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A top Spanish chef lands in L.A.!


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I've long been a huge fan of José Andrés, the Spanish chef who is an old friend of Ferran Adrià's and serves dazzling tasting menus at the tiny Minibar in Washington D.C.

Here's a full report of my last meal there. Some of his specialties are the deconstructed guacamole, foie gras cotton candy and an amuse of caipirinha nitro (a solid and smoke-filled version of the traditional Brazilian cocktail).

It's not just me that loves this chef, in fact: many egulleters have raved about his ultra-inventive cooking in the D.C. forum. The link to the Minibar topic is here

For those who have never heard of him, here's a quick recap, quoted from the press release:

"Born in Asturias and raised in Barcelona (...) His popular Washington, DC restaurant, Jaleo, was one of the first critically and commercially successful tapas restaurants in America(...) José has also been credited with introducing Americans to both traditional and avant-garde Spanish cooking, particularly with his exclusive Washington, DC-based restaurant, minibar by josé andrés. Food & Wine hailed José as the “hero of the Spanish revolution,” who “helped create the Spanish food boom in America.” And the late R.W. Apple of the New York Times called him “the boy wonder of culinary Washington.” José is also a television star in Spain."

It turns out he's just opened (or is about to open, I am not sure) his first West Coast restaurant, Bazaar, at the SLS hotel, which by the way has a very funky website

The p.r. team sent me a release and photos (below) of the dishes but I was wondering... have any of you tried it yet? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

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WATERMELON CUBES WITH TOMATO SEEDS

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TROUT ROE CONES

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WATERMELON WITH FETA

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LOBSTER SALAD

Edited by AlexForbes (log)

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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Thought I'd add a couple of things... Minibar - José Andrés' tiny D.C. restaurant - is actually a restaurant within a restaurant. It looks like a small sushi bar, and it's hidden on the upper floor of his Cafe Atlantico restaurant. Diners sit at the counter and enjoy the "show" - 2 or 3 hours of culinary malabarism.

Egulleter Zeemanb described Minibar very well, so I'll quote his blog:

"There is nothing like sitting and watching what goes on in the minibar “kitchen”. It’s part laboratory, with things like liquid nitrogen and thermal immersion circulators, and part gourmet kitchen, with all manner of containers and ingredients meticulously spread out on the counter. (...) The level of detail is excruciatingly amazing…..elements like using a big pair of surgical tweezers to grab single bits of lime zest off of a microplane before gently placing it on top of a dish…and that sort of precision was the theme throughout the evening. "

What I'd love to know is if the L.A. outpost will mimick the Minibar concept, or will be a simpler, less adventurous restaurant, which is more probable, since the place is a) in a hotel and b) much bigger than Minibar.

Still, I found out they will serve a few trademark Minibar concoctions in L.A., such as the caipirinha nitro and the steamed buns with caviar.

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have not eaten there yet (I plan to sometime soon), but I was at SLS for drinks and they had a dirty martini with the el bulli olives that I ordered with an extra olive on the side. The olive was very good and tasted just slightly different from that served at el bulli.

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One might wonder whether Jose will fall into that trap of spreading himself, and his food, too thin.

Always possible, but if anyone can do it, Jose can. He has incredible energy and a great staff.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 1 month later...

We have an opportunity to have dinner here next week. I find my self hesitating. I have read some reviews on other websites and blogs, but have any eGulleters been here yet? Does anyone have any feelings about the experience here? My husband and I will have one night out "sans enfants" so we are hoping for a very special meal.

I look forward to any thoughts from you.

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We have an opportunity to have dinner here next week.  I find my self hesitating.  I have read some reviews on other websites and blogs, but have any eGulleters been here yet?  Does anyone have any feelings about the experience here?  My husband and I will have one night out "sans enfants" so we are hoping for a very special meal. 

I look forward to any thoughts from you.

Been there, loved it. It was an amazing meal, definitely one of the best I've ever eaten. My recap is here.

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We have an opportunity to have dinner here next week.  I find my self hesitating.  I have read some reviews on other websites and blogs, but have any eGulleters been here yet?  Does anyone have any feelings about the experience here?  My husband and I will have one night out "sans enfants" so we are hoping for a very special meal. 

I look forward to any thoughts from you.

Don't hesitate. As others, and the LA Times, have noted, this is the real deal. The food is great, the decor great, it's fun and the service is friendly but unobtrusive. In my opinion, it's better to sit on the Blanco side of the restaurant: it's more romantic. If you like a more bistro and casual feel, then sit on the red side. There are a lot of choices on the menu, so once we learned they offer a tasting menu, we went with that. For $65 this is a steal. They give you a lot of food. We went to Minibar the year before, and I feel this is just as enjoyable an experience. Of course, the two places are very different in several respects, but I'm in awe of Andres' ability to pull off this kind of stunning food in such a large capacity format.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is one implication of having such a large menu: the likelihood of being served something not to your liking is greater than in a typical 4-star restaurant. However, although I didn't care for a couple of dishes we were given, I could see the thought and cleverness behind them, and that was enough to leave a good impression of those dishes. That's the good aspect of getting the tasting menu. If you don't like something, push it aside and make room for the many other things that are coming that you will like.

