Sunday, January 16, 2011

é restaurant - 01/14/2011

3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 698-7950

With the opening of The Cosmopolitan Hotel we finally get a West Coast outpost of José Andres' critically acclaimed tapas restaurant, Jaleo. Perhaps owing to its Vegas location, this Jaleo seems grander and more ambitious than those in the DC area. With red, orange, and yellow tiles, the color scheme of the restaurant reminds me of Julian Serrano. The most arresting feature of Jaleo is it's paella kitchen. According to the restaurant's staff, this is the only wood-fired paella kitchen in America and perhaps the only one outside of Spain anywhere in the world.

Just beyond the bar and paella kitchen is the discreet entrance to é restaurant which many are likening to minibar of the west. At a glance, the parallels between minibar and é are apparent, both are small private restaurants located inside of larger establishments and the menus are similarly structured. Still when it comes to the food there are substantial differences between the two; é's menu draws more heavily on Spanish culinary tradition while minibar casts a wider net. The é room is dominated by a C shaped bar with seating for up to 8 surrounding a small working area that enables the chefs to interact with the diners. While the exterior has a sleek open contemporary atmosphere, é feels far more kitschy. The walls are decorated with an eclectic mix of kicknacks and gewgaws including a functional old style typewriter, a sculpted corset, and even a caged creepy looking doll.

NV San León Aregüeso, Jerez-Sherry
2006 Gran Riserva La Ticoto, Cava
2008 Mengoba, Bierzo
2008 A Torna dos Pasas, Ribeiro
1927 Alvear Pedro Ximénez, Montilla-Moriles

Similar to Saam, the meal at é began with a welcome cocktail. We were instructed to eat one of the strawberries then take a bite of the sangria. The warm tender strawberries contrast sharply with with glacial bite of the Sangria, a sweet, refreshing and fun start to the meal.

Served in a dish shaped like José Andres' hand, the Clavel or Carnation is the floral emblem of Spain. I enjoyed the artistic minimalism of this course, the flower is a vivid red spot in a white sugary shell. A cerebral delicate course, the flavor consists of a floral sweetness and with soft undertones of sesame.

Presented in an antique wood box we were told to put these coils of fried beet on our finger. Fashion statement aside, the ring tasted more like a potato chip, than a beet; very reminiscent of the beet "Tumbleweed" I've had previously at Saam and Café Atlantico.

From the texture to flavor these pork rinds reminded me exactly of Senbei, a soy coated rice cracker. A simple enjoyable snack, can I have a big bowl of these and a beer.

Consisting of a blue cheese espuma and apple meringue, the characteristic nutty tang of the blue cheese is ever so slightly shaded by the flavor of fresh apple giving the dish a vivacious flavor juxtaposed with a light diaphanous feel.

Quince and cheese is a tried and true combination of many a fromage course. La Serena is a sheep's milk from Spain that has a creamy consistency and lightly vegetal tang that compliments the ripe sweetness of the membrillo. Wrapped in a thin crispy cone this would have been more effective as a transition course between the savories and dessert.


The José taco reminds me of the Jose's Combination the flavor of the ham and caviar playing off one another beautifully. The artichoke was even more impressive, softly vegetal the neutral flavor heightens the caviar's impact while a quail egg nestled in the center adds a silky mouthfeel.

The calamari sandwich is a popular dish in northern Spain where the coast provides a plentiful bounty of calamari. This course was an homage to that favorite of Chef Andres' youth. Though this was called Bocata de "Calamares" there is no squid in the dish, instead the seafood is fried fresh uni with cucumber and aioli. The sandwich is in a word, superb, a satisfying greasy fried sapor laced with a satisfying oceanic brine wrapped in a fluffy light sandwich. My initial thought was to compare this to a lobster roll or po'boy albeit more refined.

Ajo Blanco is a white gazpacho made from almonds, garlic, and olive oil. Despite being a popular Spanish potage, I've never really been impressed with Ajo Blanco. With this variation, the almond milk was more apparent, providing an overarching nuttiness that tied the disparate ingredients together more effectively.

I absolutely adore raw oysters and am always excited to have them prepared in ways other than on the half-shell. Here the oysters are encapsulated in a spherification of oyster jus and smoked with orangewood along side pearl onion confit. This is without a doubt the briniest oysters I've ever eaten with the flavor amplified by the persistent woodiness of the smoke.

Cigala, a member of the lobster family, has been a consistent star at The Bazaar and if anything the dish is even more impressive here. The crunchy lobster tail is seasoned with a sauce made from the head of the lobster, but it is the addition of roses that make the dish special. This was the first time I've seen rose used effectively in a savory course; floral, elegant, and deep the flower provides an herbal bitter contrast to the sweet crustacean,

The catch of the day proved to be a turbot delicately cooked over charcoal served with fermented black garlic, charred scallion sauce, and citrus pearls. A naturally mild fish the turbot relied on its accouterments, particularly the bitter black garlic and tart citrus.

