é by José Andrés

Cream Catalana custard

Fluke

Caviar

Freezing sangria

Four gras

Cheeses

Spanish pizza

Preparation of cava sangria dew drops

Interior

**** (4.5 stars)

This is one of the more unique dining experiences in Las Vegas, with only nine seats at a counter in an intimate room. The experience is as much or more about the presentation as the actual food. Twenty or so courses are meticulously assembled in front of you. And unlike, say, l’Atelier, where there is a server between you and the chefs, here the chefs do that interaction as they work. It requires great talent and personality to fill that role.

Several levels of wine pairing are available here, and the wines are masterfully chosen to match the food. While it is expensive, I must say that the highest level wine pairing offered the best wines Ive encountered on a paring menu, with selections such as Unico and Chateau d’Yquem.

While none of the courses contained that home run of flavors that would stick with me in memory, I think the experience is well worth it, because of its unique intimacy.

é by José Andrés
3708 Las Vegas Blvd SLevel 2, Boulevard Tower
Las Vegas, NV
89109
(702) 698-7950
https://www.yelp.com/biz/%C3%A9-by-jos%C3%A9-andr%C3%A9s-las-vegas-4

The Bazaar by José Andrés

Interior

Exterior

Scallop ceviche

Caviar and lox cones

$9 a bite x 4

Foie Sandwich

Smoked oysters

Pork Bahn Mi Bun (3 Each)*

Octopus Toast

Squash Tempura Squash Blossoms

Philly Cheesesteak (signature dish)

Dessert room

Mille-Feuille, Caramel Cream and Salted Caramel

Rose

***** (5 stars)

The is an enormous restaurant that feels surprisingly intimate due to clever use of draperies and display cases as partitions. It definitely has an upbeat vibe, but isn’t deafening, and doesn’t make you feel like you’re not cool enough to be there.

Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s not cheap. In particular I thinking of the “cones” that look like little ice cream cones but are filled with ingredients like caviar. The operative word is “little”. They are literally smaller than your thumb, and couldn’t possibly be considered more than one bite, and not a very big bite at that. At $9 each they simply aren’t worth it, even if they are good.

But moving on, there are some much more noteworthy items on the menu. It’s divided between traditional tapas and modern tapas. The modern items were so interesting we just kept exploring, and never got to the traditional side of the extensive menu.

Scallop ceviche was Peruvian style with an unusual creamy but very tart broth. There were only a few bites of fish in the large bowl, but the tart broth made that seem like plenty.

The most inventive item we tried was the foie sandwich, which looked just like a Wonder Bread sandwich, but the bread was made of a somehow soft apple meringue! A thin layer of foie gras and jam was just enough.

Four raw oysters were served under a smoke-filled glass dome. The released smoke makes everyone around you want them, too!

Pork Bahn Mi Buns were three mini sliders with traditional flavors.

The octopus toast was extremely tender, and a generous serving. Raw jalapeno slices added a kick.

Squash tempura blossoms were stuffed with a cheese and olive mixture. The pungent olives overwhelmed the delicate flavors of the squash.

Philly cheesesteak is their signature dish, and it’s easy to see why. Four thin slices of wagyu are served atop a football-shaped pastry filled with a sharp cheese sauce. Eat this over a plate!!! It was delicious.

The wine list is fairly extensive, although most prices are pretty high. However, the Spanish wines are priced quite fairly, and there are some real gems.

A large section of the restaurant has been devoted to a separate dessert room, so at the conclusion of your meal they can transfer your drinks over there for a second experience that is seamless. The only other place I’ve seen this done is Berns in Tampa.

The dessert room lets you survey an array of dozens of items to help decide what you want to order. The rose filled with chocolate mousse was good, but the mille-feuille with salted caramel filling was even better.

Service in both parts of the restaurant was professional, attentive and pleasant. This is definitely one of the more interesting dining experiences in LA.

The Bazaar by José Andrés
465 South La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90048
(310) 246-5555
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-bazaar-by-jos%C3%A9-andr%C3%A9s-beverly-hills-3

mfk

Bar

Interior

Ceviche

Aguachile

Bread service for two

Crunchy prawn heads

Sardines (special)

Coquettes

Fideos

“Tortilla”

Basque cake

**** (4 stars)

If you don’t like little fishes such as sardines and anchovies you should stop reading now.

Still with me? mfk is definitely all about the style of fish you would find in the Basque region. It’s a lot like the pinchos we had in Bilbao. Nearly all of the plates are sized for sharing, so expect to order two or three per person, depending upon size and appetite.

