E by Jose Andres, Las Vegas

I saved the best of Vegas for last. The best was the night that I ate at James Beard Foundation Award winning chef Jose Andres’ molecular gastronomy focused restaurant e
 Here’s the thing…e isn’t in plain sight. And there isn’t a phone number. You have to be really sure that you want to eat there, because you have to make a reservation by email a month in advance. And I mean a month in advance to the MINUTE – only 16 people a night can eat there, 8 at each seating. 
 And…oh yeah…the restaurant isn’t in plain sight. You walk through Andres’ casual Spanish restaurant Jaleo, go behind the bar through a secret door, and dine in total privacy from the diners outside.
Basically, you are James Bond, tapas-style.
The special treatment starts immediately – the moment I approached Jaleo, Anthony, an exuberant and affable man, greeted me and asked if I was Sarah. Don’t ask me how he knew, but he did. He led my party to the bar and insisted we order a cocktail before dinner, since we weren’t doing the wine pairing.
Well, okay…if you twist my arm.  
This was the Sangra y Fuego, made with Mezcal, house-made sangrita, cherry liqueur
and sweet vermouth. This sounds like it might be sweet, but it wasn’t really – just in the way that BBQ sauce might be sweet. It was mostly smoky and a little meaty from that rich Mezcal, with the cherry coming through right at the end. This was almost like a beefy Bloody Mary – it was really interesting and totally delicious for those of you who love, as I do, savory drinks. It was unexpected and like nothing else I had ever tasted – a harbinger of things to come that night. 
Picture via ThinkFoodGroup
After our (AWESOME!) tablemates arrived, we all shimmied behind the bar, and escaped from the raucous, casual atmosphere of Jaleo to the subdued, whimsical atmosphere of e. A tiny room with one curved bar set in the middle, we all sat down and met our chef, Edwin. Edwin, who was at once serious about his work and a total ham on the stage that was this restaurant, told us that the meal would be cooked directly in front of us and explained to us at each course. And with that…the odyssey began. 
 Gin and Tonic sorbet and foam. The top of the dish was a tonic foam and the bottom was a gin sorbet, frozen with liquid nitrogen. There was also some Meyer lemon puree at the bottom, adding some sweetness to the natural acidity and bitterness of the dish. It was, at first, just like a mild Slurpee, but as the sorbet melted in my mouth, I tasted the alcoholic kick of gin and the faint sharpness of the tonic water. It was foreign yet totally familiar.
 Spanish “Clavel.” This raspberry candy, crunchy and tasting both tart and sweet, just like the fresh raspberry, were served on a whimsical dish shaped like a hand. Shaped, specifically, like Jose Andres’ hand.
Seemed like a big hand. 
And you know what they say about big hands…
That’s what she said.
 Caramelized Pork Rinds. Crunchy, slightly sweet crackers with an insanely meaty taste. Like honey glazed ham in cracker form. 
 Beet Jewelry. 
 Sugary, earthy, slightly greasy in a pleasing way – like a potato chip. Dusted with gold. Somewhere between salty and sweet. 
 Apple “Brazo di Gitano.” Tart green apple meringue surrounded a light but surprisingly rich blue cheese espuma. The espuma was like a mousse, but more “melty” and even lighter. The cheese was pungent and contrasted so well with the crunchy mousse that almost disappeared in the mouth. The walnut paste on top added a fatty and meaty component that really completed the apple, cheese and nut “salad.” Once again…familiar but foreign. 
 Crispy Chicken Skin in Escabeche. The chicken oyster is the part of the thigh that is the most tender, the sweetest and the meatiest part of the chicken. If I ever make you chicken, chances are that I have already eaten the oyster. It is just the essence of chicken. This oyster was served caramelized on the outside but juicy within, served on a crispy crackling and topped with woodsy thyme foam. I could have easily eaten about 12 of these. 
 Jose Taco – Iberico Ham topped with Caviar, and Fried Artichoke topped with a raw quail egg and caviar. The “taco” was, no question, the BEST taco I have ever eaten. The smooth and delicate ham melted upon my tongue, leaving behind fat and salt that echoed the briny taste and tiny “pop” of the caviar. My tablemate Patty said that the artichoke was one of her favorite bites of the night: a single bite of earthy artichoke, unctuous quail egg and that slightly fishy and salty caviar. 
It hit all major food groups – fatty, salty, fried. What’s not to like?
 Bocata de Calamares- Brioche, scallions, aioli, cucumber and…
 UNI! That seafood of the Gods, custardy sweet, salty with brine and umami-rich as pate de foie gras. Combined with fresh cucumber, biting scallion and the rich aioli complimenting the uni’s creamy texture, the buttery brioche was sturdy enough to contain this completely but soft enough to eat almost without chewing. 
I could eat a foot-long one of these. 
 Sandria. Watermelon soaked in sangria. The watermelon’s light flavor made the sangria taste richer and more alcoholic – as if it was brandy based, or some rich and buttery liquor like that. This was certainly delicious, but not the most inventive dish of the night. 
 Ajo Blanco. Ajo Blanco is a traditional Spanish soup that is made with bread, almonds and garlic. Of course, Jose had to spark it up a little. This was a deconstructed version, with the mild soup surrounded by raw almonds, toasted marcona almonds, PX Jiminez Gelee, Green Grapes, Tomato and Manzanilla Sherry Ice and Mircorgreens. This was a revelation. To take the soup with each of the accompaniments was a new mouthful each time – sweet with the gelee, pungent with the ice, savory with the grapes, hearty with the microgreens.
 Maine Lobster with Citrus and Jasmine. The lobster was tender enough to cut with a fork, buttery and totally devoid of any sense of fishiness. The citrus cut through the richness, and the jasmine brought a floral, ethereal taste to such a rich dish. 
