One of the best meals we have ever had, this was an amazing dining experience in Las Vegas at e by Jose Andres!
This past spring Mrs. Nom and I were planning our trip to Las Vegas and with our focus on food, we started with our planning by scheduling around the restaurants we wanted to eat. As Vegas is a constantly changing culinary landscape, we started perusing food blogs from Las Vegas to find places we would be interested in. We came across a blog detailing a brand new restaurant that featured the cuisine of Chef Jose Andres, a noted culinary innovator, which was whipping a lot of the food writers in to a frenzy.
The restaurant featured a full tasting menu based on Chef Andres’ innovative mix of molecular gastronomy and traditional Spanish dishes. According to the blogs, dining at é was singularly unique experience, combining great food with culinary performance art in a very exclusive and intimate environment. Mrs. Nom immediately put é on our short list, but we knew that our chance to get in was very small, as they only seat 8 people per serving.
As our travel date came closer, we both decided that we were going to give it our best shot to try to wrangle a seat at é.
Making reservations at é was quite the involved process. There is no contact number, and the only form of communication is via email. To get into é there is a derby system, meaning that the seats are available on a first come first served basis. An email must be sent to the email address on their website 30 days prior to the date that you wish to dine.
We made sure to make the email reservation at precisely midnight Las Vegas time (2 am our time!) and then we had to wait… After we got confirmation of 2 dates to pick from (they do 2 seatings of 8 guests a night), we emailed back and confirmed our date. They sent us a form to fill out asking of any allergies as well (they accommodated Mrs. Nom’s no caffeine request!) and within 10 days we received our Golden Tickets in the mail.
The Golden Tickets were the first indication that we were going into an experience that was not only about the food but also a bit of theater. The tickets make you feel like you have hit a culinary jackpot, with the inscription describing the upcoming experience and giving you instructions to report to the host stand at Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan at minimum 15 minutes prior to the time of your reservation, as the show will go on with out you if you are late.
We received a 5:30 reservation, so we presented ourselves to the host at Jaleo around 515 and were shown to a 8 seat table in Jaleo where me met our other fellow diners. Dining with us were two other couples, and a single diner who had decided to treat herself to dinner for her birthday (You go girl, you were brave to do it by yourself, Happy Birthday!!).
Seating us at the table all together created an opportunity to meet the entire dinner party, while also removing the natural barriers that come from being strangers. Our fellow dinners all were quite friendly and enthusiastic. Our server brought out the drink menu, and iPad cleverly disguised as a book and asked us to make our selections. There were different choices, non alcoholic, cocktails, as well as different price tiers for wine pairings.
We proceeded into the room to begin our experience. The small dining room has just 8 seats facing a wide counter where the chefs will prepare your food in front of you. The room is dimly lit, rich in warm red tones and the walls decorated with whimsical touches. The walls are lined with drawers similar to library card catalogs holding spare stem ware and other glass ware.
Once we were seated, the our server knocked on the door to the kitchen and announced ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, your Chefs for the evening!” The chefs for the evening came out, lead by Chef Cody Jeffs and accompanied by two other chefs and two servers. The chefs introduced themselves and gave a short introduction about é and Chef Andres.
The chefs encouraged us to ask questions as they prepared the food, the majority of which would be prepared in front of us, using tweezers, eye droppers and torches, resulting in artistically modern plates. The whole presentation had a theatrical flare to it that showed the the night would be about more than just the food.
With all the preliminaries out of the way, it was time to get down to the cooking. Chef Jeffs and his assistant quickly began to setup the counter for the first course, preparing the dish in a billowing cloud of liquid nitrogen fog. The first course was a cocktail, a Spanish drink called a Rebujito, featuring Manzanilla Shery and tonic water with a ball of sherbet frozen with Liquid Nitrogen.
The cocktail is served in stemware with the ultra chilled sherbert boiling the liquid and making a fizzy layer floating above the top of the liquid, chilling the drink into a refreshingly crisp and slightly sweet aperitif.
While we were enjoying our Rebujito, Chef Jeffs was busily preparing our next course featuring two items, an Idiazabal “Macaron” and a Truffled Cotton Candy. The Macaron is a crunchy crisp meringue cracker filled with Idiazabal cheese in the middle forming a savory pastry. The Idiazabal cheese is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese with slight buttery and nutty notes.
The Truffle Cotton Candy was served to us on a dish molded from Chef Andres’ hands. A perfectly round ball of cotton candy is placed on the palm of the hand dish, flakes of gold leaf are delicately placed onto the top of the cotton candy. Just before presenting the plate to us, an eyedropper was used to dispense drops of truffle oil onto the cotton candy.
The very earthy aroma from the truffle oil blooms from the cotton candy, and when you take a bite, the combination of the sweet cotton candy and the savory truffle oil made this likely the best cotton candy I have ever had.
The next course presented was an Apple “Brazo de Gitano,” a hollow sponge cake roll with a creamy blue cheese “espuma”. The roll was impossibly light and airy, with a slight crisp outer skin, had a slight apple sweetness to it. The foam filling is very delicate and as the foam hits the tongue, the foam evaporates into a sharp explosion of blue cheese flavor.
