French chef Joël Robuchon finds big restaurants too ceremonial. So it's fitting that his first stateside venture, opening next month at Las Vegas's mammoth MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 877/880-0880), is a pair of intimate restaurants: Joël Robuchon at the Mansion and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. At the 60-seat Mansion, he has culinary carte blanche to work with the finest ingredients (foie gras, caviar, Kobe-quality beef); the best table in L'Atelier, as in the restaurant's Paris and Tokyo locations, is a seat at the bar. We asked the peripatetic chef for his favorite place to pull up a stool: "Fifteen years ago I followed Ferran AdriÀ's advice to go to the rustic Nou Manolín [3 Calle Villegas, Alicante; 34-96/520-0368; dinner for two $41]. They have the best tapas in Spain: Josselito ham, gazpacho, fresh-caught shrimp a la plancha."
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