Bullfrog & Baum
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | 7:55 p.m.
Robin Leach's Vegas DeLuxe
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It has only eight seats. It’s hidden away at the back of another restaurant. It’s never advertised or promoted itself. In fact, one of the most unique restaurants in the world is an unknown wonder. Some foodies say that the dining delight, which opened on New Year’s Day, should get recognition at the finest dining on Earth.
The restaurant “e” is the creation of Chef Jose Andres, who was recently named Outstanding Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation after attending several 2011 Vegas Uncork’d events this month. His Think Food Group runs five restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area, two in L.A., and he's planning an expansion to Miami and then Europe.
I’m told “e” is simply because it’s the last letter of his first name. I think more likely it will come to stand for “excellent” or “extraordinary” or “exquisite.” Twice nightly, at 5:30 and 8:30, for $3,000 all-inclusive to reserve the entire space (including beverages, taxes and tips), Jose’s master chefs serve a 15-plus-course tasting menu for eight fortunate diners.
It’s all about the performance of cooking and preparation right in front of your eyes. You are to concentrate on the meal -- and only the menu. That’s why guests are encouraged to abandon cell phones, cameras and video recorders. But I was permitted to take some photos for our VegasDeLuxe.com readers.
It’s so exclusive that you can make reservations only via email -- not by phone -- and always 30 days in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org. I was invited there by friends from Moet & Chandon to taste the 2002 grand vintage with winemaker Marc Brevot, who flew in from champagne country in Epernay, France, for the dinner. Yes, “e” lures people 7,000 miles away to experience the extraordinary. The champagnes also were “e” for “enchanting.”
Our meal -- I counted 20 courses -- was a masterpiece. I will never forget the whole lobe of foie gras baked in salt. I will always treasure the chickpea stew, which were bubbles of beauty after two days of marinating. Beets were turned into jeweled rings and served inside a treasure box. Jose’s taco with artichoke and caviar will be remembered forever -- I confess to the sin of being the first to dare ask for seconds!
Jose is the Spanish chef who introduced small bites of Spanish gourmet treats to America. Other dishes include liquid nitrogen sangria with grilled strawberries, smoky oysters in escabeche, 25-second biscocho and bocata de calamares.
“e” is a small private room near the bar and paella grill of his restaurant Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan. Jose also runs China Poblano there. Check the glass door with the tiny “e,” and inside the miniature room has a dramatic red glass wall and red velvet curtain. The setting is like a miniature theater with small stage as a tip of the toque to Jose’s concept of cooking as performance. The wraparound, steel-topped bar nestles the eight seats.
You could call this cuisine Spanish avant-garde. Architect David Rockwell designed the magical room under the artistic direction of Spanish designer Juli Capella. It features unusual decorative items including casts of Jose’s hands, a very old typewriter that reminded me of the one on which I started my career(!) and a lamp disguised by an antique female corset.
Yes, totally matchless in every possible way. Absolutely no question “e” is the most unique restaurant in the world. Go and taste for yourself. It’s a feast for the eyes and the mouth. Then let me know if you think it’s also the finest menu on Earth.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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