The key to many disciplines is consistency. Sports. Music. And hospitality for sure. The ability to deliver the same perfected experience over and over again requires such an intense commitment and such a high level of skill, it is difficult to achieve. I have revisited a number of restaurants which, following a fantastic first visit, could not (or at least, did not) deliver the at the caliber on my second. Alinea stands out above the others but CTBF did the same (though they recovered on the 3rd). Even Joe Beef, while still stellar, was not at the same level for round 2.
So I was equally excited and trepidatious to return to e By Jose Andres. It's one of my favorite restaurants of all time. The disappointment would have been palpable should my return a year later have resulted in the same type of disappointment.
Fortunately, it did not. Not even a bit.
The meal was mostly identical to my previous one, with some seasonal adjustments (strawberries in the "wonder bread" sandwich instead of persimmons) and others for variance or sourcing reasons (wagyu cheek instead of wagyu sirloin). In each and every case, it was better. The crab dish was better. Even the oysters (which is my favorite of the bunch) was somehow better! That wagyu cheek? I shudder to think of the lengths I would go to eat that again!
Even the sommelier, who was good last time but didn't seem to "fit" - this time was a fantastic and engaging woman named Kelly. Her delivery was outstanding in every way, though I may be biased because she opened an entire bottle of my favorite wine (Far Niente Chardonnay) just so I could enjoy a glass.
Service by the team of chefs was stellar. Again friendly and accessible and welcoming. I commented on how difficult it must be to find those who can cook at this level AND entertain 9 guests so flawlessly. Staffing remained 1:1 with the 9 of us served by 8 chefs and a somm. I must give a nod to the other 8 guests I dined with (2 couples from Toronto, a chef and his beautiful bride from California and a local couple who has dined here more than 30 times). They were so enjoyable to dine with and made the experience that much better.
I have left off the descriptions of the dishes. See my previous visit for those. But please believe me. Get to e. You will never forget this experience and the dishes they provide. I may not make it 30 times, but I promise you this visit will not be my last.
Aside from deserving a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with World Central Kitchen, Jose Andres has put together what can only be described as a perfect 25-course meal of the highest order. There was not a single flaw, no hair out of place. The delivery, the plating and the flavors were all superlative in ways that can't be put into words.
Let's begin with the fact that there were 6 of us dining served by 8 chefs and 2 sommeliers. The service is friendly and uber-approachable. Nothing pretentious. The staff are your friends from the time you arrive throughout the meal, where they consistently encourage and engage with any question/comment you have. They don't just want to give you the meal, they want to experience it with you. Together.
The plating alone was insanity. Look at how each dish is treated in a such a unique, creative and artistic manner. A small golden shovel to dig into your chocolate soil? A half-bottle to hold the edible sangria? Who comes up with these things? Who even imagines them, much less brings them into existence?
The food was no different. Every dish made you wonder how it was even conceived much less executed. And unlike Atalier, this (way) out of the box thinking produced flavors that you could just shake your head at. From the very first bite (Eat the tree?? OK...) to wonder bread made from apple merengue to a dish of cotton candy, fois gras and corn nuts??? Are you kidding me??? And yet, each and every bite was a marvel in both presentation and flavor. There wasn't a single item that was anything less than A+. Nothing.
I've been fortunate to enjoy plenty of A5 Wagyu, with notable deliveries at CTBF and Atera. This one blew those out of the water. I've had Iberico ham before - but never like this. I've had delicious crab - but none that compare to theirs. The vermouth oysters. Each and every dessert. There are no words for how good this is. The food is light as well, just the right amount without leaving you feeling stuffed at the end.
The service, provided only by the chefs and sommeliers - there were no "waiters" - is friendly, easy and on point. Even in a crisis. As they set down the half bottles to begin plating, one of them shattered everywhere - over the entire prep table. The staff quickly and quietly removed every item from the table, wiped it down thoroughly and started again with fresh items. Superbly handled.
With such minimal seating, this is a very, very hard reservation to get. As I write this, there are no reservations available at all. But do whatever you can to eat here. It is perfection.
This is, without question, my favorite restaurant of all time.
Replying to Steven Smith