August 10, 2012

Tomato Salad

This is not why I'm fat - tomatos and basil from my neighbour's garden. I bought a new camera, a Sony RX100. It seems pretty awesome so far. It's supposed to perform really well in low light so we'll see how it works at La Pergola in Italy!

Posted by JAY at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 1

A resounding 21 mini-course intimate dinner with only 8 seats (getting reservations is rather involved), the chefs plated each dish in front of us. With so few diners sharing a table and a non-advertised reservation process, everyone was really friendly and eager to share their foodie impressions of each dish. Dishes were nothing less than interesting and many were amazing! Asking the chefs qustions about the preparations was a unique experience..

One of the things that I apprecited the most was that I could choose a non-alcoholic drink pairing instead of the wine pairings. Even though the non-alcoholic pairing was cheaper, I felt the creativity and care put into the drinks were gratifying. Infused cool ginger fruit tea (also a fave!), tomato flavored waters, cider gold dust shots, berry sparkling waters... all were a lot of fun. But the pictured cucumber orange tonic was one of the best drinks i've ever had! The blend of flavors was indescribably refreshing.

I asked them how the tomato water was made, apparently it was just a pinch of salt, a bit of syrup and crushed roma tomatos strained. It was super umami but very light.

The first course was whimsical in presentation but not mindblowing. Beet jewellery tasted like beet chips, caramelized pork rinds were better versions of the usual pork rinds, the "Clavel" was tasty but unmemorable.

Apple Brazo de Gitano was a super-light apple meringue around a creamy strong cheese. Refreshing and tasty, almost like a palate cleanser.

The Nitro Almond Cup was a liquid-at-room-temperature shell with a caviar filling. An intensely interesting bite that was very balanced in richness, salt, citrus.

To be continued in part 2!

Posted by JAY at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 2

A bite of chicken on crispy chicken skin was not particularly special, but enjoyable nonetheless. I have to say, this meal was my introduction to foams in a few dishes and I don't think I care for them as a flavour delivery vehicle.

The José Taco of Iberico ham and caviar was a bit one-dimensional - flavorful but salty.

This was my first really dedicated experience with spherification (where a liquid is manipulated into a gel sphere)and it was interesting but not spectacular take on an olive. Interesting, because it had the olive flavor caried by water instead of fat.

Bocata de Calamares - with seared uni (sea urchin) instead of calamares (squid) was the the best sandwich and the best uni that I've ever had (I've only ever had it raw on sushi). It was served on a fried brioche bun with a complementing aoli. I could've eaten ten of these things - it was one of the best things I've eaten, ever. This and the cucumber/orange drink really did it for me.

Posted by JAY at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 3

Secreto of Iberico pork with Squid was delicious - I really enjoyed it. I'm not sure I bought into the whole sotry about how it was a secret cut from the special pig - but it was super savory and the squid was tender with crispy tentacles and full of grilled flavor. While it was definitely some of the best pork I've had, I can't say that it left more than a brief delicious impression. It was served in a reduced jus that was delicious and reminiscent of roast drippings.

Spherified Sangria... spherification again. It was a good palate cleanser but nothing special. I much prefered Robuchon's amuse bouche take on sangria, even though spheres are definitely fun to eat.

Arutichoke puree with vanilla sauce and lemon foam did nothing for me. It was fine. I've noticed that other people got it with shaved truffles, which were absent from my rendition.

Finally a really good example of spherification! It was both inventive and tasty chick pea stew/soup - in reverse. The sauce was pureed chick peas while the peas were spheres of ham broth that burst into saltiness. It was clever, but more importantly, it was delicious.

Posted by JAY at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 4

This meal was never-ending - a lot of fun to eat, but a real pain to recap! The diners around the table were having fun dissecting each dish though! Lobster with Citrus and Jasmin was tender and juicy and so flavorful. Interestingly, the citrus was orange pith puree and it was great. When asked, we were told that it was blanched many times in cold and hot water to remove the bitterness.

