Restaurant: é by José Andrés
Location: 3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109. 702.698.7000 (Cosmopolitan)
Date: September 24, 2011
Cuisine: Modern Spanish
Rating: Mind blowing dinner theatre
Our continuing epic Foodie Club Vegas venture brings us to é, José Andrés’ latest restaurant within a restaurant in Vegas. Earlier in the year we hit up Saam, a similar concept in LA. For those of you who don’t know, José Andrés is one of America’s leading chefs, a disciple of the world shatteringly original Ferran Adria. He apprenticed at elBuli in Spain before moving to Washington DC. My parents found him there at Cafe Atlantico fifteen or so years ago and we’ve been fans ever since. He is certainly America’s leading practitioner of modern Spanish cooking. But you can find some other examples here and in Spain. Calima, La Terraza, his own The Bazaar, Trés, and Saam.
é is a secret 8 person (2 seating) restaurant located in the back of Jaleo, also by José Andrés, which is a more conventional tapas and paella restaurant.
Half of the tiny room.
Behind the counter. One of the cool things about é is that the food is plated and prepped right in front of you.
One of the young chefs at work stirring a witches brew of nitrogen and alcohol.
Then finishing off the starter cocktails.
A kind of deconstructed nitro gin and tonic. We have nitro frozen gin, lime, and “tonic foam.”
This is a version before the foam was added so you can see the gin itself. Nitrogen is cold enough that alcohol can be frozen without ice (water). This leads to an ultra-smooth texture and a much higher alcohol concentration.
At work on the next course.
Presented in a cast of José Andrés’ hand is “Spanish Clavel” (some dehydrated fruit thing shaped like a flower) and to the left, caramelized pork rinds. The rinds were sweet and crunchy, very light and airy (for lard). The “clavel” was more about a bit of flavor burst and texture than any massive substance.
Our vegetarian was treated to a pringles-style version of potatoes-bravos (potatoes in spicy mayo) instead of the rinds.
Next course. Is that food?
Due to the difficulty in matching this cuisine with wine, we ordered the beverage pairings. These mix all sorts of cocktails, beers, wines, and who knows what with additional fun theatrics. There was even a non-alcoholic variant available.
This particular “flight” was Spanish cava in a machismo decanter where you are supposed to raise it as high as you can and pour it into your mouth. Due to my full-on lack of machismo and concern for my shirt, I didn’t lift it very high.
“Apple Brazo de gitano” is like edible styrofoam filled with a white apple filling.
It melted in the mouth and was actually quite delicious. Pairing nicely with the apple was a stripe of caramel.
A non-alcoholic tomato and watermelon drink.
“Nitro almond cup.” The black stuff was caviar, the cup itself (but not the rocks) edible and cold. Inside was a kind of almond foam. I’m not sure what the cup was made of. It had about the consistency of nitro-frozen foie gras, which possibly it was.
“Crispy chicken skin in escabeche.” This was a lump of chicken on some chicken skin with a complementary foam. It tasted very chickeny — in a good way.
“Membrillo and la serena cone.” A little edible cone filled La Serena cheese and membrillo (quince) paste. So it’s like slathering this paste on cheese and toast, which is amazing by itself. This is typical of this cuisine, taking these traditional combinations and blending them in new shapes and textures.
“Black Olives Ferran Adria.” Instructions on how to make these can be found here. The pureed juice of the olives is coated in a thin gel. The olive bursts easily in the mouth, exploding intense oliveness into the mouth.
“Bocata de calamares.” This is a mini brioche sandwich containing Uni, mayo, cucumber, and scallion. It’s a riff on a traditional beach food. It was certainly delicious, as almost any hot seafood in such a roll would be.
An inside peek.
A really whacky tasting blend of sherry and beer!
“José Taco.” Jamón Ibérico de Bellota with a blob of real caviar. This ham is regarded as the best in Spain, and among the best in the world. They are fed on acorns. Salt on salt here. A very savory combination.
Sphere making at work.
“Cava sangria.” This is a sphererized white sangria (made with cava). Inside is a bit of watermelon and mint. Basically like a burst of the drink in your mouth.
