Sunday, June 10, 2012

é by José Andrés- 06/01/2012

3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 698-7000

After my last visit to é, I thought the restaurant was the most exciting meal in Las Vegas, an impressive feat in a city that has restaurants from the likes of Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy, and Pierre Gagnaire. With only 8 spots and 2 seatings, the restaurant is also one of the hardest reservations in the city. In fact those lucky enough to score a spot are informed via a golden ticket a la Willy Wonka.

Like minibar and Saam, é is hidden inside another restaurant, in this case the Las Vegas outpost of Jaleo. Diners are advised to show up 15 minutes before their reservation to go over the beverage options. My party was the first to arrive but we had to wait for the rest of the guests to arrive before being seated. Unfortunately two of the guests never showed up and we ended up starting the meal 25 minutes late.

Andrés' "secret" restaurants always open with some form of welcoming cocktail. Fittingly, é opened with a Spanish inspired cocktail that pairs sherry with some form of soft drink. The result is a lightly fizzy libation that has the vinous fragrance of sherry paired with a sweet slightly syrupy flavor on the palate.

Spanish "Clavel"
Regular Pairing: 2008 Agusti Torello Mata
Premium Pairing: Krug Champagne Blanc de Blanc
Following the cocktail comes an array of snacks, first up was a Clavel or Carnation served in a dish shaped like José Andrés hand. I had a nearly identical dish the first time around with the only difference being the color of the flower. Crunching down on the sugary flower releases an intense raspberry sweetness tinged with a delicate floral whiff of tea.

Idiazàbal "Macaron"
On the heels of our sugary treat came a sharply contrasting savory snack. Sandwiched between two toasty "cookies" is a creamy cheese filling. The characteristics of the Idiazàbal comes out cleanly, slightly flavors of smoke and piquant game layered over a sensation of butteriness.

Caramelized Pork Rinds
The deep fried pig skin came coated in a thin layer of sticky honey after one intensely savory and one intensely sweet snack we have the marriage of both in this course.

Apple "Brazo de Gitano"
By this point, I was beginning to get a bit worried, six courses in and already three repeats, but fortunately this would be the last for quite some time. Inspired by a rolled Spanish cake that literally translates to "gypsy's arm," the blue cheese and apple pair remarkably well. Despite the airy texture, the cake delivers a robust candied sweetness with a nuanced blue cheese savor mixed in

Nitro Almond Cup
This reminded me of a dish I had at minibar except the savory element was provided by caviar instead of blue cheese. Initially, the fishiness of the caviar is vividly apparent but the hemisphere of frozen almond cream finishes the dish with a light sweet nuttiness

Crispy Chicken Skin in Escabeche
Regular Pairing: Fino Electrico Manzanilla
Premium Pairing: Pasada Pastrana Manzanilla Sherry
Here we have two chicken oysters served atop a "cracker" of chicken skin with a healthy dose of thyme air and powder resting on the top. The dish is referred to as an escabeche, a preparation that involves marinating meat in an acidic mixture, and though there was an undercurrent of acidity this dish was really more about the bird itself. The toothsome lusty oysters and the sapid skin hit with the fragrant thyme neatly encapsulated the quintessential essence of chicken.

Neulas are a type of Catalanian biscuit traditionally eaten with Cava and a nougat confection called torró. The thin shell reminded me of a Chinese egg roll cookie with a similar crunch and light buttery sweetness. Instead of the typical nougat accompaniment, the filling is a sublimely nuanced truffle espuma. The purple basil blossoms on top of the cracker add a floral savor that binds the dish together beautifully.

Oliva Seferica Ferran Adriá
Ferran Adriá's liquid olive is one of the most iconic dishes in Molecular Gastronomy, but having had it half a dozen times, it does lose a bit of its luster. Previously I'd had both black and green olives, but this was my first experience with a liquid Kalamata olive. Perhaps I would have been more impressed if I actually liked olives.

Bocata de Bacalao
The bocata from my first visit just missed the top 10 dishes of 2011 so I had high expectations for this version as well. Despite being dubbed bacalao the fried fish was actually fresh cod jowl. Being from the jowl, the meat had a firm muscular texture to compliment the fried sapor of the batter. This was actually one of the most enjoyable preparations of bacalao but that I've ever had but the simplicity left me wanting.

Cava Sangria
Our second "cocktail" was a modern twist on another Spanish classic. Popping the sangria spere releases a rush of light sweet wine while the fruit and mint add lovely highlights upon mastication.

Artichoke "Purée" with Vanilla
Regular Pairing: Estrella Damm Inedit (Spanish beer)
Premium Pairing: Estrella Damm Inedit (Spanish beer)
The second cocktail marked the transition between the snacks and larger plates. Though I'm not normally a fan of artichoke, I enjoyed the "purée's" dense savor and the way the creamy vanilla tied the weight of the artichoke with the earthy twang of the lemon sabayon.

