May 7 - 10, 2009
This was the second year I attended. Its full name is The 3rd Annual Vegas Uncork'd. Click here for the schedule (in PDF format). I only attended two events this year:
Theater in the Kitchen at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon;
Do You Want Some Cheese With That Whine?
Before getting to a description of the events, let me give a big raspberry to the organizers for their botched handling of online ticket sales. Their web site promised that tickets would be mailed out 30 to 45 days before the events. This was not to be - at least for me, and a couple of other people I talked to. About three weeks prior to Vegas Uncork'd, I called, and after a lengthy time on hold was told that the tickets had not yet been mailed out. This was a big problem for me, as I was soon leaving for an extended vacation, and wouldn't be home to received my tickets.
I was put on hold again, and was then told not to worry; I could pick up my tickets in Las Vegas at Will Call.
The inevitable question: "Where is Will Call?"
The answer: "We don't know yet." Call back a couple of days before the event."
Fast forward to a couple of days before Vegas Uncork'd. I call back, and ask about Will Call. I'm told that, for each event, Will Call will be located in the hotel at which the event in question is being held. Get there no more than one hour ahead of time, and the tickets will be there. They couldn't tell me exactly where in each hotel the location would be.
Fast forward to the first event. I get to the hotel an hour ahead of time, and no one has any idea about what I'm talking about: not the concierge, not the box office, not restaurant reservations, not the front desk, not the restaurant at which the event is to be held. Eventually, event organizers appeared, and allowed as how they had a list of all ticket purchasers. All was well, but not before I was really ticked off.
Not a good start for the event.
Theater in the Kitchen: L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
The cuisine of Joël Robuchon and performances by members of Cirque du Soleil's KÀ. How could I resist?
For those of you not familiar with L'Atelier, it's the less formal of two restaurants opened by Joël Robuchon in the MGM Grand Hotel. There are a few small tables at L'Atelier, but the real action is at the food counter, with its 24 stools. Just behind the counter is an open kitchen.
Tonight, no one would be sitting. Around 50 lucky ticket holders milled about, drinking champagne and wine, and stuffing their faces with morsels of food that were either passed across the food counter, or brought directly to us on serving trays.
Here's the menu:
There were a few surprise items as well. One that comes to mind was a perfectly prepared oyster. Another was a set of superb sorbets, bursting with flavor and wonderfully tart. The food was every bit as good as I remember from my numerous trips to the restaurant. I somehow managed to try everything - more than once, in some cases!
While all of this was happening, performers from KÀ were just a couple of feet away, sometimes wandering among the diners. Both very strange and very entertaining.
The famous Monsieur Robuchon, looking at one of the performers from KÀ:
One of the performers. She had a great voice.
Sorry about the picture quality; it was quite dark, and getting an
unobstructed view was pretty tricky.
Another performer, of the magician persuasion. See the video clip, below.
I also recorded a few brief seconds of some of the performances:
Haunting song. I'm pretty sure this was from KÀ. I have no idea if the "words" were real or just sounds. To give you an idea of how close she was, notice another diner's video screen (at about 2 seconds into the performance).
Brief shorties. About two seconds of some very interesting looking, and very tiny, characters.
This was one of the more memorable events I've attended in my two years at Vegas Uncork'd. The KÀ performers added a note of fantasy to the experience, and the excellent food topped it off.
Cost: $95. A bargain!
I went to the Grand Tasting last year, and was very impressed. It was the best such tasting I had attended, so of course I had high hopes this year.
Last year, it was held in a tent at Caesars Palace. This year, it was held around Caesars' pool area - a definite improvement. Last year, it was crowded. This year, it seemed even more so. Lines were long, and one got to know other attendees a bit more intimately than one might have desired. However, I didn't find it obnoxious, and it certainly wasn't as crowded as some other tastings I've attended.
Last year, I included a detailed description of each of the items I ate. This year, I didn't even try. My overall impression is that it was about as good as 2008 - no small feat. One of the more memorable dishes: Wing Lei's smoked duck, a generous slice of meat that was wonderfully smoky and tender.
Last year, I was incredibly lucky that Vegas Uncork'd was held during my trip. This time, I was just plain smart, and scheduled my trip accordingly. Recommend to all gourmets, gourmands, epicures, chowhounds, foodies and just plain gluttons.
Index of Restaurants