OK, so I'm back from my Vegas trip... and I hit 3 'fine dining' restaurants while there: Sage, é and Robuchon. I thought I'd leave my impressions of all of them. I've split them so that it's not a monster post.
é was SUPER fun. There was some unevenness but on the whole there were more hits than misses. My goal when it comes to dining is to have things that I would never make, but are among the best things that I've ever had - either best-of-breed or best-ever. There were many best-of-breeds and a couple of unexpected best-evers.
Minor complaints dismissed: Yes, there were a couple of pedestrian dishes... a mushroom soup en papillote. Pork rinds with a bit of sweetness (spice would've been a welcome addition). And some were more gimmicky than their flavor warranted: A couple of the desserts were just ok... aerated chocolate, microwaved cake and an acidic edible napkin. Perhaps there was a slight over-reliance on foam and spherification - but at least for the latter, it contributed to one stellar dish.
Unlike Sage, there was a good balance of flavors and textures in the food. And the variety and the tableside plating/preparation was great. Being able to ask questions about the preparations from the chefs was amazing.
FAVES (but almost everything not mentioned below was really really enjoyable... in fact there were some that I would include except this is getting long)
Uni sandwich: rich and savory and possibly my favorite thing of the night. One of the best things I've tasted and, by extension, the best uni I've tasted.
Chick pea stew: spherified chick peas in a ham broth. It sounds gimmicky but the presentation added something and the execution was perfect. Other spherified dishes (olive, sangria) were fun but less successful.
Bone marrow and fish: While the fish was delicious, the bone marrow was crazy good, crispy on the outside and clean rich flavors on the inside. Acidic accoutrements complemented all the richness (take note, Sage!) I peppered the chefs with questions and I think I can make this one at home, if I'm willing to take the trouble.
Flan: This was a lighter, creamier version of the traditional flan and it was perfect. One of my fellow diners (likely wanting more) asked if this flan was also served in Jaleo (the 'host' restaurant) but unfortunately, this version is only served in é... the Jaleo version is more traditional.
Non-alcoholic drinks: I highly recommend these, I felt like I got more than my money's worth than I would've with wines, just in effort alone. Most were lightly sweet. A refreshing cold spiced tea, bracing tomato water and a gold dust infused sweet cider 'shot' were all very very good. But an orange cucumber cocktail was both stunning and one of the best things I've ever tasted... and I mildly dislike cucumber! There were a couple others that were just fine, but I appreciated the effort (and fresh berries) that went into them.
The atmosphere was fantastic for a solo dining expedition, I chatted with the diners to either side of me and everyone was happily taking photos and exchanging email addresses. I'd highly recommend this to just about anyone. I will add that sometimes the food was served at a faster pace than I would've liked - like a well-oiled machine - but it wasn't oppressive. Toward the end we were all getting very sated. At the beginning of the meal we considered getting some paella after but in the end we could not consider it. I'd love to return here once the menu has changed sufficiently.
This was the most onerous part of the experience, so I thought I'd include it here. Basically, you need to send an email (http://www.ebyjoseandres.com/) at midnight PST (sigh, 3am for me), one month before the desired date. So if you want to dine on May 27th, you send the email on April 27th. If you have questions, try to email them a week before that to give them time to respond before the deadline.
They forward you a form to fill out and return to them (within 48 hours) that includes your credit card and all the details, including cancellation policies. I assume that you could ask for multiple forms if there are multiple people attending and you don't want to reserve all the tables under your card. Cancellations must be done 14 days prior to the dining date, or you'd be charged 50% (or 100% if you just don't show up on the day).
The costs are a bit unclear from the form: $160 + drinks + gratuity. On the bill the gratuity was listed as a $50 service charge and with the non-alcoholic drinks my bill totaled $290.
When I arrived at the restaurant, the host mentioned that most people discuss the wine pairings just before dining - but since I was having the non-alcoholic pairings, there wasn't anything to discuss. I did notice that some people were receiving reds while others were getting whites. So there might be some flexibility with the wine pairings.
I'm not sure whether I preferred é or Robuchon... I wouldn't have wanted to miss either experience. But possibly, if you have to choose, é might be the wiser choice - only because of the non-traditional format and the large number of dishes giving you a better chance to find your 'best-evers'.
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