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Thank you to all of you for the input. It looks like there is a lot of positive reaction to what Jose Andres has created in LA. It seems like we will be going this Thursday night. I'll let you know all about our experience!

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I'm going Sunday during a long weekend in LA, even though the chef is unfortunately not in house that night. I've been to Minibar and Jaleo, and am really looking forward to seeing what the Andres' team does with this format in LA. When I first went to minibar I was amazed I could get reservation on a couple of weeks notice. In NYC, where I live, a 6 seat restaurant of this quality, value, and concept would be as sought after as Momofuku Ko. DC is very international, but much colder to the avant garde than LA, so this should be a lot of fun.

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Victornet, you can expect to have a lot of fun. We just got back from our meal and it was really great. We ordered carefully after reading whatever reviews we could find, and were not disappointed with a single dish. We were initially seated at a corner table in the lovely Blanco section but there was a pervasive smell of smoke coming from the other side of the window (an exterior wall) that led to our being moved. The new table was much more centrally placed but the new waiter was low on service. After the meal we chose to move to the dessert bar and our waiter named Gabriel was extremely attentive and made up for the earlier shortfall in service. I will post photos when we return home; in the meantime I would definitely give Chef Andres' new place a try.

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We had a very good meal at Bazaar on Sunday. We were a bit concerned that we were going on a night the chef was not scheduled to be in the kitchen, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Jose Andres in the dining room.

I went with two friends who had recently returned from a tour of San Sebastien's best restaurants (3 meals at Extaberri and a 'world changing' meal at Beresategui among them) and wondered how critical they would be. Apart from noticing that the foie gras inside the foie gras cotton candy was not up to the product they had been getting in the Basque country, all was good. And the fact that Bazaar allows you to bring great wine with only $20.00 corkage really helped.

Many dishes were familiar from Minibar - the Philly Cheese Steak was quite a bit better than it's earlier incarnation. The El Bulli olive was paired here with a more traditional version - Frank Bruni praised this in the Times yesterday, but I found the liquid olive so superior that the combination didn't add to my experience. Lots of good things to eat. Great, skinned California cherry tomatoes with liquid mozarella. The modern tortilla espanola was particularly good - I've had water bath cooked egg dishes from Paul Liebrandt and David Chang recently and this was right up there. We had a lot of vegetable based dishes and Bazaar is sourcing really good ingredients - you could see we weren't in DC anymore. It didn't hurt to have some Jamon Iberico de Belloto.

The service is still working itself out here. Dishes were coming out way too fast at first, but when we mentioned this the pace was moved to slower than glacial. But all the servers were enthusiastic, and the errors seemed to flow from a process of both learning the LA audience and providing as much education as the diners want or need. With 200 seats and an enormous menu to choose from they have to gauge how much steering diners need or want. I don't want to seem like I'm emphasizing the negatives - we had a really good time and will be returning.

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Alex, that is a great audio show. It gives viewers a really good idea of the experience at Bazaar.

As I mentioned above, I had dinner there nearly two weeks ago, and found the meal was a wonderful experience. We enjoyed every dish that we ordered, but with a menu so large, I think we were smart to read up on various dishes before going so we had a good idea of which dishes would appeal to us.

The experience begins as soon as you walk through the door. The place is rather surreal. You enter, expecting perhaps to see the lobby of the hotel, but instead the restaurant is right in front of you. A host and hostess are standing to your left and immediately give you a warm greeting. I told them we were there for our reservation and that I was waiting for my husband. I was told I could wait at the bar and have a drink, or could wait on the funky plump sofa-chair in some great color (pink or purple, can't remember which) which sits partly in the restaurant but also faces the door. Not being one to "drink alone" and also having too much energy to simply sit, propped on a seat, cool as it was, I chose instead to have a walk around the place. There are video screens scattered about showing really odd scenes - a man in a tuxedo, walking toward you, as if to serve you; a plump woman as if in an old painting that morphs into a dog; very surreal. Then there is the bazaar section of the restaurant, filled with all sorts of pricey objets d'art. The bar, filled with people who are there for drinks, sits on a diagonal in the center of the bar area, and looks very conducive to talking and mingling.

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The first impression that struck me - after I'd absorbed the whimsical and surrealist vibe - was how large the place was. We were seated in the Blanco section of the restaurant, which is decorated a little more traditionally. From there we could not even really see the rojo side. We had a nice table in the corner, right by the window facing the valet parking (although the windows were darkened so we could not see outside) and our waitress was lovely. Unfortunately, after a few minutes a strong smell of cigar smoke began to permeate to our table - we told our waitress and she agreed it was probably coming from outside, and she promptly had us moved to another table in the center of the room. From there we could see a small bar with 5 or so seats, presumably serving that particular section.

