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José Andrés' Minibar


John W.
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Note that Cafe Atlantico puts on a stunning prix fixe vegetarian Latino Dim Sum brunch. I have no idea what their policy is at the minibar, but the brunch is one of the best vegetarian meals I have had anywhere.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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went to minibar tonight: Very cool.

High points; Cauliflower in textures, clam chowder, conch fritter, foie in cotton candy, sea urchin in pomegranite, guacamole.

Low points: Lots of trout roe, love it, but only once.

For 65 bucks it's a great tasting menu, very unique.

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went to minibar tonight: Very cool.

High points; Cauliflower in textures, clam chowder, conch fritter, foie in cotton candy, sea urchin in pomegranite, guacamole.

Low points: Lots of trout roe, love it, but only once.

For 65 bucks it's a great tasting menu, very unique.

Its interesting how one person's favrite could be another person's least favorite. The Sea Urchin was definitely on my list of lows.

And I agree about the Trout Roe. It is such a distincitive and strong taste that you can't remember much about those dishes except that they had trout roe in them.

Bill Russell

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My mouth is watering.....

I'm at work so I can't link it but check out today's food section. There is a little piece about mini bar and the cotton candy foie gras.

Chap, how many foie gras dishes did you have?

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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I finished mini-bar less than an hour ago. It was one of my top 5 eating experiences, and I don't need to do it again for another year or so. I am also a bit tipsy, well a lot tipsy, so bare with me.

Throughout the whole meal I kept thinking how great it would be to be dining with other Egulleteers. It would be an amazing night.

First, my hats of to Josh, our chef. (The chef who is pictured above is Ed. He got stuck with a poor schmuck and his unappreciative wife. A manager had to come and explain that it was okay to eat with your fingers. My group was licking our fingers at the time. They left "bites" unfinished.) Interacting with him was a major part of the experience. I impressed the hell out of him when he presented Eggs 147 (oh my god that was good) and asked if we knew what the 147 stood for. "That's the temperature you cooked the eggs to" I replied as if he had asked what 2+2 is. (5, right?) Little did he know I had egullet on my side.

I agree that the Foie Gras truffle, Conch fritter and cauliflower in textures were the highlights. The cauliflower is presented as three layers in a large shot glass. The first layer was steamed cauliflower that is pureed to a thick soup consistency. Next is basically a truffle jello. I'm sure if I was sober I could think of the right word, but oh well. It is topped with "cauliflower couscous". California couscous is bullshit for cauliflower flowerets shaved with a vegetable peeler. Damned tasty bullshit though.

The other stand out was Deconstructed white wine. This time it was wine jello topped with tiny flavorings" grated lemon zest, orange zest, pear?, fig, pomegranate juice, Parmesan cheese?, and the piece de resistance, freshly scraped vanilla beans. You eat a spoonful of the jello with one of the flavorings, all of which are often found in white wine. The final bite of vanilla beans is one of the most amazing things I have ever tasted. Tartness of wine balanced with the sweet of pure vanilla. Perfect.

No one has mentioned the plate. I am kicking myself for not having a decent picture. It is a big metal coil, that boings, with a plastic white modern plate. I don't get why the plate was plastic? It cheapened the meal, especially since they only needed a limited number of settings. The small plates each course was served on were fine, but could be better. I felt there was too much white throughout the meal. A definite absence of color.

I don't get the chocolate corn nuts. Frankly, there was too much corn. Nuts, chips, popped, baby, stalk. Enough already. And the trout row. Now don't get me wrong. I love caviar. All caviar. I buy salmon roe and eat the entire container in one sitting. But it got boring. Oh look, more trout caviar. Whoop-de-doo. Not.

I also am not going to shave for a long time. Thank heavens it is winter. All that f'***ing foam. It was cool once. Fun two or three times. Overdone after that. I don't want to see anything foamy for a while.