 Chickpea Stew with Iberico Ham and Parsley Oil. This blew my mind. IT was solely made of chickpeas and Iberico ham, and when I put one of the “chickpeas” in my mouth, it exploded and let loose an intensely chickpea-tasting liquid. These speherical chickpeas were another one of Andres’ playful takes on food that I thought I knew. He managed to show me that there are still flavors and textures I don’t know. The chickpea flavor was so rich and earthy that it made the ham seem light by comparison. Salty, hearty, with the herby kick of the parsley – this was my favorite dish of the night. 
 Catch of the Day – Turbot with Black Garlic. One of my dining companions, a fish hater, proclaimed this “the most steak like fish in the world,” and scarfed it down before I could snag a bite. The Turbot was thick, moist, and heartier than most fish, along with tangy black garlic that had no bite at all. It was all tang and sweetness, melding with the fish’s savory flavors. Tiny citrus pearls on top brightened the fish and added another dimension of flavor. I could not imagine a more satisfying fish dish. 
 Morels in cream. 
 with rosemary foam. Woodsy, deep, meaty, creamy, umami. There was nothing new or inventive about the dish, and that alone was a shock in this meal full of unexpected turns. 
 Secreto of Iberico Pork. This was served with porcini mushrooms, both raw and cooked. The pork comes from the shoulder blade of the Iberico Pig, and is cooked to medium wellness – still pink but not at all dripping juices or red. This is a perfect degree of doneness for this cut of meat – rare enough to stay tender and retain the taste of the pork, bu done enough to have some caramelizing on the outside of the beef. The mushrooms were hearty and toothsome, and the raw mushrooms were particularly fragrant – almost truffle – like in their aroma.
*Before I talk about dessert, I really must give kudos to the amazing staff of this tiny restaurant. From vivacious and trivia spouting Anthony to the charming and dedicated Edwin to everyone who filled my glass before I realized it had emptied, the entire staff exuded joy and passion. It was a well-choreographed dance, with nary a step out of place nor a spilled drink, nor a lag in the meal. It was well paced and expertly served, and more than that – everyone was happy to be there. They clearly love food and wine as much as their diners do, and that added so much to the night. Scratch that…it MADE the night. This is the best service I have ever had. In my life.*
 Scraping the cheese for our first dessert…
 Orange Pith Puree with La Serena Cheese and a crostini. 
 This had sheep’s milk cheese had the funkiness of goat’s cheese with the rich texture of brie with the salty, nutty tang of Gruyere. Mixed with the tart and slightly biter puree, it was an exemplary cheese course, served in a beautiful and unexpected way. 
 Our next course, set aflame!
 Apples and Red Wine “Fredy Giradet.” Ironically named after a famous Swiss Chef who dislikes Molecular Gastronomy, this featured glazed apples and red wine spheres that, like the chickpeas, looked like small red cherries and burst in the mouth with sweet and spicy red wine. The ice cream was sweet, fragrant with vanilla, and what can be said about stewed apples other than…they are as good now as they ever were.
Edwin teaching Patty how to make the red wine spheres!
 Frozen Apricot Coulant – this was what was being flambeed earlier. A crisp outside gave way to a liquidy interior, entirely apricot. This was far too sweet for me, and the only misstep of the night.
 Fizzy paper. Literally, just what it sounds like. Paper-like candy that fizzed and popped in your mouth like soda. Citrus flavored, it reminded me of a grown up seven up! So delish!
 25 Second Bizcocho. A cake made in the microwave…the MICROWAVE!!! It was fluffy and filled with vanilla yogurt and tasted like a less sweet version of a Twinkie. Don’t worry, it was still sweet…I just didn’t go into diabetic shock after I tried it!
 Aerated Dark Chocolate Air that was like spongy honeycomb in my mouth, and saffron scented chocolate that had an ethereal, exotic, savory taste with the creamy, sweet milk chocolate.
This was a truly incredible meal. Not that it was perfect, but that it was full of food I have never experienced before. Tastes, textures and combinations that I could never imagine. The whimsical plating and intimate setting lent a magical air to the night – that is the only word for it. Magical. Like Chef Edwin was the magician, the servers were all his assistants, and Anthony was the glamorous showgirl, ready to charm us all with smoke and mirrors. The thing is…underneath the smoke and mirrors, this food was really fantastic. Not just in the first rate ingredients, but in the innovative cooking techniques. Andres makes eating fun. He makes dining an adventure. This was the most expensive meal I had in Las Vegas, and it was also the best value. I would dine here again in a heartbeat, and suggest that anyone who wants to be challenged, entertained or amused do the same. 
Oh yeah…and you will be well fed, too.
e by Jose Andres on Urbanspoon

Comments

  1. kevinEats says:

    Wow, small world. I actually met Patty not too long ago at a Magnum pop-up. I might have even advised her to eat at é.

    She's on Twitter here.

  2. i speak Foodie says:

    Wonderful post with great photos and descriptions of each plate! Booking flight to Vegas right now… ;)

  3. cbasWasHere says:

    Great review. Looks like there are a couple different dishes from when I dined there. I'm thinking I may have to go back now.

  4. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @KevinEats-Haha, that is SUCH a small world! Thank you so much for pointing me in the dirction of e – it was so fantastic!
    @Ispeakfoodie-wait, wait – book one for me too!
    @cb-if you do go again, I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the changes and additions :)

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