Our new table was great, but the new waiter left something to be desired. It's not that he faltered in his service, it's just that he was somewhat lifeless. provided no energy to the meal, offered no suggestions, and overall did not convey a pleasant personality. It was too bad, as our previous server had been very lively, and I tried in vain to suggest that she continue to serve us; I suppose once we moved sections that was that.

We both decided to start with soup; my sweetie had the Gazpacho, a beautifully light soup with hints of celery and even anise.

Gazpacho Estilo Algeciras

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Wild Mushroom Soup - Idiazabal Cheese, Golden Egg Yolk

Being a huge fan of mushrooms, I ordered the Wild Mushroom Soup which was topped at the table with a wild mushroom foam. It was gorgeous. The mushrooms were so tender and creamy they were reminiscent of the silky texture of foie gras.

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Jamon Iberico di Bellota

After reading about it, we had to order the Jamon Iberico di Bellota - these pigs are acorn fed. Despite the insane price (36$ for a two-ounce portion) we both felt it was well worth it. The meat literally melts on your tongue. There is a nuttiness as well as a saltiness that reminded me of a good sheep cheese. And best of all not a hint of that under-cured porky flavor that is so common in inferior versions of cured ham.

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As you can see the jamon was served with a toasted white bread rubbed with tomato. I had heard great things about this toast but in this particular portion I found the toast to be a little stale; I ate it because it was there, and I didn't even bother eating the crusts.

Edited by Shaya (log)
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We also ordered the Watermelon Tomato Skewers with Pedro Ximénez reduction and Cherry Tomatoes.

Anyone who knows me also knows what a tough choice this was...tomato seeds are one of my few food phobias (along with mustard and cilantro). My hunny, on the other hand, goes out of his way to eat tomato seeds whenever the opportunity arises. So we ordered the dish, he got my portion of seeds, and everyone was happy. What a wonderful marriage between the sherry reduction and the watermelon. Made me wonder why I had never before served watermelon with balsamic and olive oil...definitely will do so this summer.

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Foie Gras with Quince and Brioche

The menu has a selection of fun sandwiches. My favorite of the evening was the Foie Gras with Quince and Brioche. Delightful. Flavorful. The addition of crunchy salt was perfect to counter the sweet buttery brioche; loved this so much we ordered another plate at the end of our meal. :smile:

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Sea Urchin

Along the same lines was a sandwich of Uni and avocado in a steamed bun. Also wonderful but so different from the previous sandwich. This one tastes like the sea; it contains a ribbon of avocado which adds to the oveerall creaminess; I loved that it was not overly salty or fishy; a hint of basil; overall impression is one of freshness. Lovely.

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Continuing along the sandwich theme:

Philly Cheesesteak; air bread, cheddar, wagyu beef - another winner! One bite into the crispy shell reveals a glorious melted creamy cheese; the whole is topped with shavings of melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef. my sweetie said he could have eaten a large plate of these!

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Bite:

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Cotton Candy Foie Gras - delightful, whimsical, sweet and buttery; made me wish the kids had been with us; my hunny thought the cotton candy should have been caramelized (is that even possible?)

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Tortilla de Patatas "new way" ; potato foam, egg 63, caramelized onions; very cool presentation, with the eggshell spray-painted silver; I didn't get much sensation of potato, although the caramelized onions worked really well with the egg; for some reason I found this dish a bit salty

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Bite

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At this point in the meal it occurred to me - and I even mentioned it to my sweetie - that there had not been even one amuse bouche throughout the meal. I found that odd given the type of restaurant it was; is this not something we have come to expect in certain types of establishments?

Anyhow, either my whispers were heard or the restaurant has a habit of offering these toward the end of the meal, but sure enough a surprise platter was soon put before us. It was a platter of Cippolini onions. Not something I ever would have ordered, as I am not a fan of lightly-cooked onions, but the elements on the plate were tasty nontheless.

Oven Roasted Cippolini Onions; clemtines, passionfruit, pumpkinseed oil

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After bringing us our second order of foie gras brioche, our waiter offered us the option of moving over to the dessert bar for the next course. We took him up on the offer, and welcomed the change in scenery as well as service.

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Our new waiter was named Gabriel. He was not only adorable, but attentive, funny and thoughtful. He noticed that my voice was becoming hoarse (I was indeed at the start of a bad cold) and suggested a beautiful tea would hit the spot; he was so right; loved the touch of the personalized honey jar too.

He also assisted my sweetie in ordering a house-blend coffee that was pronounced "one of my best cups of coffee ever". Content with our hot drinks, we were able to enjoy the atmosphere around us, once again punctuated by whim and fantasy.

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Finally we had two amazing desserts.

Chocolate stick - orange gelatin, freeze dried raspberries;

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Hot chocolate mousse- Asian pear, chocolate pearls, pear sorbet

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We ended the evening by selecting some of the house-made chocolates to take home to my Aunt and Uncle as a thankyou for looking after the kids. A great evening, I would recommend it. Thank you to those who offered your recommendations.

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