I hadn't read the whole thread in a while so it was interesting remembering what I had read as I was served it. Many of the platings have changed since Vengroff took his photos in October. The Cesar salad, guacamole, mango soup, and corn nuts were all presented differently. The nuts now come with passion fruit marshmallow kisses (oh my god that was good too) and a tiny cube of raspberry jello (like those jelly fruit candies you eat at Passover) with some kind of liquid in it.

Other changes: No potato/vanilla foam which I was looking forward to. The popcorn is now topped with cumin, which is fantastic. Mango soup looks different and had a lot of mint. The pop rocks were the same brand that I buy for my students at CVS. The Listerine pop is now a Halls pop. Gross.

For those of you who are still reading, here is info I got out of Josh:

*Jose is looking to expand to 12 seats with the chefs in the middle.

*Jose is opening two new restaurants in Virginia: a Jaleo, I think in Crystal City and a high end Mexican restaurant.

*I am pretty sure they are going through menu shifts right now. There was a third chef, I think the name was Ruben on his jacket, who kept butting in and changing things. There was a beet and scallop dish he changed the plating of a few times before it was served. They were also trying out different flavor combinations toward the end of the meal. I kept hoping the would try it out with us, but they didn't.

*Last, but certainly not least, Jose wants to install cameras so you can watch the chefs over the web!!!!!!!!. Can you imagine???????

All in all, well worth every penny, calory and moment of foam. We were celebrating a special occassion and the staff made sure we were as happy as could be. They even printed a special message at the top of the menu. I'm having it framed.

I apologize for the lack of pictures. I couldn't figure out how to turn off the flash and only one of the pictures turned out. If it's worth posting, I'll do so later. I got info on vegetarian meals, but it can wait until I sober up in a day or two.

Edited because I accidental sent it before I was done. That's what happens after a mojito and three glasses of wine :biggrin:

Edited by hillvalley (log)

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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I hadn't read the whole thread in a while so it was interesting remembering what I had read as I was served it. Many of the platings have changed since Vengroff took his photos in October. The Cesar salad, guacamole, mango soup, and corn nuts were all presented differently. The nuts now come with passion fruit marshmallow kisses (oh my god that was good too) and a tiny cube of raspberry jello (like those jelly fruit candies you eat at Passover) with some kind of liquid in it.

Other changes: No potato/vanilla foam which I was looking forward to. The popcorn is now topped with cumin, which is fantastic. Mango soup looks different and had a lot of mint. The pop rocks were the same brand that I buy for my students at CVS. The Listerine pop is now a Halls pop. Gross.

Sounds like a lot of those have changes in the last two weeks.

Bill Russell

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Sounds like a lot of those have changes in the last two weeks.

How so?

They will work with you to make a vegetarian meal. Give them a call. Depends on what kind of vegetarian you are. Sounds like they have done it before. They also work with dietary restrictions of other kinds.

Sorry about the shots. My hats off to vengroff for his amazing pics above. Here is the only half way decent shot of the cotton candy foie gras.

i3151.jpg

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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Sounds like a lot of those have changes in the last two weeks.

How so?

I didn't have either a Listerine or a Halls drop. Just had the chocolate corn nuts by themselves. The popcorn was the standard chicken curry.

No major changes, but interesting that it looks like they are making some subtle changes to the menu.

For those who haven't been, behind the bar is a small video screen that shows the menu, but as it was when they first opened. There were dishes on there that I was looking forward to that never came. Oh well, maybe next time.

Bill Russell

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A few additional Minibar photos, to add to the already excellent album that has been assembled here by Darren Vengroff & Co.

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Cone with trout roe & cheese

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Jicama ravioli with guacamole (right) and with tuna seviche (left)

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Deconstructed white wine

This is a forthcoming dish that Jose let us try. It's a "light bulb of flavor" made of thinner-than-paper sugar candy.

