E by José Andrés

José Andrés has brought umami back. But, he’s not only brought it back, he’s redefined it. Think of it as umami 2.0. With 20 mouthwatering courses, his avant garde brand of sweet and savory cuisine will slap your taste buds around like a night with Ike Turner and Chris Brown.

This is dinner theater at it’s best. It’s a 2.5+ hour interactive show in a private room located within Jaleo. After checking in at the hostess stand we were seated at a table in Jaleo and brought complimentary glasses of cava while the previous seating finished (There are two seatings of 8 per night at é at 5:30 and 8:30). When ready, we were escorted to the back and entered a space beautifully designed by the Rockwell Group and Spanish designer Juli Capella. Two of the walls are lined with card catalogs with several drawers open and holding artifacts that tie into memories from José’s past. It’s an intriguing space that’s equal parts Dali, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Alice In Wonderland.

In the center of the room is an 8 seat bar where the chefs create and plate the evening’s meal. Much of the actual “cooking” is performed out of site in the Jaleo kitchen but the plating is done in front of the diners at the bar. Throughout the evening there was plenty of interaction with the chef’s and we were encouraged to ask questions and learn more about the chefs and dishes. It was cool to see them at work. Who knew tweezers and pipettes were such important kitchen tools? Each dish was a work of art… a really delicious work of art.

If you want an articulate and professional breakdown of every course you’re better off reading this guy’s review: http://www.kevineats.com/2011/01/e-by-jose-andres-las-vegas-nv.html

However, if you want a typical joe’s take on it (sans the big words) read on…

1) Frozen sangria with grilled strawberries. Every chef seems to use liquid nitrogen these days, but it was still cool to see the smoke rising from the bowl and cascading across the bar as they made the sangria. The dish consisted of three grilled strawberries on a skewer and a small cup of frozen sangria. They recommended taking a bite of strawberry first, then a spoonful of the sangria. The effect was an interesting contrast of warm (strawberry) and cold (sangria). The resulting flavor combination was deliciously tart and sweet mixture with a little kick from the cinnamon(?) or nutmeg (?) and other ingredients in the sangria.

They wasted little time plating the next three courses, all of which were served before us at the same time.

2) Spanish Clavel. Using a mold of Chef Andrés’ hand made for a great photo op. It was cool, imaginative and, of course, visually stunning. I don’t remember what the clavel was made from, but it was markedly delicate and instantly melted in my mouth, leaving a sugary aftertaste.

3) Beet jewelry. Served two to a box, it was a playful course that we wrapped around our fingers — yeah, just like a ring — and ate. The chef joked that it was covered in stripper dust because some of it may find it’s way onto your clothing and your spouse may question where you’ve been that night. It’s a good thing my wife was there with me. Yet another playful dish that was crunchy and delicious. I never thought beets could be so amazing.

4) Caramelized pork rinds. These aren’t your daddy’s pork rinds. Nah, these are 100 times better. My father used to eat pork rinds from a bag, but they never tasted as good as these. Light, airy, delicate and slightly salty.

5) Membrillo and la serena cone. A flaky cone filled with a creamy, tangy sheep’s milk cheese. Absolutely delectable.

6a) Apple Brazo de Gitano. I didn’t try this one. I’ve got an allergy to raw apples (surprisingly cooked apples don’t bother me) and even though they said the apples used in this dish were cooked. I opted for their alternate dish.

6b) Blueberry something or other. No, that’s not their name for it. I just can’t remember what they called it. I also don’t remember how they described it, but it was similar to a meringue in taste and texture, although not overtly sweet and the blueberry flavor was very subtle.

7) José Taco. A slice of jamón ibérico topped with a small mound of caviar. We were instructed to roll it up and eat it. Because of the ham and caviar, I expected it to be a salt overload. But, it wasn’t. Just a perfect balance of it, as a matter of fact.

8.) Artichoke with Caviar. The tiny fried artichoke was a perfect vessel for this one bite wonder. Salty, crispy deliciousness!

9) Bocata de Calamares. An homage to the calamari sandwiches Andrés used to eat on the beach, this sammie had uni in place of calamari and it was a delicate, briny masterpiece. The cucumbers and other vegetables in it reminded me, slightly, of the flavor combination of a banh mi.

10) Ajo Blanco. This was a deconstructed soup with almonds, garlic, and a bunch of other ingredients I can’t remember (maybe I should start taking notes during meals?). There’s no doubt that it was tasty, but when compared to the other dishes, this one gets lost.

11) Cigala with Roses. Typically, I hate foams because they add little to dishes. But here, the aromatic rose foam added a noticable texture and flavor to the lobster. Another fabulous dish.

