Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Jose Andrés' é in Las Vegas (Diner #651)

Last week I was in Vegas for a wedding, so I took advantage of the trip to have a ridiculous 3 days of eating around town. Things started a couple hours after I arrived. I headed straight to the new Cosmopolitan Hotel because I scored a seat at é, a dining experience inside Jose Andrés' Jaleo restaurant that is part show and part meal. The concept of the restaurant is a journey through Jose Andrés' past and experiences. When you enter é, the room, decorated by the chef, is surrounded by what looks like card catalog drawers filled with chotchkies from his life including records, dolls, fans, a corset, oranges, an old typewriter, and more.
Seating is arranged for up to 8 people at a counter in a semicircle so everyone can watch the chefs prep each plate. It's an open setup to promote interaction with the chefs, and I felt welcome to ask questions and talk with chefs and my fellow diners.
Course 1: Frozen Sangria, Grilled Strawberries
The chefs used liquid nitrogen to make a sorbet of sangria in front of us. We were instructed to eat the hot grilled strawberries and then take a bit of the frozen sangria. The warm and frozen texture mixed in an interesting way with the sweet and sour flavors. It was a fun whimsical starter.
Course 2: Spanish "Clavel"
The chefs then told us that the next set of plates were "snacks". These were paired with La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sherry, a dry tasting, light drink.
A clavel is a kind of carnation, and this was beautifully presented on a plate molded from Jose Andrés' hand. I'm not sure it it was fried or baked, but the flower had the consistency of a light potato chip.
Course 3: Caramelized Pork Rinds
Honey glazed housemade pork rinds. 'Nuff said.
Course 4: Beet Jewelry
This was served in a box that looked like a book. The beet is dried out into a ring and sprinkled with gold. I did not look for the gold later.

Course 5: Apple "Brazo de Gitano"
My first thought when I say this was Ho-Hos. The "cake" was an apple merigue, and it was filled with a blue cheese espuma, then topped with a walnut praline butter. It was so incredibly light.
Here endeth the "snack" portion of the meal.
Course 6: Crispy Chicken Skin in Escabeche
This dish was a new addition to the menu. It was a piece of fried chicken skin topped with chicken "oysters" and espuma. The head chef of Jaleo was in the room when this was prepped to taste it as well.
Course 7, part 1: Jose Taco
This courses consisted of two tastes highlighted by Caviar de Riofrio. First was a "taco" of caviar, where instead of a tortilla, we were given a slice of the decadently fatty jamón ibérico de bellota.
Course 7, part 2: Artichoke with Caviar
The second part of the course was a fried artichoke topped with the sturgeon caviar. However, inside the artichoke was a wonderful quail egg that burst with yolky goodness when you bit down. This one was the winner between the two.
Course 8: Bocata de "Calamares"
We were told this course hearkened back to the childhood of chef Andrés and the sandwiches he would have at the Spanish shore. The bread was a light fried brioche, and inside was very simple: calamari, aioli, cucumber and scallion. It was such a wonderful course in it's simplicity and purity of flavors.

Course 9: Ajo Blanco
Ajo Blanco is a white "gazpacho", or cold soup, made primarily with bread, garlic, oil, water, vinegar, and almonds. The version at é was deconstructed. Initially, the bowl contained the various ingredients on their own, including granita, gelatinized vinegar, and almonds. We were first instructed to try each of these components on their own.

Afterwards, they poured a marcona almond milk onto the plate, and you mixed the ingredients all together. It was marvelous tasting how each component combined to create an altogether different taste experience.

Course 10: Santa Barbara Spotted Prawns with Roses
I'm a fan of Santa Barbara prawns. They are large and delicious. I'm happy that the chefs let the prawn sing on it's own in this plate. The sauce made with lobster heads was good, but sometimes keeping it simple is a very good thing.
They paired the prawns with Estrella Damm Inedit with this course. It is a beer created with Ferran Adrià to go with food. It was really smooth and light with absolutely no aftertaste.
Course 11: Chickpea Stew with Iberico Ham
This dish showed off some molecular gastronomy in that the chickpeas were spherical chickpeas. When prepared this way, the outcome is very smooth and clean tasting.

Course 12: Catch of the Day - Roasted Turbot with Black Garlic
Our next wine was 2001 R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Crianza Blanco, Rioja DOCa.
The next course was a beautifully charcoal roasted turbot, a light flaky fish. It had a piece of black garlic accompanying it. The idea of black garlic came from Korean cuisine. The garlic turns black due to fermentation and pickling and it's flavor has a sweet and sour note.
Course 14: Whole Lobe of Foie Gras Baked in Salt
We were presented with the whole lobe of foie gras before service, but I missed the picture. It was too much fun already.
We were poured a glass of Guimaro Ribera Sacra 2008.
The foie was beautiful. On the plate was a streak of dark chocolate, and they poured orange juice on top. Both added a pleasant sweetness that complemented the wonderful fattiness of the foie.

Course 15: Secreto of Iberico Pork
I would say the next course might have been the most amazing piece of pork I have ever eaten. The pork is from the Iberian black footed pig. The cut is known as a secreto. The "secret" is that when farmers would bring the pigs to the butcher, the butcher would save this secret piece from under the shoulderblade for themselves.
Eating the pork was unbelievable. Imagine wagyu beef meets pork belly. It was heavenly, melting away in your mouth. I savored each bite with relish.

Course 16: Orange Pith Puree, La Sirena
The last wine served was a 1982 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Gran Reserva.
With the end of the mains, we moved onto our cheese course, queso de La Sirena, a soft raw sheep cheese. The plate had a spiral of orange puree, candied pepitos, and a thin toast.

Course 17: Frozen Apricot Coulant
They told the group that the next dish was inspired by Michel Richard of Central in DC. A coulant that was a frozen apricot timbale, torched on top to create a hard shell with a cool apricot syrup inside.

Course 18: Apples & Red Wine, "Frédy Girardet"
The next dessert was vanilla ice cream with red wine poached apples and spherical apples. One of my tablemates was allergic to oranges, so she was served a beautiful crème caramel.

Course 19: 25 Second Bizcocho
The next course was prepared with a microwave in 25 seconds. They loaded a paper cone with batter, set the oven, and let it do it's thing. The result was a light cone of chocolate cake.
Course 20: Chocolates
The final course was a small book box of saffron milk chocolate and chocolate air topped with sea salt.

At the end of this fantastic meal, we all signed into a book to document our wonderful experience, and we said our goodbyes to the chefs and staff involved. I must say that the meal at é was truly unforgettable. The journey through all the flavors and tastes as well as the wonderful back and forth with my fellow diners and chefs made it all the more worthwhile.

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