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The light bulb of flavor

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The light bulb is illuminated by a flashing blue LED

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You are asked to place it directly in your mouth

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Guacamole and tomato sorbet

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The airy emulsion that tops the sea urchin

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The sea urchin presentation

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Jose, getting animated about the cuisine

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"Wild pink" scallops

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Sardines in a crust

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Watermelon "air"

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Presentation of the checks in a fortune cookie and an egg

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If there is interest in seeing a photo of a particular dish, I think I have about 30 of them cataloged. I've posted just some selections here so as not to bury the thread in a mountain of jpegs.

There should be some comments from Fat Guy later this weekend -- we have a long drive today and I've used the good computer all morning. For me, though, Jose's Minibar was one of the most amazing and enjoyable culinary experiences in which I've ever had the pleasure to participate.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Beautiful pics. Are these recent? There are a number of dishes that I didn't have a week ago. Then again I'm not FG and Jose wasn't there.

What was inside the lightbulb?

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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There's nothing inside the lightbulb.

To respond to your other comment, Hillvalley, the pics are from the Feb 20, 2004. We ate the same food that was on the printed menu, which is what was served to the other four people at the minibar, which was prepared by the same cooks. On top of that, we had one off-menu dish which will be on the menu soon: the light bulb. Jose and Fat Guy, who had never met before, engaged in heated conversation for quite some time, but the only thing Jose himself "cooked" was the light bulb. Nor was there any special advance preparation done: we had no plans to visit the minibar (we had already eaten dinner!), we hadn't been able to get reservations when we tried in advance, and we only made our reservation 20 minutes before the event because a party of 2 had cancelled at the last minute. We didn't even have to kill them, which was the original plan.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Donk, you don't want to see them all! The conditions were less than ideal, photographing and eating something like 30 dishes in something like 2 hours -- and for the first part of that time there were 4 other people at the minibar so I had to avoid flash and couldn't move around much. But I will try to process several more photos. The problem is that we're on the road for the next couple of weeks using mostly dialup connections. So it may take a little time.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Last year when I visited Café Atlantico, Zaytinya, and Jaleo (all in a 24-hour period) I realized that Jose Andres is one of the most significant chefs in America today. Last week when I visited the Minibar I had to alter my assessment of Jose Andres: he is one of the most significant chefs in the world, ever. I have never, in the space of just a couple of hours, been exposed to so many flavor possibilities and such a diverse array of culinary stimuli. It was one of my most memorable meals.

It's not difficult to understand why Andres hasn't gained the recognition he so heartily deserves: he practices in Washington, DC, a town the gastro-elites have designated as firmly second-tier; he doesn't have a fancy restaurant to his name; and his food is "weird." More importantly, the community of critics is ill-prepared to deal with Andres: his cuisine doesn't fit into neat categories; he is too handily (and incorrectly) dismissed, marginalized, or bracketed as entirely derivative of Adria; and the plodding structural needs of today's restaurant reviews -- a thumbs-up/thumbs-down dish-by-dish approach to analysis, certain expectations of luxuriousness and comfort at different price points and levels of culinary sophistication, and easy comparisons to commonly understood flavors and preparations -- are not well served by Andres's approach. What I've seen written about Andres in the mainstream food press has been reminiscent of someone totally dedicated to Renaissance portraiture attempting to use those tools to evaluate Picasso.

Which is not to say Andres hasn't done well in the media. He has. He's smart. He knows how to play the game. But what you see in the glossy food magazines is a dumbed-down version of Andres -- the one that will be palatable to gastronomic trainspotters and others who want a neat package they can simply file away. Such coverage is not real recognition.

A new set of critical tools will be required to explain Andres, and it's not likely that we will ever be able to keep up with him. But the food media are at least somewhat fortunate in being behind the times: we can look to other art forms for a better understanding of how to get a handle on modernism and post-modernism in cuisine. Andres represents not manipulation of form for its own sake, but rather for the sake of elevating substance over form.

