Dining

Robuchon on $89 a night

Living the high life on a low budget

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The birthday boy and I sink into a semi-circular booth of deepest violet velvet, with simply the view to have of Joël Robuchon’s opulent dining room—black, white, purple and gold with a touch of sophisticated whimsy. Smiling till it really does hurt, we accept two glasses of rosé champagne and share a toast, with memories of the limo ride from Summerlin fresh in our minds, the scent of our brief pass through the MGM Grand’s Mansion fresh on our clothes. White flowers, heady and lingering.

It’s got to be the best deal in town: complimentary limo to the Mansion, a three-plus-course dinner at Robuchon’s Mobil Five Star, Michelin Three Star and AAA Five Diamond restaurant for just $89 per person, and a second limo ride to wherever the night may take us after the reverie. If this is the new high life, I’ll take it, s’il vous plaît.

When the menus arrive, we discover that Andrew’s comes complete with the prices, while mine, “for the lady,” I presume, is sans. But before my feminist alter-ego can rise from her velvet seat to protest, I remember this classic old-world dining detail, and decide to try on the role of charming date for once instead of reporter on a Mansion mission.

I grew up dining at my uncle’s restaurant ventures, knowing what an amuse-bouche was long before I would ever master long division, so I’m perfectly happy lapping up whatever Joël Robuchon wants to throw at us. But nothing could have prepared me for the bread cart.

The bread waiter wheels his wares over, parking them in front of our booth. We lean in to listen as, in the softest voice, and with the crispest comportment, he rattles off the selection. Rustic baguette. Olive. Asiago cheese. Twenty at least, we meet them all. “Buttermilk biscuit!” the Bread Whisperer proclaims, as proud as a man has ever been about a plate of rolls. My mouth waters from this slow, deliberate tour de pain, this bread porn. We select, he approves, and he hastens away to warm our slices.

When our service team—and they are numerous—drops off the amuse-bouche, I squeal over the precious tin of caviar over crab and leek cream, to be eaten with an itty-bitty spoon. Oh! My soul is starved for this brand of lavish treatment, the staff’s dutiful and calm manner of address, the weight of silver in my hand.

Like a Japanese tea ceremony, the wine ritual follows along with my duck and foie gras with cherries and almonds and Andrew’s beef with spiced spinach and crunchy vegetables. We swoon over our own plates as well as each other’s. My duck has enough velvety foie for every bite. But there was no question that the French cuisine, with its nod to Asia, would be outstanding. Mild as lambs, we let the staff guide us to satiety. After the dessert course, cappuccinos arrive accompanied by another cart, this one positively heaped with mignardises, those petite truffles, chocolates and candied fruits. We swoon anew.

Finding respite from all this dense formality where else but the ladies room, I am overwhelmed, certain that at any moment they’re going to figure out my big secret. That I don’t in fact belong in Robuchon’s big French picture. That I’m just a local eking the most out of some cosmic culinary loophole that gives so much for so little. But no, no firm hand finds me, except for a much-needed squeeze from Andrew to assure me that yes, this is exactly where I belong tonight.

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