12) Smoky Oysters in Escabeche. Two oysters per container with pearl onions were smoked then served with toasted honey air. It was a luscious preparation of the oysters and visually arresting.

13) Catch of the Day (turbot). Despite its rather small appearance, this dish had a deceptively hearty amount of fish. Perfectly flaky and  mild in taste, this was one of the most successful, and satisfying, dishes of the night.

Following the turbot, Stephanie (one of the hosts) brought out the salt-baked lobe of foie gras still encased in the mound of salt to show the guests. After the diners finished gawking at the unique dish, she brought it back to the kitchen to slice it up. At this point in the meal, a few of us were ready for a bathroom break and they were happy to slow the service to accommodate us.

14a) Whole Lobe of Foie Gras Baked in Salt. The plating of this dish was beautiful, with vibrant colors of orange and purple offsetting the neutral colored foie and bold stroke of sauce running across the plate. The dish was finished with a minimal amount of an orange citrus sauce. The resulting taste was a creamy, savory, and salty mouthful of deliciousness.

14b) Poached Egg with Caviar. This alternate dish was brought out for my wife. I was able to grab a few bites since she was getting full, and it was a beautifully poached egg topped with the same caviar used earlier in the night. It was a last minute addition but still appreciated, not to mention tasty.

15) Secreto of Ibérico Pork. The best dish of the night. The best piece of pork I’ve ever tasted. This was the pig equivalent of A5 kobe beef. The chanterelle mushrooms and truffles added an earthy taste to an amazingly heavenly course.

16) Orange Pith Purée with La Serena. This course was a delightful way to bridge the gap between savory and sweet dishes with its combination of sweet, salty and slightly bitter flavors.

17) Frozen Apricot Coulant. Similar to a chocolate lava cake in that you cut it open and liquid oozes out. It was a delicious and unique fruity dessert that cleansed the palate and made my tastebuds scream for more. I’d have to say it was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.

18a) Apples & Red Wine Fredy Giradet. Another apple dessert I didn’t try but everyone raved about. Damn my allergies!

18b) Helado de aceite de olive con citricos texturados. My alternate dish also happens to be available on Jaleo’s dessert menu. I’m not a fan of grapefruit… never have been, never will. With that said, this was probably the best grapefruit dish I’ve had. I just wasn’t wowed by the tartness of it, but appreciated the two varying textures of it.

19) 25 Second Bizcocho. The best microwaved food ever. It had the texture of a sponge cake and had a smooth, rich, creamy filling.

20) Chocolates. The final course of the night was a box with a saffron milk chocolate and a chocolate air with sea salt. The former was rich and creamy, while the latter was more bitter. Both were delectable and showcased unique flavors and textures.

There wasn’t a *bad* dish all night, but the weakest were the two they had to supplement because of my apple allergy. I can’t fault them for that.

The service was exceptional. Truly the best service I’ve ever experienced. There were two hosts (and I say hosts because dining at é is like dining in their home), Anthony and Stephanie, who were able to accommodate dietary/allergic restrictions, serve and clear dishes throughout the night and answer any question we had. It was professional but not stuffy. They’re also not shy about keeping your glasses full. Wine was included in the price and Anthony and Stephanie were generous with the pours all night. It was like dining with an open bar. By the end of the meal it was almost like they were old friends who we were visiting. We posed for pictures and chatted at length after our meal, even as the other diners had left. Andrés should be proud of the wonderful staff he has put in charge of his incredible concept.

One of the coolest parts of the dining experience, aside from the food of course, is their guest book that patrons sign at the end of the meal. It’s a small, diary-esque book that’s filled with guest comments. Each guest starts by signing it “Guest # so and so” followed by their comments. My wife and I were guests #310 and 311. It’s a fascinating way to add our memories to those alluded to in the decor of the room. Flipping through past comments, one of my favorites was guest 78 and 79, who simply said, “Fucking awesome!!!” I think that sums it up.

The price for the meal is $250 per person. That includes wine, gratuity, and tax. In order to get reservations you have to email them. It’s best to plan ahead and email them at least a month before you’d like to dine there. If you’re a local, the more flexible you are with your dates (a weeknight instead of dining on a weekend) might make it easier for you to get in. For out of towners, make sure you tell them the dates you’ll be in town and they’ll try to fit you in. For me, after I initially emailed them I got an automated response right away followed by a dining reservation a couple weeks later.

In the end, é was the most entertaining and amazing dining experience, although not necessarily the *best* meal ever. But, I’d put it in the top 3 that I’ve had. It’s pricey but worth it for a once in a lifetime experience and a peek inside the mind and food memories of José Andrés.

5 Stars

The Cosmopolitan
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 698-7950

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