After the roll, Chef Jeffs showed the folks who were partaking in the paired wine option were demonstrated a traditional Spanish drinking game where one tries to drink Cava from a porrón. The Cava is a traditional Spanish sparkling wine, that is poured into a large glass vessel (the porrón) with a long spout.
The drinking game is to start the pour at your lips and keep pouring the stream into your mouth as you extend the vessel away from your lips leaving a long continuous stream. Chef Jeffs demonstrated the technique, not spilling a drop as he extended the porrón to the full extent of his arm.
Our fifth course was the Seta Surprise, a beautiful “flower” plated on a slab of black slate. The flower is made from shaved chanterelle mushrooms surrounding a cream ball “surprise.” The cream ball melts in your mouth with a rich smoothness that compliments the earthy and slightly fruity mushroom.
The preparation of our next course was intriguing, as the liquid nitrogen came out and once again the nitrogen fog billowed out over the counter. Our servers mentioned that this dish would be very time sensitive and as soon as we were served, we should chow down. The dish, a Nitro Almond Cup with Caviar, was served in a white dish with frozen black rocks, on which a frozen cup made out of almond milk and a small pile of caviar in it.
The cup was icy cold and slippery as it started to melt once it began to warm with your fingers, and the nutty and slightly sweet almond countered the briny caviar and smooth creme fresh.
The next course was a pasty dish, a Barquillo, a very thin crunchy hollow tube, filled with a truffle infused anchovy foam. The dish was amazing to watch the chefs prepare, as the presentation was exquisitely detailed, tiny flowers and layers of truffles and foams.
Our next course was one which Mrs. Nom was facing with great trepidation, as she is not a big raw shellfish person. The dish, Almejas al Natural, features the magic of molecular gastronomy, as there is a bit of raw Washington state clam surrounded by an orb formed from the clam liquor. The orb is formed by using calcium to set a thin layer of the clam juice.
When you slurp the orb out of the shell (ala oysters on a half shell) the orb instantly bursts leaving the fresh clam meat. There is a short citrus burst just before the salty sweet liquor of the clam dominates the bite. This dish was amazing not only for the flavor, but just for the sheer coolness factor.
Another seafood course was served next, a dish called Bocata de Bacalao which translates as “snack of codfish.” The dish features a fillet of the jowl of cod, battered and fried and placed on a super soft and buttery brioche bread. The cod jowl is very tender and flaky, almost buttery smooth and rich.
Our next course, Crispy Chicken Skin in Escabeche, was a modern take on a traditional Spanish dish. The dish features a a poached ball of chicken covered in a “thyme air” placed on a wafer made from a crispy chicken skin. The dish is a study in contrasting textures, with the crisp chicken skin providing a satisfying crunch that is offset by the soft poached chicken ball and a incredibly delicate thyme infused foam that appropriately can be described as airy. The thyme foam provides a fresh herbal perfume to the warm tangy and salty chicken.
Following the chicken course we were served another cocktail course. The twist is that this cocktail, the Cava Sangria, was served to us in a spoon! A beautiful slightly amber colored orb sits in a Chinese soup spoon, looking like a clear glass marble. The orb bursts in the mouth, a slightly sweet and fruity burst of Cava refreshes your palate after the salty Chicken Escabeche.
Our eleventh course was the Artichoke “Puree” with Vanilla, featuring a ball formed from the heart of the artichoke cooked in a vanilla reduction so that the artichokes looked like small Sauvignon grapes. The artichokes, tender and very creamy feeling, sit in the vanilla reduction and are framed with a foamy lemon puree. The lemon puree gives a nice bright acid pop that cuts the richness of the artichokes and prepares you for the lobster dish to follow.
The Lobster with Citrus and Jasmine dish was luxuriously detailed, the carefully sectioned lobster tail sits in the center of the dish surrounded by a rich golden butter sauce. Cutting the richness of the lobster were small delicate sections of tangy grapefruit while a ball of jasmine air perfumed the whole dish.
Our soup course, featuring a Chickpea Stew with Ibérico Ham, may have been the most beautiful dish we were served that evening. Small colorful dots of carrots and basil oil stand out from a creamy white broth. Golden brown orbs made from chickpeas float in the broth, ready to burst with a smokey earthy pop, the liquid inside feeling like a sunny side up yolk. The orbs are so delicate, you have to use two spoons to eat them. The broth is buttery and rich, almost gravy like with just a hint of chives.
Chef Jeffs brought out a large hand cranked grinding mill, and began to grind fresh roasted coffee beans. He used the majority of the grounds to prepare a rum infused coffee drink that would be served later, while the remaining grounds were used on our next dish.
The fourteenth course was Turbot with Bone Marrow. The turbot is a very delicate and rich fish with a brilliantly white flesh. Two different cuts of the turbot were prepared for us, a meaty fillet with deliciously crispy skin, while the other cut was a rib section, delicate and thin and dressed with a beef marrow gravy, capers and fresh ground coffee. In the middle of the two cuts were two sections of beef bone marrow.