Turbot with bone marrow. The fish was really really good - it was perfectly cooked with crispy skin and the gelatinous flesh near the fin was also served. But the bone marrow was OMG. I asked how it was made... apparently it was soaked in constantly changing salt water to extract all blood, then cut, coated with flour and cooked in super hot shallow oil. Sigh, that does not sound doable at home. Outrageously, one of my seatmates "did not eat marrow" and didn't try it! I wanted it, but she'd already mucked around in her plate before offering it to me.

Rosemary wild mushrooms in Papillote was pretty straightforward - a mushroom soup with rather strong rosemary foam. Not sure that the papillote added anything - it tasted very "cooked" - not very fresh tasting.

Posted by JAY at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 5

Ok, entering the home stretch! The desserts! It started with the cheese course, "Orange Pith Puree La Serena" The cheese was served in a parmesan tuille with a spiral of not-bitter pith puree. It was an enjoyable cheese course - very balanced. (I did slightly prefer the Robuchon cheese course, though, with its varied cheeses and lingering... maybe just a style difference.)

This is the best version of flan that many of us at the table have ever had. It's hard to pin down why it was SO good - it had a freshness that flans don't usually have. We asked if we could get it at the more conventional sister restaurant, Jaleo, but the servers told us that the Jaleo flan was more 'traditional'. Rats.

Arroz Con Leche was a cone of perfumed creamy-yet-light rice pudding layered with contrasting sour lemon sorbet. It was disappointingly small, considering how great it tasted. But we were getting full anyway.

Pan Con Chocolate was more interesting than delicious - although it was cool how well the chocolate paired with the olive oil. Apparently this combination is classic in parts of Spain, though not in this form.

I don't know if I was full or what, but this last course didn't do it for me. The fizzy paper was just novelty, and mostly just acidic tasting. "Air Chocolate" was really just aerated chocolate (think Aero but lighter). The Bizcocho was very nice and light tasting - the novelty being that it was cooked for 25 seconds in the microwave.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience. Service and atmosphere was incredible - maybe the best I've experienced. The staff were super knowledgeable and friendly and involved in the preparation - they could answer ANYTHING. The fellow diners contributed to the ambiance - the seating arrangement encourages discussion and the byzantine reservation process ensures that you're surrounded by people who really appreciate food and want to share their delight.

Not all of the dishes were terrific, but none were less than interesting. Having several stunners is enough to make me want to return over and over again: bone marrow, flan, sea urchin (OMG), orange cucumber drink (and the drinks in general!).

Great pix that I didn't take can be found here.

é by José Andrés
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard, South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
T 702 698 7959 F 702 442 7069
Cost: Um, I forget... around $300 bucks, including tax, tips and drinks... more if you're having alcohol.

Posted by JAY at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2012

Vegas 2012

Yes, I'm totally late in posting about Vegas - in fact, I've been on a Mediterranean cruise since then! I went to Vegas in March for Sean's 40th birthday with Dom, Renato, Joseph, Rick, Sven and Frank.

Sean arranged to have us picked up at the airport by a stretch limo thing. I've already posted about some of the restaurants I went to, so you can tell where my priorities were :) I'll post a few each day (I'm backdating from October here...)

Posted by JAY at 12:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2012

Vegas 2012: Grand Canyon

We took a very bumpy ride out to the Grand Canyon, which was awe-inspiring in scale. There were no guard rails and people were going right to the edge for photos, sometimes hanging their feet off. Crazy. I wouldn't get within 2 body lengths of the edge.

Sven and I did go out onto the glass-bottomed sky bridge that you can see suspended over the canyon in the top left of the photo, while some of the others went on a helicopter ride into the canyon. So we got the view, but without sacrificing sanity!

Posted by JAY at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2012

Vegas 2012: Shooting Range

On the way back from the Canyon we stopped to go to the bathroom and there was a "shooting range". We all tried shooting a variety of automatic weapons. Not sure this was quite worth it for me - my eyes were giving problems and I was having trouble using the sight.