The best items we tried were the ceviche and the aguachile. Both incorporated really fresh raw fish. Croquettes were also good.

The fideos was a good pasta dish, but it’s hard not to end up with very soft pasta when it is this thin. The dish we liked the least was the tortilla espanola, which had nothing to do with tortillas. It was basically a very fishy salt cod omelet.

The Basque cake was voted one of the best desserts in Chicago, but we didn’t find it all that special. Actually it seemed kind of dried out, but maybe that was just our piece.

Pricing is reasonable. There is a limited selection of wines, but they are perfect matches for this type of food.

Service isn’t at a fine dining level, with servers shuffling your used utensils from dirty plates to fresh ones, but it is adequate.

As others have noted, it only takes one loud person to make this very small restaurant very noisy.

mfk
432 W Diversey Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 857-2540
http://www.yelp.com/biz/mfk-chicago-2

Café Iberico

**** (4 stars)

This bustling tapas restaurant serves classic Spanish tapas in a rather brightly lit and loud dining room. Ironically enough, the bar is much quieter and more pleasant. In addition to the extensive list of rather large tapas items on the menu, there are smaller tasting size plates displayed in the cases that line the top of the bar. There’s also a fairly extensive list of wines and fino by the glass or bottle. Service is efficient but busy.

Café Iberico
737 N Lasalle Blvd
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 573-1510
http://www.yelp.com/biz/caf%C3%A9-iberico-chicago-3

Tapa Toro

***** (5 stars)

This may be Orlando’s best tapas restaurant. Its diverse menu offers all the standards, plus a lot of dishes with a unique twist, and unlike some tapas places there are a lot of lighter selections and many vegetarian offerings.

My favorite dish by far was the roasted cauliflower, which was perfectly seasoned and sauced, and topped with sultanas and capers. Yum! Grilled asparagus served with grated manchego was also very good.

More conventional were the salmon crudo and the grilled garlic shrimp plates. The assorted cold meat platter was also conventional except for the inclusion of a delicious house-made pate and house-made pickles.

There’s an extensive list of wines by the glass or bottle, plus a very intriguing cocktail list. I tried the Feliz Boca, an inspired mixture of rosemary, lavender, blood orange and bitters. Delicious, and an amazing match to the pate.

There’s a nice dessert menu, but note that there’s also a Ben and Jerry’s about ten feet away! Hmm. Decisions.

Service was very friendly and attentive, and the outdoor dining area is great–mostly shaded, with a view of the Orlando Eye, which is nearby.

Tapa Toro
8441 International Dr
Ste 260
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 226-2929
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tapa-toro-orlando

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

**** (4 stars)

This bustling tapas restaurant is larger than it looks from the outside, and is consistently busy.

The menu has a reasonably broad selection of tapas and also paella. There is also a substantial wine and sangria list, and a separate cocktail menu.

I particularly enjoyed the house smoked salmon.

Bacon wrapped dates were nice and crisp on the outside without being mushy on the inside.

Buttermilk chicken thighs seemed mis-named, and were more like chicken tenders with a wing sauce on them.

Beef skewers were tender and nicely charred on the outside, although the horseradish sauce could have used more kick.

The empanadas had a delightfully flakey pastry.

Service was friendly and attentive. Dishes are delivered by runners, and come out as they are ready, so don’t order everything at once or you will be inundated in food!

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!
2024 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 935-5000
http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-ba-ba-reeba-chicago-3

Emilio’s Tapas Sol y Nieve

**** (4 stars)

Wow, this place was packed, even on a rainy Thursday. Great vibe, just like Spain. The menu is a bit more limited than some Tapas places, but there is a nice variety. We really liked the beef dishes; very tender and good quality. There’s also a nice selection of Spanish wines. Service was very friendly, and noise levels are reasonable, even when busy, particularly at the window tables.

Emilio’s Tapas Sol y Nieve
215 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 467-7177
http://www.yelp.com/biz/emilios-tapas-sol-y-nieve-chicago-2

Capa

**** (4 stars)

The Four Seasons Hotel at Disney World is oddly the most austere Four Seasons I’ve been to, all hard surfaces and glaring lights. It’s the sort of place where the artwork is mostly square canvasses of one solid color.

Unfortunately, this austerity continues into the restaurants, including the flagship Capa on the 17th floor. What could be a real gem of a restaurant is defeated by an environment that sacrifices warmth for trendiness.