To call a meal at Minibar an "experience" trivializes it. But the term is still useful, because the mandatory first step in enjoying Minibar is to embrace it existentially rather than with the preconceived notions of a restaurant customer or reviewer. No serious observer questions Andres's skill or integrity as a chef. He has earned our trust; we can take this leap of faith with him. If you're not willing to let yourself go, if you're not willing to fall backwards into the arms of a different kind of adventure, Minibar will be wasted.

Like a series of still photographs strung together into a film, Andres's individual dishes are a collage of light and motion, flavor and texture, temperature and aroma. Yet Minibar is utterly unpretentious. Though the conceptual underpinnings are substantial, the meal is ultimately about fun: fun with flavor, of course, but also the pleasure of interaction with the talented group of cooks and servers -- not to mention the other customers -- with whom you share your space. It's a sensuous, tactile, interlocking, all-encompassing dynamic: the cooks hand you food and you eat much of it with your fingers while they talk you through exactly how best to savor each dish; at the same time, the servers move behind you, darting in and out of your peripheral vision as their arms weave between customers' shoulders to refill a glass of cava or remove a used plate; and you might also be discussing, praising, or arguing about the food -- this is food that demands conversation -- with your spouse, or the spouse of the next person over, or the servers, or the cooks, or yourself.

It seems inevitable that Andres will at some point set up a beautiful, luxurious, boutique restaurant somewhere and create an upscale version Minibar. And I'm sure it will be wonderful, along the lines of the more avant garde of the Michelin three-star restaurants of Europe. But for now I enjoy Minibar just as it is: the incongruousness of sitting at a counter in the middle of the bustling multi-tiered Café Atlantico, the ceaseless activity, and the effortless casualness of it all. And those of you who eat at Minibar this year will be able to say you were there at the beginning, because I assure you Andres is destined for greatness.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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One thing that struck me about Minibar is how different it is from Zaytinya and Jaleo (I have never eaten at Cafe Atlantico), aside from the fact that they all serve very good food.

Jaleo and Zaytinya are both very accessible. I took my 67 year old, defintely non-foodie mother to Zaytinya and she loved it and wanted to know where she could get the same sort of experience in St. Louis (not an easy task).

Minibar, as FG mentions in his post would be wasted on many people. As I said in my post after eating there, aside from the people I have met through eGullet, I'm not sure I could recommend Minibar to anyone else I know without them thinking I was insane.

Jaleo and Zaytinya could succeed on almost any scale, but I'm not sure Minibar could be much more than the small intimate experince that it is. Andres knows who his target is - people who love food. Not just eating it, but thinking about it, debating about it and remembering it. And he hits those people square on the bullseye.

And if, as Fat Guy says, he ends up opening "a beautiful, luxurious, boutique restaurant somewhere and create an upscale version Minibar" I hope it is right here in DC.

Bill Russell

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Some additional dishes:

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Curry chicken popcorn

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Corn on the cob

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Egg and truffle

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New England clam chowder

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Tuna with crispy rice

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Cauliflower in textures

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Pineapple with cured salmon, avocado, and quinoa

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Conch fritter with a liquid center

Jose Andres, again:

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Holding the foie gras cotton candy

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Preparation and presentation of the "meat and potatoes":

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Mango ravioli of trout roe with tomato seeds; to be slurped directly from the plate:

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Hot and cold foie gras soup:

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"Lobster Americaine," with a syringe containing the broth:

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A couple of additional dessert items:

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Mango soup with pop rocks

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Petits fours

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Minibar, as FG mentions in his post would be wasted on many people. As I said in my post after eating there, aside from the people I have met through eGullet, I'm not sure I could recommend Minibar to anyone else I know without them thinking I was insane.

I have lost track of the number of "she's finally lost it" looks when I tried to describe the experience. Has anyone succeeded in describing it, or is that a lost cause with nonfoodies?

FG & Ellen, the pictures are beautiful. What I had hoped to take before I got caught up in the food. One question, on the petit fours trio, what was the inbetween the corn nuts and raspberry jelly? Was it marshmellow?

