é by José Andrés

e by Jose Andres

Cosmopolitan (last visit: September 2011).
Modern (molecular gastronomy).


When José Andrés came to town, he did so in a big way, opening three...well, two...well, two and a half restaurants. Jaleo offers Spanish tapas. China Poblano offers a combination of Chinese and Mexican Dishes. The third place, é by José Andrés, is a restaurant within a restaurant.  Located within Jaleo, 
é is an eight seat temple of molecular gastronomy.

What the hell is molecular gastronomy
? If you're interested in details, now would be a good time for Google. My short version: better cooking through technology. Instead of using just pots and pans, chefs may use liquid nitrogen, meat glue, and such chemicals as sodium alginate and calcium chloride. I know, I know - yuck - but it's a lot better than it sounds. The result: new tastes, or old tastes in entirely new shapes and textures.



The Menu
There is none. To be more precise, it's entirely left up to the chef. You'll be provided with a menu, describing the 20 to 25 items served. Your only choice is whether to have the wine pairings. When I was there, it was also possible to ask for drink pairings (either alcoholic or not).

Click here to see a copy of the menu.



The Atmosphere
The entire restaurant consists of an eight person food bar, behind which four or five chefs work furiously to prepare your meal. The look? Perhaps a cross between a sushi bar, a library and an acid dream. At times, there's almost a hushed tone, but this doesn't last long, as people on both sides of the bar are friendly and enjoy talking about the dishes. This is a place to have fun.



The Meal
Most of my reviews consist of a blow by blow description of the meal. This time, I purposely avoided taking notes. Given the number of courses, I wanted to fully enjoy the experience, even if that meant I wouldn't be able to read about the details in my old (-er) age.

What I can say is "wow!" No course was terrible, most were very good, and a few were outstanding. Nearly as important for this type of meal, many of the courses were surprising in flavor, texture or temperature. If you're not familiar with molecular gastronomy, I'll refer you to the numerous professional reviews of the restaurant. Otherwise, take a look at the menu, and click on this link for some pictures of my meal.

If you're familiar with chef
Andrés's other restaurants, I'd say that, compared to minibar, é isn't quite as experimental, but the offerings are on the whole a little better. Either way, you can't go wrong.    



The Drinks
I chose the non-alcoholic pairings, consisting of five drinks (that I remember). Descriptions, such as they are, follow:
Heirloom tomato water with citrus zest and raspberry {something or other}.
Citrus - bitter/sour lemon foam and other stuff.
Cucumber and beet.
{
some fancy words} Shirley Temple.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
My general impression: none of the drinks blew me away, but all were fun, and well worth while. I didn't pay much attention to the alcoholic pairings, but the comments I heard were favorable.



Summary
é is the kind of restaurant that suits me best: food that is not only good, but challenging and fun. If there were such a thing as objective food ratings, I'd have to admit that é falls behind Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy. However, in terms of overall enjoyment, é may be at the top of my list.



The Bill
The meal was $280, including non-alcoholic drink pairings, tax and tip.


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