloute with smoked lardons foam. This was lovely, but didn't compare to its counterpart with fois gras on the "cheap-o" menu (Kerry's second course).

The petit four cart was the last course that we had, yet it kept gliding around us throughout the meal, tantalizing us with innumerate treasures on it's mission to please other tables. I couldn't resist a premature picture.

Course 11: Bone marrow and vegetable ragout with corn and spices. Great, except for the stale popcorn.

Braised veal cheeks in Thai broth, vegetable couscous with broccoli. Tender and Thailand-y, but sadly, this is where I start reaching maximum capacity. Advice to 'pace yourself' can't be applied here. Alongside this was served Robuchon's famous pommes puree, which would have been better if there hadn't been so much butter.... just kidding.

Course 12: Pan-fried sea bass with a lemon grass emulsion and stewed baby leeks. It photographs well, doesn't it?
Course 13: Sauteed veal chop with natural jus and vegetable taglierinis flavored with pesto. The veal was luscious and the taglierini (I protest the addition of that 's' ) was a fun a play on pasta.
Course 14: Spring root and sprout vegetables with Argan Oil. Have you ever seen a cuter carrot than the one pointing towards you on this plate?

Strawberries with mascarpone cream parfait and thyme flower sable (Kerry's dessert). I really want to learn how to make those strawberry chips.

Blueberry compote and lemon brulee, finished with a violet milkshake. This was my dessert, and I was glad for that. It was like a lemon float made with raspberry ice cream, and fresh berries.

Course 15: Pistachio cream, raspberries infused with Lillet and rose sabayon. This sounds more impressive than it tasted.

Course 16: Caramel parfait, chocolate poppy sable, light coffee mousse. I wish I hadn't been so stuffed by the time this arrived. I'm no chocoholic but this was glorious.

Aren't these adorable! I really wanted one of everything but this restaurant doesn't give you the impression it's a 'doggie bag' kind of place.

To finish your time spent at the Mansion, you are given a delicious loaf of pistachio raspberry bread to take home for breakfast (as if you could feel like eating again after all that). We also got a book with pictures of the sixteen course tasting menu. Too bad they didn't bring that first; it would have saved my dinner companions from the photo interruptions.

Overall, I would have to say that the only downside of an incredibly lavish and well-executed meal such as this (besides the price) is that all the unique dishes tend blur together in hindsight. I wish I could experience each dish again by itself so that I could truly give each the attention it deserves.

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