Joël Robuchon at the Mansion

One of our many memorable meals at this palace of gastronomy included an appetizer as part of a 15-course degustation, or tasting menu. It was composed of a micro-thin, perfectly round pastry wafer, a thin layer of crème fraiche, and a blanket of round, thin shavings of black truffle. It was one of those creations one hesitates to eat, so as not to destroy it. The maitre d’ here said the dish took, incredibly, 18 minutes to plate. It’s that type of meticulousness that separates Robuchon from the rest.

The chef’s menus are seasonal, but look for dishes such as lobster en cocotte, an amazing langoustine ravioli topped with black caviar, and potato salad laced with truffle and foie gras shavings that your mother never made.

Well-known for labor-intensive and visually stunning dishes, and for his vast knowledge of food chemistry, Robuchon was voted Chef of the Century in a French poll. Are we even qualified to argue?

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House-Smoked Salmon Pizza, Spago

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House-Smoked Salmon Pizza, Spago

Wolfgang Puck pioneered the California-style pizza, using nouveau ingredients that go well beyond sausage and pepperoni. The smoked salmon pizza has been a mainstay at Spago throughout the years, but it’s not on the menu. A thin-crust pizza is built with crème fraîche and silky smoked salmon, then topped with an only-in-Beverly-Hills twist: caviar and gold leaf. Each bite is worth every penny—all 3,700 of ’em! $27, $37 (with caviar), in the Forum Shops at Caesars, 369-6300.