Posted by JAY at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2012

Vegas 2012: Hoover Dam

We stopped at the Hoover Dam as evening approached, we didn't have time to tour the inside (it was closed). Even from the outside though, it was pretty impressive. It was quite a hike up from the bottom to the top.

Posted by JAY at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2012

Vegas 2012: ATV

Sean and I went ATVing the last time we were in Vegas (and I think he's done it again since then, maybe twice!) but we went again and it was a lot of fun. This time was a lot more challenging - it was more of a hilly-trail than a touring trail. Fun for money this is one of the best values.

Heh, towards the end of the tour, I took a wrong turn that resulted in Renato and I falling behind Rick and Frank, who were a bit slow. Renato was NOT happy with me. :)

Posted by JAY at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2012

Vegas 2012: Valley of Fire

After the ATV trip, we stopped in the Valley of Fire, where we clambered around the rocks surrounding the Visitor's Center.

Posted by JAY at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2012

Vegas 2012: Aria

This time around, we stayed at Aria, which was super luxurious. The rooms were not as spacious as The Hotel was, but everything was super modern. I roomed with Sven, who was pretty much the perfect roomie - sleeps like a log (so me snoring/showering/reading isn't an issue), doesn't snore and doesn't shower too often. That last one doesn't sound like a plus, except that it leaves the shower open for my use three times a day (morning/afternoon/before bed).

On the day that we left, Sven, Joe and I relaxed by the pool, which was nice but nothing as crazy as the pools at The Hotel/Mandalay Bay. I didn't bother swimming, just caught up with online news on the Kindle.

Posted by JAY at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2012

Restaurant Review: Gallagher's Steakhouse

This was a bit of a disappointment - I went with the recommended "21-day dry aged signature sirloin". It was large, but that was about it. It was pretty chewy - I've had better grocery sirloin steaks off of Trevor's bbq. And that seemed to be the universal opinion of everyone who ordered it. People who went for different cuts were happier with their meals (but then, filet mignon will pretty much always be tender). Sides were expensive but comparatively good.

Still, for around $100 bucks, I'd prefer The Keg as better value (and I don't eat at The Keg because it's not great value).

Gallagher's Steakhouse
3790 Las Vegas Blvd S, New York New York Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas
NV 89109

Posted by JAY at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2012

Restaurant: Sage (Las Vegas)

Sage was awful. That sounds strong, but I really hated it. AND I had dragged about 10 people there, because they were too frugal to go to é or Robuchon. So THEN I had to pretend to not hate it, because some of them were OK with it and I didn't want to impinge on their enjoyment, while feeling guilty that this had been their fine dining Vegas experience.

The food was somewhat one-dimensional. The bison terrine amuse bouche - salty, like liver pate on a spoon. The artichoke salad was just salty and acidic - there was nothing rich or sweet to cut the acidity. My main course of pan roasted fluke was similarly acidic - doused in lemon and served with super tart apple. The peanut butter and chocolate dessert was fine, very sweet and quite rich, but at least different textures and flavors. A parting shot of caramel hot chocolate was so sickly sweet that I couldn't do more than taste it. It tasted like melted Werthers Originals... with added sugar.

I just... I don't know. I think I enjoyed random burgers more than what I had here. It's had some rave reviews from the folks at Chowhound, so maybe it was just this particular menu. In retrospect, the menu was only $50, so compared to the $100 Gallagher's, maybe it wasn't that bad a value.

Aria, Las Vegas

Posted by JAY at 12:28 AM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2012

Vegas 2012: Stratosphere

We did the Stratosphere again, but the only ride I went on this time was this one, which I find kind of relaxing - well, except for the girl who spent the entire ride screaming next to Rob. They also had a new ride this year where you jump from the top to the bottom along cables. We were going to do that one, but even though there didn't seem to be a lineup, apparently you need to book it in advance and we didn't have enough time to stay.

Posted by JAY at 09:17 PM | Comments (0)