We’re not saying you should visit only one José Andrés restaurant in your lifetime. But if you do, make it the one that actually offers a once-in-a-lifetime, capital-E—or rather É—experience. Tucked within Jaleo, the living legend’s splashy fixture at the Cosmopolitan, é is an eight-seat chef’s counter for which reservations must be made three months in advance and confirmed by a golden ticket in the mail. Throughout the 20-plus-course, interactive prix fixe tasting, you’ll see things you’ve never seen before—shape-shifting, gravity-defying, carnivalesque things involving bags and boxes and vases. You’ll taste things you’ll never taste again: a sphere of sparkling sangria that liquefies in your mouth, say, or a caviar-filled cup made of flash-frozen almonds, or an “empanada” of foie gras and corn nuts in a cotton-candy shell. It may damage your wallet, but unless you’ve had years of practice serving wine with sea cucumber or jellied egg yolks, we suggest you take the beverage-pairing plunge as well.
If, as we observed in our roundup of the best French restaurants in America, contemporary American cuisine has its roots in France, its future may belong to Spain. It was the Spanish, after all, who introduced us to the now-commonplace notion of small plates; it was they who mainly led the way in popularizing the techniques of molecular gastronomy so widespread today. (A single glance at the nation’s toughest restaurant reservations or the best restaurants in New York, L.A., Chicago and beyond goes to show the depth and breadth of the Spanish influence.) And our 16 picks for the best Spanish restaurants in America—be they the most rustic of tapas bars or pioneering of avant-garde temples—make that future look exceptionally bright.