A ginger beer.
“Artichoke puree with vanilla.” These are little hearts of artichoke with vanilla foam.
“Lobster with citrus & jasmine.” Delectable. I can’t remember if the foam was the citrus or the jasmine. The mousse was the other. The lobster itself was tender and succulent.
The vegetarian version, eggplant instead of lobster.
A surprise visit from the executive chef, José Andrés himself!
“Cel phones and cameras are the bane of the modern chef,” he commented. :-) But he was game to pose with everybody in series.
A non-alcoholic carbonated sangria.
“Chickpea stew with iberico ham.” The garbonzo beans were sphereized which makes them pop in your mouth. A sort of ham and bean soup — and a very good one.
The vegetarian received José’s amazing gazpacho.
This stuff is so good I’ve taken to making it at home.
Cucumber, sugar, and fruit “margarita.”
The show goes on.
There is an egg under that crispy thing.
Then a kind of bouillabaisse broth is added.
“Catch of the day.” A turbot steamed, with black garlic and little citrus spheres. Very nice and light.
One of several nice Spanish wines.
Pouches at the ready.
“Rosemary wild mushrooms in papillote.” Sautéed, then heated with a rich cream and mushroom sauce in the bag.
Pop. These are “lobster mushrooms” with a really thick meaty texture and almost lobster/abalone like flavor.
The rosemary foam complemented perfectly.
Finally a red!
To go with the “secreto of iberico pork.” This is Spain’s most famous pig, here roasted with rosemary and garlic. The cut is fatty, from behind the shoulder.
And served with chanterelle mushroom, black truffle, and balsamic.
The vegetarian got Vegetarian Paella.
And close up.
A medium sweet sherry.
“Orange pith puree with la serena cheese and crisp.” The cheese (which you can’t see) is like a Spanish goat Vacheron (one of my favorite cheeses). So this stood in as the “cheese course.”
And tweezer work.
“Flan.” Flan with a granite of fruit. In any case it tasted like amazing Hawaiian shave ice (the kind with the ice cream).
A kind of chocolate coffee.
Back to work.
“Pan con chocolate aceite y sal.” Basically a big blob of whipped cream, crispy nitro frozen chocolate and high quality Spanish olive oil and salt. You’d think this wouldn’t work, but boy does it.
The sweet and salty and olive oily combo is very interesting and very Spanish.
“Arroz con leche.” A little cone of creme and fruit (lime?) fillings. Yum.
“25 second bizcocho.” This is a 25 second microwave version of some kind of traditional pastry. It was light, fluffy, with a soft citrus cream (the yellow blobs).
“Gin and Tonic.” This is a lovely and more traditional variant on the drink. The bitter tone of the tonic was actually kind of settling.
“Air chocolates.” Puffed white and milk chocolate rice crispy treats (without the rice crispies). Somehow the texture is manipulated into this form.
“Fizzy paper.” This is a crispy sugar confection that tastes like citrus pop-rocks. Very pleasant actually.
Overall this was a staggeringly fun meal. The combination of the playful yet delicious food, the theatrics, and the intimate little cluster of eight people (all of whom were diehard foodies — this being a very hard reservation to get) made for a really fun evening. I’m heading back to Saam in a few days so I can get a head to head comparison, but as it stands é seems to have a leg up on it, particularly in such as the smaller format with the plating in front of you is more intimate and fun.
Another amazing fact about this seemingly immense meal is that it was not in the least overwhelming. In fact, afterward us hardcore foodies went and had an entire second (albeit smallish) three-course meal outside at Jaleo. Those less dedicated to gluttony went to gamble. It’s also worth noting that the service was fantastic and very attentive in é, they may have had four or five staff members to our eight guests!
It’s also worth noting that é only allows non-flash photography. And it’s fairly dark. For me, with my 5D mark II, a fast 2.5 F-stop macro, and 6400 ISO this was no problem. But if you’re trying on a snapshot or with a cellphone, forget it.
Overall an 11/10. Different, but a little more playful and approachable than the previous night’s Twist.
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