Tucked into a tapas bar at Deutsche Bank’s $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan casino in Las Vegas, e has no phone number, no signage and no functional web site, let alone an online menu.
Dopey name notwithstanding, Jose Andres’s e (that’s not a misprint, it’s just a lower-case “e,” with a snobby accent for e-ffect) instantly stakes a claim as one of the city’s best -- and most seriously exclusive -- restaurants.
The avant-garde Spanish spot seats just eight people at a tiny counter in the rear of Jaleo, Andres’ excellent tapas restaurant. Rest assured, smoke machines and calcium alginate baths are involved to underscore the El Bulli pedigree.
Reservations are only taken via e-mail. Lucky aspirants receive a congratulatory reply that fails to include any relevant information -- the price of dinner ($250 per person), how many courses (about 18) or the length of the meal (around two hours). The bill includes tip, tax, beverage.
You’ll be hounded by confirmation calls. No matter. All hassles are forgiven when the meal begins. The first course is sangria. The fruited wine becomes sorbet via liquid nitrogen. The cool bath (-321 degrees Fahrenheit) ensures no ice crystals form. It’s smoother than gelato without a drop of cream. Dreamy.
Then comes edible jewelry. Mandoline-sliced beets are fried and formed into rings. Refulgent finger food. A pungent baton of apple meringue filled with blue-cheese foam dissolves on the tongue like a snowflake, the essence disappearing too, a culinary vanishing act. Cooks armed with tweezers and pipettes plate their creations before you, taking you back to childhood games of “Operation.” They’d win every time.
This is all par for the course for the El Bulli -trained Andres, one of the most famous U.S.-chefs without a New York outpost. With dishes like cotton candy-wrapped duck liver, he’s built a reputation from his molecular, six-seat Mini Bar in Washington and the progressive SAAM in Los Angeles.
Each savory or sweet dish is just a few bites. In a tasty chemistry experiment, resident chef Edwin Robles takes Kushi oysters and suspends them inside a sphere of bivalve liquor. They pop in your mouth like caviar. Cigala (Norwegian lobster) is served with “rose air,” which apparently is a lighter, more advanced version of foam, typically spiked with gluco or soy lecithin. The foam -- pardon, air -- imparts a hint of floral bliss to the heady crustacean. It’s paired with coriander-scented beer.
Things get simpler. Foie gras is roasted in salt for a clean flavor. The pairing is not the usual sweet dessert wine but Ribeiro, a light Spanish red.
Iberico ham, made from acorn-fed pigs, acts as a sublimely nutty wrapping for a filling of Spanish caviar. Even better are headily musty roasted slabs of the same pig covered in black truffles, as if aged in wet earth.
Why is a spongy yogurt cake called a “25 second bizcocho?” Because that’s how long it’s nuked in the microwave. Yes, microwave. It’s the best angel food you’ll ever have, which is perhaps why the staff lines up for a theatrical curtain call as the meal ends. Everyone claps. Really.
The Bloomberg Questions
Price: $250 for dinner, beverages, tax and tip.
Sound Level: Around 60; hushed and reverent.
Date Place: Yes.
Special Feature: Saffron-spiked chocolate for dessert.
Will I be back: Yes, it’s a must visit for Vegas.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience. *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor.
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels):
51 to 55: Church on a weekday. 56 to 60: The vegetable aisle at the Food Emporium. 61 to 65: Keyboards clacking at the office. 66 to 70: My alarm clock when it goes off inches from my ear. 71 to 75: Corner deli at lunchtime. 76 to 80: Back of a taxi with advertisements at full volume. 81 to 85: Loud, crowded subway with announcements.
e by Jose Andres is at the Cosmopolitan, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd South. Information: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
(Ryan Sutton reviews restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)