Every since I saw the shocked look on Mr Gold’s face as I sat on the purple velvet sofa at Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand and confessed I had never eaten at a super refined palace of fine dining I’ve been thinking about why. Why had I avoided the uber refined dining experience for so long? A big part of it has to be that growing up a red diaper baby means that simply participating in such extravagance felt uncomfortable for me. But finding myself in Vegas, the land of gratuitous extravagance with super diner Jonathan and esteemed colleague Gillian Ferguson made it seem like the right time and place to experience stratospheric dining for the first time. Wow. Just wow. I love food (obviously) but more than the food in and of itself, I love the story of food. I see now how dining at this level is as much about the story one weaves around oneself as it is the edible vignettes presented to you throughout the meal. The sheer luxury of the space was at first intimidating. It wasn’t stupidly luxurious but colors, the texture of the upholstery on which we sat, the quality of the linen napkin, the art on the walls gives you a choice. You can sit in stiff defiance or surrender to the comfort and care created for you, the diner. I surrendered as soon as I realized that the service staff were sweet, funny and dedicated to creating a space in which we would not feel intimidated. I wonder how many different personas they have to channel to create the same sense of comfort for the variety of people they encounter.
But it’s Robuchon, it’s definitely about the food. I chose the vegetarian option because I was curious to see how my meal would be different than Jonathan and Gillian’s. Basically it meant I ate a whole lot of black truffles and gold leaf instead of foie gras, langoustine, and A5 Wagyu, which was ok. Fifteen courses of rich, finely textured food was hard for me to get through so I’m grateful that my choices were marginally less filling. Like everyone who talks about the Robuchon experience you’re set up for the evening by the mind blowing bread and butter experience. I would have been content to forgo two or three courses and make up that tummy space in more tastes of bread and butter. Highlights were the Daikon Soup, though even to say though words seems ridiculous. The fuschia sweet beet amuse. I loved the surprise of the variety of tastes on the plate of scattered vegetables especially the radishes (Dipped? Wrapped? Coated?) in green tinted butter. So simple and so complex all at once. The food was extraordinary but the true gift of the level of execution of all aspects of the Robuchon dining experience is the cocoon of space created around you to delight in the company you’re in and the conversation you share.
And of course there’s that crazy sick poundcake you find a couple days later as you rummage through the gift bag handed to that you were too comatose to explore. As you stand there in your pjs in your disordered kitchen you again experience unparalleled luxury as your mouth plays with the essence of flour as air.
You can listen to Jonathan and I discuss the experience below: