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Not feeling the high price point.....

Couldn't agree more about Troquet. For some reason, I always forget about it except for pre-theatre, and then we go and say "we need to come here more often." Though I am not gettting the suckling pig again--I think I got it the last two times, and while it was good I think I have gotten a little too much pork belly done too often the same over the past few years. I am always absolutely floored by their pastas/gnocchis, oddly enough.

140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

Not feeling the high price point.....

I hope you like it! It always feels like a lot of responsibility to suggest to someone where to spend $300-$500, or even where to use up one meal in what is unfortunately a finite number of meals for all of us :)

As for posting, I had to make up for my first two posts being negative, to show that I wasn't one of the "slice of stubborn people who refuse to enjoy anything or who are looking to extort a meal," as one poster put it. And I've been procrastinating writing a whitepaper at work ;)

O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

No dessert defense, but I didn't press it either.

When I refer to levers that they could pull, I mean either: a) pricing goes down, or b) quality/innovation goes up.

She did provide "closure," but when I asked her if she wanted me to mention it on the board, she said no, so in deference to her wishes, I didnt' mention it and won't describe in what form. But I think it would be unfair to them not to acknowledge it in the face of a direction question.

O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

Ah, the water :) That's what my husband asked if I mentioned when I spoke with her. I think it bothered him more than almost anything else.

It is very difficult to be "worth" $1000 for a meal. I told my mom about this incident, and she said that the price was almost amoral, and I guarantee you, for her the amorality was not in the people serving it, but in the people willing to pay for it. I totally disagree with this assertion. I think that the high end of anything is where people really get to do the fun stuff, to be the most creative. When I look into the kitchen at Alinea, or Avenue and see all of those very young chefs and servers doing such technical things, and learning so much, I know I am looking at the next decade's great restauranteurs. I know they will redefine what great is--at the high end and the low end--and I look forward to it. In the absence of experiencing something great, one feels like a chump, and it is true, a bit of an amoral chump. So now it becomes my "moral responsibility" to ensure that whenever I pay astronomical amounts for food, I get an astronomical experience and don't simply under-write the establishment. Such a weighty burden ;)

Not feeling the high price point.....

For my money, I would try Clio, particularly if you haven't been there. Make sure you do the tasting menu, as we have never had a good experience ordering off of the menu. Personally, i think the 12-course menu is worth the money, and is a wonderful experience.

You asked a question earlier about the comparison between Clio and Craigie on Main, and which was more inventive. Clio is unquestionably more inventive. The menu changes frequently, so you're not likely to have the same experience. But it also changes deliberately, that is, the dishes are driven by what's fresh, and what's in season, but they are also "engineered." This is in contrast to Craigie on Main where the menus is always changing based on current availability. For myself, I have yet to be impressed by Craigie on Main. That said, I am not a foodie of the hyper-local stripe. I like chef's to take advantage of a full range of food. Certainly, using what is fresh and in season, but not overly limiting it by that. Craigie on Main always feels constrained to me by that aspect of their philosophy. Where Clio soars, taking advantage of live sea urchin when its in season, or the appropriate produce. Craigie on Main does do a lot of good stuff with pork, but with a father-in-law who is Cajun and makes some of the best meats around--and particularly pork products--whenever we visit Louisiana, I have never really been wowed by CoM's.

The one piece of the tasting menu at Clio that has always been the same, and is always welcome (to me) is the "tomato water martini" that they start with. It is tomato water, served with a tomato popsicle, some basil oil, and usually a very small slice of pickled jalapeno. It is a telling shot over the bow, as you get a sense for both how the "essence" of the ingredients will feature, as well as how innovatively they will be used. This particular innovation is at least seven years old, as that was the first time I had it, and yet it is still wonderful. But as I said, the menu has never been the same. It has been about two years since we last went, so I need to go again to see if it is still as it was. Some friends of ours went and didn't like it. But I'm not 100% sure I trust their judgement (he doesn't eat fish, which is a bit of a hindrance to appreciating a place like Clio).

Menton and O Ya were also thrown out. I think Clio is a better overall experience than either, to my palate, the food is better at Clio than at either,and you will pay less at Clio than either of the other options. We went to Menton shortly after it opened, and while the service and the technique were exceptional, nothing about the food really wowed or impressed me. The wines were very good. The overall price was around $800, too, so it was a very pricey meal. I just wrote about a fairly disappointing experience at O Ya--but that was my second time. For your first time, and if you don't get the tasting menu, O Ya can be a good experience, particularly from a food perspective. The tables are a little close, and the overall noise level is fairly low, so your neighbors can hear your conversation, which always irks me, and makes me not want to talk.

While Oleana and Clio are not comparable restaurants, I think value/$-wise they are. Personally, these are my two favorite restaurants in the Boston area. Oleana has exceptional food that is very inventive, and the wines are wonderful, particularly when you get help from the sommelier. Their wines are very different, and very well chosen (e.g. an amazing Croatian wine). The wine is one of my favoriate things about Oleana. Also, while it is true that the room is not amazing, it it not bad per se, and the patio is very nice. Oleana is my favorite place to take out-of-towners, because it is such a different place, and the food always wows people. And Oleana usually comes in around $200 for two people.

If you do go to Clio, ask for one of the corner seats; they are the most intimate and comfortable.

Good luck and have fun!

O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

Craigie on Main
853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

Commis [Oakland]: Make the Trip Over the Bridge!

When I have a really wonderful dining experience, I get positively giddy, occasionally skipping on the way out. When I look at a menu that surprises me and makes me giddy with anticipation, l literally giggle--and clap. It has been over a year since we ate at Commis, and it was the highlight of last year's dining experiences--definitely something that made me giddy. On the same trip, we went to "Redd" up in Yountville, which to our palates wasn't even in the same league. Unfortunately, since it has been over a year, I can't add the detail I would like to, but I did want to add my positive review.

The dish I remember most from our experience at Commis was a fluke tartare with a coriander snow, and something else black and more robust in flavor. This dish was outstanding, the best dish I ate in 2010. Fluke has to be SOOOO fresh to be good, and this was exactly that. The coriander snow only added a delicate boost to the fish, without in any way taking away from the beauty of the fish. It was also a ton of fish, which was very welcome, since it was so good.

Commis' space is lovely, spare and airy, and seems to fit the food perfectly. The wine pairings were great, and with the whole bill coming in at just over $200 with wine, it's hard to think of a better place to spend an evening in the Bay Area. In fact, if I had only one dinner to have during a trip to SF, it would be Commis. It is more original than some of the other "big restaurants," and literally refreshing. You will be smiling (or if you're like me, perhaps adding the odd skip to your step) when you leave because the experience is so pleasant-- pleasant on every axis you could measure.

3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

La Bottega del 30: Perfetto

La Bottega del 30 is everything you would envision for the star restaurant of your Tuscan vacation. This 1 star Michelin is quite literally tucked away in a little hamlet. Your GPS will struggle, but between the GPS and the good signage for hotels and restaurants, you’ll find it.
Once you do, you park in the town square, just off the road, and walk a few meters down to a very ramshackle old building, what looks like it can’t possibly be any younger than the 1500s, and certainly not built by one of the wealthier people in the village at the time. As you duck in the door, the chef, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, French, Helene Stroquelet greets you and guesses your name from the time and the size of your party. There are only 8 tables, so she’s probably usually right.
At first blush, it is reasonable to question if this might be more rustic that you’d planned for, if perhaps your tolerance for authenticity might be a little tried. But once you enter the heart of the restaurant, an open courtyard, those fears disappear.
We were seated in a small room just off the courtyard with a demi-lune window looking out to the cypresses and vineyards that typify the Tuscan country-side. Fortunately, the window faces west, so you know you’re in for a treat once the sun sets. Suffice it to say the atmospherics of La Bottega del 30 are perfect—and the food is nothing less.
After the sommelier comes over with the winelist, and the water is on the table, we were treated to a first salvo. The amuse bouche was an ingenious “ravioli.” The ravioli was made of two paper-thin sheets of parmesan cheese, each cut into a 4” circle. Somehow they stuck them together and put a light cream sauce inside. Then they deep fried the ravioli so that the result is a light, but very decadent “ravioli.” It’s served over a very small arugula salad. It tasted wonderful, kind of like high-end junkfood, and the arugula acted as a very nice counterpoint to the fat and salt of the parmesan ravioli.
After we had been suitably impressed by her talents with this amuse to take her guidance, the chef came over and asked us what we’d like to do for dinner, starting off with a description of her suggestion for the night. We immediately embraced this, and were off to the races.
The antipasti was a fried, stuffed zucchini flower, stuffed primarily with fresh porcini mushrooms (something you almost never get in the U.S.). We had not been impressed with any of the zucchini flower dishes we got in Rome, not really enjoying the combination of anchovy and mozzarella that is so prevalent there. As a result, we were very excited to try what we were pretty sure would be one of the better specimens of this particular dish. We were not disappointed. The porcini filling was great, and the flower itself was very good, a little meaty, and very nicely fried, with no sogginess.
The next course was unquestionably the highlight of the meal, and one of two dishes vying for the place of “best dish” for the entire trip to Italy. What this dish was, was a single large, ravioli, around 5.5 inches in diameter. Inside each ravioli was a single egg, and small amount of the traditional spinach and ricotta filling. The egg needs to be talked about a little more, b/c the yolk was in tact. Basically, they put the egg inside of the ravioli, cooked it for 2 minutes, and the result is a perfectly cooked “soft-boiled” egg. It also creates the impression of a “ravioli-in-a-ravioli.” Then there was the sauce. This was a light, truffle butter sauce, full of fresh truffles, which I assume must be the Italian summer truffles. Other summer truffles that we had were a little mild, but this sauce had been salted perfectly to bring out the flavor. The egg worked beautifully with the truffles, and the small amount of other filling was just enough to add some heft. It is my feeling that this egg treatment belies the chef’s French origins, as the French are the people who know how to turn an egg into something sublime, which this truly was. If there was ever a perfect fusion between Italian and French cuisine, I think this is it.
The secondi were good but definitely a step down or two from the antipasti and primi—which was our experience for every meal we had in Italy. One of us got the osso bucco, which was a good specimen, but nothing mind-blowing. The other of us got the pork dish, which was good, but would have benefited greatly from being cooked medium rare, rather than medium well. (thank you FDA for changing your recommendations and restoring this much-abused meat to us—at least in the U.S. ;) It would have been better than the osso bucco in that case.
I regret to say that I don’t remember our desserts. I know they were good, chocolatey, but I don’t remember much else (and no, I didn’t have too much to drink, I was pregnant, so just a few sips). We did get two coffees which were terrible, which was sort of surprising, given how much of their small kitchen was taken up by the espresso maker.
The service was perfect throughout –attentive, without hovering, and prompt without ever rushing. The wine list offered a very good selection of different Tuscan wines from many vintages, though I’ve forgotten what my husband ordered (as I said, it didn’t figure greatly in my meal).
The bill with a generous tip and one of the more expensive bottles on the list was less than 200 euros. Perfetto! La Bottega del 30 is something not to be missed when visiting Tuscany.

La Bottega del 30
Via di Santa Caterina,2, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Toscana 53019, IT

Jul 29, 2011
divinemissmoe in Italy

O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

***Update*** Yesterday I got a very discombobulating phone call from Nancy Cushman--discombobulating, first, because I wasn’t expecting it, and second, because I was unsure of what its tenor would be.
The call was in fact a very gracious call. First Mrs. Cushman apologized for our experience, particularly addressing how sorry she was that our anniversary had been overlooked. After a very sincere apology, she equally politely asked me how our experience could have been improved. Our conversation basically rehashed my review, as there really wasn’t much else I had to add, given my rather prolix post.
I was very impressed by several things. First, that they are watching these boards. I’m sure these boards can be a source of immense pride when the comments are positive, and when the converse is true, a source of great frustration. Naturally, when engaging with the negative there’s an element of damage control, but I believe there is a greater element of continuous improvement. And that to me is very heartening. I was also very impressed with how un-defensive Mrs. Cushman was. No one likes negative feedback, and being able to accept it graciously is a very great trait. I think this must be doubly difficult when you are in fact the “expert” receiving unsolicited (initially) feedback from someone who is not an expert.
My interaction with Mrs. Cushman doesn’t change the substance of my review—that the experience was not worth the cost when benchmarked against other similarly priced meals. But it does give me hope that a future experience at O Ya may be. Of course there are two levers to pull here. If they do decide to pull one of those levers, it will be interesting to see which one they pull. I would be happy with either.

O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

Hi, I did not read uhockey's review before we went this time. Mostly because I'd been before, and I don't usually agnoize over places I've been before--I expect them to be as they were, but hopefully positively evolved :) If they are not, then usually I give them another chance to redeem themselves-- depending on the price, the level of disappointment, and how positive my prior experience(s) were. O Ya won't be getting another chance from me.

O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

Wow, thanks for providing that link! I had not read it. Clearly, as my review states, I'd prefer to spend my money at Uni. Seeing how much of the style of Uni that O Ya poached really sort of turns your stomach. Oddly, when we went to Alinea in Chicago this January, it made me really appreciate Ken Oringer. He hasn't yet done anything quite at that level, but to my mind he comes closest. I say "yet," because he continues to amaze me, and when we went to Clio in 2005 it was as watershed for me as Alinea was in 2011. Without Ken Oringer, I shudder to think what the Boston food scene would be; in fact, I almost had a panic attack when I realized how important he is to my gastronomic enjoyment. This story about O Ya shows how much broader his positive influence is even than his restaurants--but it would be better if people's inspiration weren't quite so literal.

All right, I guess I went way off topic there :)

O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

Dear opinionated chef; I 100% agree with Barleywino and Bob. You SHOULD try O Ya. I am glad I tried it once. But I wish I hadn't tried it a second time because there is not much innovation in my opionion. That is precisely what I meant by the second half of the title: "one and done." Go once and then your done with the restaurant, b/c it won't offer much different in the future (but if you love some of the bites you can rest-assured they'll be there in the future). I also agree with them that taking charge of your meal is a good idea, and setting a price cap.

The $275/person grand tasting is a fixe price menu, with the items pre-selected for the evening, and again, I got it because in my other experiences, this type of menu is the one where the chef really has the latitude to show me what he or she thinks is a perfect menu. And it usually is an experience. Occasionally it is a bad experience that tells me I don't need to spend any more or money patronizing that restaurant. That was the kind of "experience" it was at O Ya.

Also, I have to note that none of the prices I quoted here are exaggerated. That's exactly what the grand tasting menu costs...and the water, and the sake. It certainly left me full (not my judge of a good meal--I was starving after my last trip to O Ya [after 14 courses] but still enjoyed it). What this meal didn't do is leave me with the feeling that this price was justified and I'd gotten a near $1000 dining experience. What I expect for $275/person is that the meal be 3-star michelin quality--I expect art. Those are the only other times I've paid that kind of price. O Ya is not 3-star michelin quality in terms of food or service; O Ya is not art, it is good food. For me, it was a very good restaurant to try once, and if they stray a little from the comfort of their staples, it will be a good restaurant to try again. But it is orders of magnitude away from being able to command the price they set for their grand tasting menu.

(... oh and avoid anything with the Ossetra Black River caviar if you like Osetra)

O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

I will work on posting more positive. I tend only be motivated to post when my experience is markedly different from existing reviews, so raving about say, Alinea doesn't seem necessary. But I will do more, lest it seem like I'm just a curmudgeon. I was embarrassed that after three years I hadn't posted any thing positive, and that the next review would be negative--and very much in the same vein.

O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

Actually, yes, they do serve it basically live, right out the shell (many times they remove the shell for presentation though), but the difference is staggering. I liked uni before I had it live, unfortunately, after I've really had a hard time liking it any other way. I think the season for uni starts in September. I've actually had it at Uni (which I guess shouldn't be a surprise) at Clio, and it was just to die for. As for the flying in, most of these guys fly even their freshest stuff in, I know for example that Sushi Yasuda in NYC does (they invested in a geiger counter after the earthquake to pacify customer concerns about radiation). Watch for the live stuff, it will change your gastronomic life :)

And to the beginning of JustBeingPolite's post, I would not have been prompted to post this were it not for the stratospheric price. That price simply forces one to think about the relative value. I think Uni's presentations, and Oishii's just as good, and more varied, and at typically 1/3 to 1/2 the price.

I would love nothing more than for O Ya to step up its game and be BETTER than it was the first time I went, and justify a $1000 meal. I would do cartwheels. It was actually with that expectation--that 3 years of evolution would be wonderful to experience--that I told my husband we should order the big tasting menu; I wanted to give the chef full reign to thoroughly impress me. Currently, I don't think it merits that cost, and when compared to Alinea, which is the same price point, it has a LONG way to go.

Of course there are some other restaurants in Boston that are now approaching the Alinea price point and don't come close--but I won't mention any more names :)

O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

O Ya… Consistency whittled down to the dull art of repetition; or One and Done

Last weekend we went to O Ya for the second (and last) time. The first time we had been was three years ago shortly after O Ya opened.

We went back this past weekend. This time we elected to get the “Grand Tasting Menu,” weighing in at a whopping $275 dollars and 21 courses. It was our 10th anniversary, so it seemed reasonable to get what we liked. This was a mistake.

One of the first things we noticed when we were there, were the number of dishes that were the same as the last time we were there three years ago. The entirety of the meal proved that O Ya had indeed managed the difficult to attain goal of “consistency,” but had whittled it down to the dull art of repetition. This was a shock, because when you’re paying that kind of money, you are paying largely for inventiveness. It appears that the chefs at O Ya had a burst of inventiveness a few years ago, and since then have resorted primarily to repetition. Even the last time I was there, I do remember being surprised that the menu we were offered was identical to the one a friend had gotten several months earlier. This is surprising because O Ya is a sushi restaurant; sushi restaurants typically rely on whatever is freshest to drive the menu. This is not the case with O Ya, at O Ya, the recipes dictate the menu, not the fish. This is one of the gripes that sushi purists (which I am not) have about this type of sushi restaurant—that the additional preparation dilutes one’s ability to appreciate the fish, and at worse masks low quality fish. I would not say that the quality of the fish was bad, but it is not the best, and at a sushi restaurant that dares to charge $275/person, it should be the best—regardless of the fanciness of the dressings.

There were two dishes where the fish really was outstanding (2 of 21), the wild ivory king salmon with spicy lemongrass curry sauce, toasted garlic and sesame, and the shima aji (amber jack) with Santa Barbara sea urchin, ceviche vinaigrette, and cilantro. However, to appreciate the amber jack, you had to remove the sea urchin, which totally overwhelmed the amber jack.

That brings us to another point. There were two dishes with sea urchin (uni). The uni was clearly not live uni, which just doesn’t seem right at an ultra-high end sushi restaurant. I realize that there are times when uni is not in season, but it seems like a restaurant like O Ya shouldn’t serve it when it’s out of season and not fresh—particularly when it is not additive and masks the taste of fresher fish.

The second issue, is again with quality of ingredients, and a bit of near-misrepresentation. Two of the “courses” said they had Ossetra caviar—from the black river. You might reasonably think, and particularly at $275/person, that this would be real osetra caviar, from the Caspian or the black sea. But in fact it is not. That was immediately proved out upon tasting it; it had none of the rich nuttiness of real osetra caviar. Instead it had a briny, sea taste, even a little fishy. Not at all what I had hoped for. Further research shows that the Black river has nothing to do with the Black sea (very clever marketing though, as people might assume such a relationship). In fact, this Black river—or rather Rio Negro—appears to be in Uruguay, the caviar harvested from Russian born sturgeon farmed in Uruguay. I am a caviar purist, and I love really good caviar. I do enjoy the lesser varieties too, and have served them in my home. But when I serve them, I feel duty-bound to refer to the origin of the caviar, both location and type of fish, since it does help people to set their expectations. Clearly no such compunction governs O Ya. The caviar was served in one instance with sea urchin, in which case the bite was a mushy mess of fishiness. In the other instance, it was served on top of an “onsen” egg, which looked to be a slow-cooked egg with a partially set yolk. In the latter instance, it was so sad to have the lesser quality caviar, because the egg was very good and would have been perfectly augmented with real osetra. But the much harsher, fishier taste of the black river caviar only detracted.

I was impressed with one piece of sourcing that O Ya did. There was a lovely dish of a sea scallop served with sake sea urchin jus, chervil and Australian winter perigord truffle. The dish itself was wonderful, and the slice of the Australian truffle was wonderful, a wonderful option for when black truffles are not in season in the Northern hemisphere. We had just returned from Italy, where we got our fill of the Tuscan “bianchetto” truffles, which are much milder in flavor, and this black truffle was a real treat.

Before I close, I have to talk a little about price, because this is honestly one of the biggest issues I have with this meal. Our meal at O Ya rang in at $830 with tip (we were not overly generous as we didn’t think the meal or service merited it, giving only %15). $830 included two $275/person Grand Tasting Menus, one $12 glass of bad, cheap champagne, on $12 bottle of sparkling water (we would have gotten more, but were offended that we were being soaked on water, on a meal that would weigh in near $1000), and $120 sake pairing. I’d like to put this cost into perspective. 275/person is more than it costs to eat at Alinea in Chicago, which rings in at $250/person for 24 courses. Alinea is a 3-star Michelin restaurant and deserves every point of each star, and perhaps more, for every facet of the meal. Alinea is the best meal I have ever had—by leaps and bounds. I would love to go on about Alinea, and how truly wonderful it is, but this is a review about O Ya. The point about Alinea is, if we had both gotten the sake tasting (as we both got the wine pairings at Alinea), this meal would have cost us the same as Alinea, with far inferior food, alcohol and service. Perhaps you are saying that this is not a fair comparison, Alinea is not a sushi restaurant. OK, so let’s compare O Ya to some sushi restaurants. Sushi Yasuda, in NYC cost us less than $200 for two omakase, and 3 carafes of sake. Sushi Yasuda is the best sushi I have ever eaten, where the fish is literally orders of magnitude better than any other fish, and where even the rice is a wonder. Uni, the sashimi bar at Clio in Boston, typically sets us back about $350. At Uni, the fish drives the menu, making the omakase different and interesting, and the wines exceptionally well-chosen. Uni is always a pleasant experience that I savor; at O Ya, rather than anticipating the remaining courses, I felt held hostage by them. Oishii too, in Boston, is a much better value for the Omakase, and is much more inventive.

The final insult at O Ya came at the end of the meal, and came as a one-two punch. First, they asked us if we would like to see the dessert menu. Really? A $275 Grand tasting menu doesn’t include dessert? I had just assumed that they didn’t do desserts, and that the foie gras and chocolate nigiri was our dessert. But nope, you can have dessert, you just have to pay a little more. And then the final insult. We were presented our bill, without anything acknowledgement of our 10-year anniversary—this despite the facts that the person who showed us to our table confirmed the reason for our visit, and that O Ya does engage in such “pedestrian” traditions, as we saw by the people next to us were brought a surprise birthday dessert.

O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Las Vegas

I would strongly caution against this restaurant. It is not the dining experience it ought to be given the cost. We ate here in October and got the tasting menu, two beers, one bottle of what should have been very modestly priced wine, but with the mark-up was not, and the cost was $500 for two. I am more of a food person than a service person, but at this price, I expect more, I expect an experience. I expect to be wowed by the food and have at least one thing that really blows me away. There was no dish in this meal that did that. That coupled with bad service made the whole thing an actively unpleasant experience. Part of the unpleasantness was in knowing early on that we were going to pay $500 for a mediocre experience and had no ability to affect that outcome--save not ordering another bottle of wine.

So, to the review. First of all, it really irritates me that one of the "courses" was simply the amuse bouche. That became somewhat symbolic of the whole meal. Instead of seeming gracious and inviting, everything seemed programmed and laser-focused on extracting as much money from your wallet as possible, with as little return to you the customer as possible. Our meal was very similar to everyone else's. The fact that the menu changes so little contributes to my irritation. How can you be considered an "innovative" chef, if you just stick to the same bag of tricks, night after night?

The "first course" was a cucumber water shot with some cumin and fennel. Nice and refreshing, but again, this is a palette cleanser, it should NOT be enumerated on the menu. No sooner had we set our spoons down than our plates were whisked away and the second course appeared. At this point we hadn't even received the beers we'd ordered when we first sat down. We realized at this point that we were going to be rifling through our nine courses if we didn't ask them to slow down the pace. So, we asked our incompetent server to wait to bring out the third course till after we had finished our beer.