The marrow, crispy on the outside, was deliciously hot and fatty on the inside, almost like a stick of butter that had started to melt, was slightly salt and meaty. The sour tang from the capers and the bitter coffee provided a nice contrast from the richness of the turbot and marrow.
The next two dishes were prepared out of sight in the kitchen, as they required the grill and ovens to prepare. Chef Jeffs brought the full portions out to present to us prior to plating so that we could see how the dishes were prepared in the kitchen. The first of these was a whole lobe of foie gras baked in salt and presented to us on a wooden platter. Chef Jeffs cut the portions of foie gras in the kitchen after removing it from the salt.
The large portion of foie gras came out of the kitchen in a bowl surrounded by a pool of clementine juice. The buttery foie gras was rich and slightly salty and sits on a swipe of dark bitter chocolate, providing a perfect foil to the sweet acid of the clementine juice. Small pieces of grapefruit provided a sweet candy finish to the dish. This dish played on the relationship of sweet and salty and left you wanting more.
Our second kitchen prepared course was a Secreto of Ibérico Pork with Squid. The pork is from Spain, was raised on a diet of barley and acorns, fine grained and intensely flavorful, was perfectly seared and fork tender. Accompanying the pork cuts were pieces of fried squid, crispy on the outside, smooth and slightly chewy on the inside. Parsley air gives an herbaceous freshness and fragrance to the dish.
After the pork course, Chef Jeffs turned his attention to the rum infused coffee cocktail he had earlier prepared, lighting the liquid on fire. The flames (and Chef Jeffs’ fanning of them) provide a theatrical flare, but also burns off the rough bite of the rum, resulting in a smooth, deep caramel flavor.
While the flames do their work, the cheese course, Santa Gadea with Cotton Candy, arrives. This course fascinated us, as a wafer of compressed cotton candy sits in a liquid but didn’t dissolve until you actually began to break it up. The cotton candy was firm, almost like a thin cracker, but at the same time delicate as one would expect with cotton candy.
Hidden under the cotton candy wafer was a small pool of soup made from Spanish goat cheese. The soup, made from an organic Spanish goat cheese called Santa Gadea, was creamy and sour with a hint of mold and served chilled.
The dessert courses get started with another cloud of fog. The liquid nitrogen is broken out to chill the plates prior to the the chefs placing four small servings of flan onto the plates. In the middle of dish, a small pile of shredded ice and a caramel sauce, which we were encouraged to eat all together in one bite. The flan is airy and creamy with notes of caramel and vanilla, while the ice provides a cold crunch. Delicate edible flowers provide a bright splash of color to the plate.
Our second course starts with Chef Jeffs finally serving the burnt rum coffee cocktail, ladling the coffee into small glass coffee mugs with a solitary whole coffee bean floating on top. While he is prepping the cocktails, his assistant is busy assembling the components of the next dessert dish, Pan Con Chocolate.
Large bowls reminiscent of kitchen mixing bowls have the bottoms filled with olive oil, while numerous dry ingredients are piled on the side. Chef Jeffs instructs us to use the large spoon and scoop some dry ingredients thru the olive oil to eat it. Feeling like we were eating raw brownie batter out of the mixing bowl, Mrs. Nom and I both enjoyed the dark bittersweet cocoa and the nutty richness of the olive oil.
Hidden under the cocoa power were small crunchy bits that added an additional textural dimension. When paired with the deep caramelized burnt rum coffee cocktail, the bitter chocolate pulled out the sweetness of the rum.
Our twenty second course, “Arroz Con Leche” was a rice pudding wrapped in a crispy cone. The cone made of caramelized brulee sugar was sweet and crunchy and was a nice vehicle for the lemony sweet and smooth rice pudding.
Our final courses of the evening were served simultaneously. A 25 Second Bizcocho and a square of saffron chocolate on a large slate plate make for an odd couple, one a highly refined and elegant classic dessert, the other a new age modern pastry. The 25 Second Bizcoho is a cake made in the microwave, baking in 25 seconds.
The lemon cream filled cake has a unique texture, very airy but slightly chewy. The saffron chocolate was bitter, similar to an extremely dark chocolate had an acrid bite that needed the sweetness of the Bizcocho’s lemon filling to neutralize the pallet.
Our twenty fourth and final course was presented to each couple to be shared. The classic pairing of chocolates and strawberries with the now expected Chef Andres twist, a sheet of edible cocoa paper rises from the plate in an elegant mound, the paper glistening golden brown in the dim light. Small flakes of dehydrated strawberries were sprinkled on the paper and added a fruity tart sweetness.
After the meal is done, the staff asks all dinners to sign a guest book and leave a note for Chef Andres to read. Each of us were given a special number to sign (we were diners #5351 and #5352) personalizing the experience and letting us know the fairly exclusive club we have joined by dining at é. We were also given a wax sealed commemorative menu showing all the items we were served.
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