Warm foie gras has been making a serious comeback of late. I would have liked to see the lobe before it was crusted in salt but the mammoth pile of salt was impressive nonetheless. The foie was served with orange juice which added some levity and acidity but without a doubt the foie remains the star of the dish, the texture was reminiscent to the otherworldly shabu shabu foie at Urasawa.

Secreto refers to a cut of pork on the inside of the shoulder blade. The meat was muscular and a bit lean for my tastes however the combination of chanterelle and truffle gives the meat a musky depth that more than made up for it.

We had the La Serena earlier in the meal this time around the cheese is more apparent against the bitter zip of pith resulting in a mouth puckering astringency.

Invented by Michael Bras, the Coulant or molten chocolate cake has gone from innovative to a tired staple of steakhouses. This course draws on the initial inspiration of the dessert wrapping a core of thick syrupy apricot and amaretto with a creamy solid layer; unabashedly sweet and vibrant.

The story goes that José Andres ate at Chef Girardet's restaurant as a youth, wound up short on cash, ordered the Apples and Red Wine and had to walk home to Spain as a result. The dessert itself is relatively straightforward, apple paired with red wine and vanilla ice cream. The twist comes from adopting a course from an outspoken critic of the trend towards "molecular gastronomy". The twist is the fact that Chef Girardet, one of the early developers of nouvelle cuisine, is a critic of "molecular gastronomy" and the practice of using "synthetic products" in the kitchen. I wonder what Chef Girardet would think of this course, and its use of spherification of red wine.

Shortly after The Bazaar opened, I had the opportunity to meet with José Andres and one of the things he talked about was making a high quality microwave cake. Bizcocho refers to a cake that is popular in several Latin American countries. The cake is spongy and moist with the sutble tang of yogurt. If I didn't know the cake was made in the microwave I would never have guessed.

The meal ended with a Saffron Milk Chocolate and Semi-sweet Chocolate Air. The former was sweet but with an exotic twist of saffron on the finish. The chocolate air was more straightforward but with a uniquely crumbly texture.

At the end of the dinner at é, the entire staff lined up for a picture before we headed out to the main dining room to continue our meal. From left to right: Felix, Michael, Anthony, Johannes, Stephanie, Edwin, and one unidentified chef.

Croquetas de jamón Ibérico - Traditional fritters with Ibérico ham
I know how wonderful croquetas de pollo can be so I was curious to see if ham worked equally well. Indeed this was just as impressive the crisp exterior yields a creamy body and hammy sapor akin to a ham and cheese melt.

Arroz a banda con bogavante - Literally meaning, 'rice apart from lobster,' made with lobster and cuttlefish
After seeing the paella kitchen there was no way we could leave without trying at least one preparation of paella. Even before dinner the lobster paella caught my attention cooking over the wood fire. This paella was nothing less than a revelation, the flavor of the wood permeates the entire dish giving it a deep rustic smokiness that elevates the entire dish.

Flan al estilo tradicional de mamá Marisa con espuma de crema Catalana - A classic Spanish custard with 'espuma' of Catalan cream and oranges
Though the flan didn't really catch my attention, it felt wrong not to give the dessert a try. This might be the smoothest flan I've ever tasted. While I would have liked more overt caramel sweetness but this was the most technically faultless flan that I've ever tasted.

Helado de aceite de olive con citricos texturados - Olive oil ice cream with grapefruit
Though I generally dislike olives, olive oil in desserts has been unfailingly impressive so when I saw the dessert menu this immediately jumped out at me. The floral flavor of the olive oil is accented by a drizzle of honey, while the grapefruit, granita and fresh, add an animated acidic counterpoint to the soothing warmth of the olive oil.

From start to finish, the meal at é lived up to my expectations. The menu effectively celebrates traditional Spanish flavors while demonstrating the avant-garde techniques José Andres is rightfully renowned for. The intimate setting is integral to the success of such a menu as it allows for greater interaction with the chefs which enables diners to understand the inspiration behind each course. Jaleo's food might be less sophisticated and more approachable but the emphasis on quality and flavor is no less apparent.


Darin said...

I've been looking for some more info on e and I'm glad to see you were able to try it out!

How would you say e compares to the Saam Room? The style looks pretty similar.

Charlie Fu said...

the paella kitchen looks pretty cool. But the place looks a bit empty!

Darin: Saam is 20+ courses :D

Gastronomer said...

Cool beans! I never even knew "e" existed!

Komal Mehta said...


Gastronomer said...

Oh, and the kooky decor looks straight out of the Salvador Dali museum. LOVE it!

Epicuryan said...

I'd say there are some similarities in technique, but the flavor is more focused on Spain.

The place was actually packed. We were asked not to take pictures of other guests so the photo of the entrance was taken at 2AM when we left.

They said they were trying to keep it on the down low, but I suspect these things have a way of getting out. Hurry up and book your seats.

Indeed you should have come.

Danny Riddell said...

The restaurant has pretty good ambience! It is very different from others with light colors and furniture. This is different with its strong color of the space, the designs and lights. It’s like being sophisticated in a dark way. I love it, as much as I love to taste that lobster with rice embraced!