The second course was an andalusian-style gazpacho, so blended tomatoes with some vinegar. It was very good, but I make this at home, and mine tastes pretty much the same, so not what I want to pay $500 for. Both our hearts sank when the people next to us said that that was the best thing of the night.

Once we finished our beers, as requested, the third course, the langostine carpaccio was brought out. However, while he had followed the letter of our nstruction, he did clearly hadn't informed the chef, so the carpaccio was warm! Despite having sat and gotten warm for 15 mintes, this actually quite good, though it needed salt. This contributed to my feeling that we were in a factory, rather than a very nice restaurant.

Before I go onto the rest of the meal, I have to make a brief digression and discuss the wine situation. First of all, there appears to be a strategy at L'Atelir Joel Robuchon of not having any of the wines listed actually in stock. However, rather than offer you something similar on the list that is slightly more expensive (what I believe is the accepted practice), they bring you out a wine that is not on the list, and which generally retails for about half of what the wine you initially suggested. This happened to us, and to three other couples while we were there! And we had all ordered different things. When we asked for a description of the wine, the person acting as sommelier totally mis-characterized the wine. He described it as having a hint of oak, when in fact it was extraordinarily oaky. Even better than all of this, the price you pay for wine determines what type of glass you get, not the actual wine. So, the people next to us got the same varietal, but got a smaller glass. We had a bordeaux glass in which to drink our chardonnary, and anther couple who apparently hadn't ordered an expensive enough cab was drinking it from a very small pinot-gris type glass. Oh, and our waiter didn't know where the Champagne region of France was...

The next course was the oysters. However, they substituted our oysters. Instead of the kussey, they gave us kumamoto. But the didn't mention the substitution until they placed it in front of us, and then,they did not acknowledge that it was a substitution. Then, later in the night, our neighbors did receive the kussey oysters. Irritating.

At this point our waiter apparently decided to punish us for asking that we be allowed a little more time in between courses, as we had to wait an inordinate amount of time between courses. The next course was the egg cocotte with mushrooms, etc. This too was very good, but not spectacular. But, this was the last good savory thing we had. After this course, the wheels completely fell off.

Up till the 6th course, the dinner had basically been marred by bad service. The food was pretty good. Not good enough to justify the cost, but good enough that if the service hadn't been bad, it would have been a very pleasant experience, just not one that got into our restaurant rankings.

The 6th course was a halibut that was flat out disgusting. It smelled like fish (which if anyone thinks this is OK, it is not, fresh fish does not smell fishy, only when the proteins start to putrefy do you get a fishy smell). I suppose to make up for the poor quality of the fish, they decided they'd better over-cook it to make sure we didnt get sick. And, as a result it was dry and card-board textured. Yuck. And the sauce? What sauce. You'd think they'd at least resort to the old trick of making a fantastic sauce to mask a sub-par piece of meat, but not so. Our grenobloise sauce was just a couple of chopped up vegetables without even an attempt at flavor. We didn't even finish it. In fact, we left it pretty much in tact after a few bites. When we told the waiter how disappointing this was, he said that it was so that the comparison with the quail would make the quail even better.

Sadly, even being set off against such a terrible predecessor, the quail was the biggest disappointment of the night. We had really been looking forward to it. But, the meat was over-cooked, and the foie gras some how managed not to taste. The potatoes were good, but come on, anything with that much butter and cream will taste good. That's not hard. It had so much butter and cream, that the texture was like a paste.

The desserts were good. However, the papaya and banana did not work at all. Separately though they were nice.

Definitley won't be going back. I always worry about this type of restaurant that trades on a brand rather than the quality of the food. I suppose it was no worse than it should be.

Dec 04, 2007
divinemissmoe in Southwest

Joel Robuchon at the Mansion. Las Vegas

Hello, I had a very, very, similar experience at l'Atelier. Horrible service, good food, but certainly not worth the price ($500 for two with two beers, and one bottle of wine that retails for about $25, but was of course $80 on their list) But I was wondering, would you mind providing some of the restaurants you liked in Vegas? I find over and over again that everything is over-priced, trading on brand rather than food.

Dec 04, 2007
divinemissmoe in Las Vegas