Certainly Capa has a lot to offer in the way of food. During a marathon evening of wine tasting we tried more than half the menu, and liked most of what we had.

The Hamachi Crudo, served with Clementines and a crunchy Horseradish topping was everyone’s favorite, and we had two orders and wanted more.

The Charcuterie Board was the best I’ve had. It includes Jamon Serrano, Cantimpalo, Lomo and we added some Iberico. The Lomo was particularly good.

The olive asortment included Arbequina, Gordal and Empeltre on the night we were there. Some were pitted, some not, and being served slightly warmed really increased their flavor profile.

The Shrimp coated with Chili were very pungent, a bit overwhelming with ours wines.

Patatas Bravas Potatoes looked like tater tots, but were amazingly fluffy, with a delicious Paprika and Black Garlic coating–some of the best potatoes I’ve ever had, and small enough to not feel guilty.

I’m not a big Pork Belly fan, but this version had been seared extra crispy, and I ate all of the generous portion.

The Octopus was chewy and lacked the crisp char needed to make it interesting.

Veal Cheeks had a gamey aroma that was quite unappealing.

The roasted Cauliflower was delicious, and served with a sunny side up egg for dipping.

For entrees we tried the 8 ounce Filet and the 12 ounce New York Strip. Both were prime. The filet, having been marinated, had an exotic succulence. The strip boasted a great smokey flavor from the grill and dry aging. Both were pretty pricey, but worth it.

The Bernaise Sauce was unusually thin (and a scanty portion) but proved to be a delicious dipping sauce for the strip, and its thinness actually made it a better accompaniment. It had lots of traditional Bernaise flavor.

The best side dish was the diced Carrot and Celery Root served with Pesto. The Swiss Chard and the Wild Mushrooms were both unremarkable. Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with Brown Butter were good, but not as good as they sound.

We also had an assorted dessert platter with ice creams, cakes, and some really good churros.

Service was up to the Four Seasons standard, with everyone extremely helpful and friendly.

Capa is lucky to have Jill Davis as Sommelier. She is perhaps Central Florida’s most knowledgable sommelier, and provided wonderful wine service and interesting comments on the wines we had. The wine list is superb, and excellently priced.

It’s worth the hunt for an unlocked door so you can view the Disney fireworks from the terrace outside, which is a welcome escape from the boxy dining room and open kitchen.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Capa for the great food and wine service, but it’s not a place I’d pick for a cozy or romantic evening. With different seating, surfaces and lighting I’d be there every week.

Capa
Four Seasons Resort
10100 Dream Tree Blvd
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 313-7777
http://www.yelp.com/biz/capa-orlando

Patacon Con Todo

***** (5 stars)

This is a great Colombian place for some out of the ordinary food. The main dish is served on either crispy or sweet plantains with your choice of chicken, beef or chicharrones (crispy pork skin). The thing that makes it particularly delicious is the great assortment of sauces to put on them. Try the combination of garlic and pineapple.

There are also a lot of other selections, including arepas and empanadas, and even hot dogs. Even though eleven of us showed up for lunch and one guy was handling the order taking, food prep and serving, it was really quite fast.

The place has a fair amount of seating for a counter service restaurant, and is spotlessly clean. Definitely a great spot to try something different.

Patacon Con Todo
6700 Conroy Windermere Rd
Ste 105
Orlando, FL 32835
(321) 732-3933
http://www.yelp.com/biz/patacon-con-todo-orlando-2

Columbia Restaurant

**** (4 stars)

This location features a beautiful interior design, much nicer than the original in Ybor City, and yet retaining the feel of a place that’s withstood the decades (and I guess it’s almost 20 years old, now that I think about it).

The food is the same as at the other Columbia restaurants, which is to say rich. A good third of the dishes include chorizo, and many are casseroles with no small amount of butter. So it’s not light dining! But it is tasty.

My favorite dish was the scallops, although the empanadas and quest funded were also good. The 1905 salad is also tasty, but ask them to go light on the dressing.

Service is best described as bustling and well-intentioned, perhaps not quite fine dining caliber, but certainly appropriate to the always busy atmosphere.

There is an extensive wine list that is not offered by default, so if you’re interested in Spanish wines be sure to ask for it, as there are many high end selections at reasonable prices.

Columbia Restaurant
649 Front St
Celebration, FL 34747
(407) 566-1505
http://www.yelp.com/biz/columbia-restaurant-celebration