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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I have lost track of the number of "she's finally lost it" looks when I tried to describe the experience. Has anyone succeeded in describing it, or is that a lost cause with nonfoodies?

There are some non-foodies who will intuitively "get" Minibar, just as the overwhelming majority of foodies won't. Fundamentally, acceptance of the culinary avant garde is likely to follow the path of acceptance of the avant garde in anything else: a few forward-looking/open-minded types will be early adopters, and eventually today's avant garde may become tomorrow's tradition.

We as eGulleters are ideally suited to be at the forefront of advocacy for the culinary avant garde -- we are the logical media and consumer companions to this movement. We've already captured the meaning of Adria, Blumenthal, Achatz, and others in a deeper, more comprehensive manner than print media ever will. I'd also personally like to be a more convincing evangelist for Andres and the culinary avant garde, but first I have to do a lot more traveling and a lot more thinking and writing.

At the same time, I think Andres's food is quite accessible. He throws the occasional curveball, but any non-picky eater (yes I realize that's a small subset of the population) should be able to enjoy the food. I think, however, I'd probably recommend the Latino dim sum brunch at Cafe Atlantico over Minibar to most people who aren't super-adventurous -- you get a lot of the creativity of Minibar without the avalanche of sensory information. When we did the dim sum brunch at Cafe last year, we had in tow one unadventurous eater. He did very well, but Minibar would probably have been too much for him.

FG & Ellen, the pictures are beautiful.  What I had hoped to take before I got caught up in the food.  One question, on the petit fours trio, what was the inbetween the corn nuts and raspberry jelly?  Was it marshmellow?

I think it was, but I don't remember for sure. I decided early in the meal to dispense with the formality of taking notes on the dishes. It's not the point of a meal at Minibar. I actually think, as much as I appreciate the printed menu and the video monitors displaying the names of the dishes, that I'd prefer not to have a list of the dishes because, in discussing Minibar, I think the dishes themselves are a distraction from the more important central themes. There's a better way to talk about food at this level; I'm still working on exactly what that way is.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I actually think, as much as I appreciate the printed menu and the video monitors displaying the names of the dishes, that I'd prefer not to have a list of the dishes

The video menu was particularly distracting because about half of the dishes listed were slightly different than those served or were not served altogether.

Bill Russell

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FG & Ellen, the pictures are beautiful.  What I had hoped to take before I got caught up in the food.  One question, on the petit fours trio, what was the inbetween the corn nuts and raspberry jelly?  Was it marshmellow?

I think it was, but I don't remember for sure. I decided early in the meal to dispense with the formality of taking notes on the dishes. It's not the point of a meal at Minibar. I actually think, as much as I appreciate the printed menu and the video monitors displaying the names of the dishes, that I'd prefer not to have a list of the dishes because, in discussing Minibar, I think the dishes themselves are a distraction from the more important central themes. There's a better way to talk about food at this level; I'm still working on exactly what that way is.

I agree. After the second dish, I stopped worrying about pics. and details to savor every moment of the experience.

However, the marshmellow is the only desert that has stayed with me as relive the meal. It was flavored with passion fruit.

They were three little kisses of marshmellow heaven.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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  • 1 month later...

Warning - unsolicited propaganda follows. :smile: Having heard so much from Katsuya about the minibar I'm so happy to see these amazing dishes come to life - thanks for posting the photos! As i'm sure you all recognize, what you're enjoying there are the fruits of Kats' hours and hours of work, dreaming up, experimenting with, perfecting and re-perfecting those amazing creations, and making sure it all gets from the idea into your mouth with the utmost success. Cafe and the minibar would not be what they are without him as well as Jose. I am in no way diminishing Jose's talents and skills, I too think he's really wonderful, just wanted to throw in a cheers to Kats' skill and creativity. watch him, talk to him, follow him wherever he goes!

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