While Joël Robuchon is shaking up New York with his new Atelier there, my wife and I stopped by his Las Vegas version earlier this week. We were driving back to California from Colorado. Las Vegas, with so many dining options, makes a welcome stopover midway through the two-day drive. A nice, casual, sit-at-the-counter, $300 (including the tip) dinner for two seemed like a good idea.
The MGM Grand offers midweek deals in the summer. We got a room for $79.99, which came with a $25 dining credit. That paid for about half the tip. But hey, that's something.
It's interesting to read blog posts and other online commentary about Robuchon's newest effort in the Big Apple. Like the Vegas outpost, it's in a hotel. And horrors, you have to actually walk through the hotel to get to the restaurant there. You do in Las Vegas, too. Also, I detect a note of resentment that Robuchon set up shop in the desert first, then came to New York.
I sat at the counter in Las Vegas last fall for we might now call the out-of-town tryout. I also ate at the big-ticket, 65-seat Joël Robuchon at the Mansion next door. They are two different experiences, but I liked them both. For my money--and I use that phrase advisedly because it was my money--I'll take the counter at the Atelier. It's comfortable, the food is terrific, and the bottom line is less than half what it would be next door.
Still, after driving across the desert and showering and changing for dinner, I encountered sticker shock when I slid onto the padded stool and popped open the menu. Some items are $70. Even the tasting plates are $12 to $25. I've been in Aspen most of the summer, and the prices still made me blink.
It's also hard to find a decent wine for much less than $100. (You're sitting a counter, for crying out loud, not at a table with fine napery and a forest of crystal.) I rummaged through the nether regions of the list and found an old reliable, Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2000. I realize it's a couple of vintages old, but is the extra age really worth $75? It sells for $19 at retail. In my book, that's a ripoff, even in nice big crystal glasses.
Nonetheless, the kitchen executes its dishes well, and there were some great things on the plate. I especially liked the Santa Barbara spot prawns, sweet and juicy, fresh king crab overflowing split asparagus, a generous plate of thinly sliced jambon, and spaghetti alla chitarra in a fabulous carbonara sauce. They don't do it better in Rome.
But the prices may well keep me away next time. There are too many other restaurants, including those at MGM. At SeaBlue and Fiamma, you can dine well casually, if not quite in Robuchon's league, and spend a lot less for a comparable wine.
And the Atelier's prices, from what I can tell, are about 20 percent less in Vegas than in New York. Such a deal.
James Peterson — San Antonio, Texas — August 25, 2006 12:57am ET
Robert Mathews — August 25, 2006 1:06am ET
Anthony Clapcich — August 25, 2006 1:58am ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — August 25, 2006 5:36am ET
Dan Jaworek — Chicago — August 25, 2006 11:17am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — August 25, 2006 12:04pm ET
William Newell — Buffalo, NY — August 25, 2006 1:12pm ET
Vytas Saulys — San Francisco — August 25, 2006 9:20pm ET
Myrna Lowenthal — Dallas, TX — August 26, 2006 12:43pm ET
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