Lobster with Citrus & Jasmine
Andrés' varying lobster preparations are consistently superb. The lobster tail was perfectly cooked with a lively salinity elevated by a sauce made from the crustacean's innards. The intense ocean-y flavor of the shellfish is contrasted by a scintillating acidity from the citrus as well as the delicate floral bouquet of the Jasmine air.

Chickpea Stew with Ibérico Ham
Regular Pairing: 2002 Vina Gravonia White Rioja
Premium Pairing: 2002 Konsgaard "The Judge" Chardonnay
This was one of the strongest courses of the night for me. The broth perfectly captures the prodigious umami power of ham despite no actual ham being present. Likewise the kitchen didn't use real chickpeas, instead creating a spherification of chickpea, that conveys the same nutty sweetness and fine mealy grit on the palate.

Turbot with Bone Marrow
I've had plenty of good turbot preparations and this is one of the best both in terms of preparation and complexity. The regular fish was unusually flavorful while the fin was reminiscent of Engawa, richer and more muscular than the actual fish. The accompaniments included a sauce of capers and fresh ground coffee as well as fried potatoes stuffed with bone marrow. We were advised to eat one of the bone marrow "tater tots" first then have the second with the fish. Taken alone the fried marrow bursts with a mouth filling fattiness. With everything taken together the marrow proved to be the glue holding the dish together simultaneously raising the profile of the fish while tempering the bite of the capers.

Rosemary Wild Mushrooms in Papillote
Regular Pairing: 1999 Imperial Grand Reserva Tempranillo
Premium Pairing: 2003 Vega Sicilia Valbuena
Though this dish didn't have the complexity of many of the others, it still tasted quite delicious, a mix of earthy fungus with an aromatic topping of rosemary air all served in a savory broth.

Secreto of Ibérico Pork with Squid
The final savory was a shoulder loin of Iberico pork. Where I found the meat a touch lean last time, this time I was able to appreciate the rich porcine sapor and toothsome juicy texture. The squid adds a complimentary smoky touch while the vegetable air injects some much needed levity and finesse to the mix.

Orange Pith Purée La Serena
Regular Pairing: Bermejo Malvasia Dulce
Premium Pairing: 1993 Essencia Tokaji
Surprisingly the cheese remained unchanged from my previous visit so it is no surprise that my impressions remain the same. The orange pith purée has a bitter astringency that elevates the pungent game of the La Serena.

Flan is arguably Spain's most iconic dessert so it was fitting that we start the sweets with one. The tender custard comes with orange ice which tempers its caramelized sweetness.

Pan Con Chocolate
Though this dessert looked like nothing more than cocoa powder and olive oil it proved to be my favorite of the evening. The EVOO has a pronounced fruity character that ties beautifully with similar aromas in the dark chocolate, a surprisingly graceful and elegant dessert.

"Arroz con Leche"
Arroz con Leche is the Spanish version of rice pudding flavors the prime ingredients with lemon rind and cinnamon. Both flavors are readily apparent while the cone adds a delightfully sugary crunch.

Cocoa Paper with Dried Strawberry
Regular Pairing: Ron Cremat
Premium Pairing: Ron Cremat
Three of these large sheets were brought out to share. The combination of thin crunchy chocolate and dried strawberries reminded me of the sugary cereals that I ate as a kid.

25 Second Bizcocho
"Air" Chocolates
Last time the meal ended with an aerated cake cooked in the microwave for 25 seconds. This time around the cake is joined by two chocolates. The chocolates have a dry powdery consistency initially but reconstitute upon mastication.

My first visit to é was arguably my best meal of 2011, a perfect marriage of tradition, technique, creativity, and ambition. While the food remains as impressive, the service and explanations of the food felt rushed this time around, likely due to our late start. With food this complex the descriptions are an integral part of the experience and I couldn't follow most of what the chef was saying. Likewise there needs to be time between courses to process the sensations, textures and flavors. While I'd still certainly recommend the restaurant, definitely try for the later seating where time isn't an issue.


Darin said...

Looks like the menu has turned over about 50% since opening? Have they warmed up to camera use since the early stages too?

Rodzilla said...

I wish someone would do the calories of an E tasting. So cool, but honestly a "tasting" even with that amount of dishes.

In N Out after?

Epicuryan said...

That's about right perhaps a bit more. Kind of surprising since minibar is supposed to change regularly wonder why Saam and é don't do the same.

I didn't have any issues with photography during my trip, but this time they explicitly said no video and no flash but photography was fine.

Haha the meal was definitely a bit light on substance but thats par for the course. Last time we ordered more food from Jaleo. This time my friends and I went out for a midnight dinner at Raku.

bunniecakes said...

This is amazing.

Epicuryan said...

You should stop over in Vegas when you come to California.