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José Andrés' Minibar


John W.
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Your killing me here...it sounds brilliant. I need more details.  Was the uni whole? How was it presented.  Did the banana bring out the uni flavor as I am imagining it would?  It sounds completely divine.

Now that I look at the menu they gave us, I have it mixed up. The sea urchin was served whole with pomegranite air on top and I believe it was an oyster that had the banana foam on top and a chilled mango soup underneath it (it's tough to keep all that food straight :wacko: ). Both those dishes were outstanding.

Chris Sadler

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thought the DC egulleteers might be interested...

I read in El Pais and El Mundo (the Spanish national newspapers) that Jose Andres will be hosting a daily cooking show here in Spain on TVE. He is replacing the well-known Basque chef, Karlos Arguiñano, who has moved to Telecinco.

http://www.abc.es/abc/pg040921/prensa/noti...NAC-COM-091.asp

P.S. When I read about the closure of the Minibar, I had to laugh. Nothing could be more authentically Spanish than closing down a restaurant for the month of August!

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According to a person chiming in during today's Tom Sietsema chat, the price has gone up to $85 per person.

I can confirm this -- I have reservations for the end of the month, and was told it would be $85 pp. My question is this -- it seemed under-priced before ($2 a course?), so is this just a correction, or does anyone know if significant changes will be made to the menu?

(edit for typo)

Edited by DCatty (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Just a quote from the Alinea Project thread, which I hope everyone is following (it's fascinating). Not to rekindle the "derivative" debate, but Chef Grant Achatz is developing for his new restaurant a "dried creme brulee" in an orb of caramel. He was slightly deflated to learn:

"In true ironic innovative fashion we looked at the November issue of Food and Wine today and read about Jose Andres producing a “caramel lightbulb”…after some disbelief and a few four letter words we came to the conclusion that we ran out of time for this concept. In todays fast paced world you need to get your ideas to the table very quickly, every pun imaginable intended."

In short, I am looking forward to my reservation at Minibar next week.

Save Pale Male <--- GO HERE!
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The caramel lightbulb wasn't on the menu when I went last Friday, but it was the best of the four times I've eaten there. New additions (esp. the melon ravioli) and refixes of some existing items (new presentation of the guacamole, a cigale-based variation on the sardines) have convinced me that it's not just hometown pride that's made me enjoy minibar more than Moto or even WD-50.

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Fascinating? I think its downright hilarious.

Personally, I think that nothing is more fascinating (in a hilarious way) than the new ideas for eating utensils in Alinea...they look like a cross between minor medical contraptions and exercise machines for really tiny people..

Resident Twizzlebum

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  • 10 months later...

I don't understand it--3 months after opening, Chicago's Alinea is garnering an ever-increasing chorus of praise, and two like-minded establishments (Moto and WD-50) are receiving national media attention. Meanwhile, minbar goes unmentioned despite its relatively long history and purebreed pedigree (Jose Andres returns to El Bulli annually to work with Ferran Adria). Here on Egullet Alinea spawned its <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showforum=163">own forum,</a> and has <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=66997&st=0">a thread</a> 11 pages long. I was able to get Friday night reservations for two at minibar with less than 24 hours notice--astonishing for a restaurant that seats only 6. I know DC caters to the expense account meat and potatoes crowd, but that's ridiculous.

I arrived at the minibar, brother in tow, without having a specific idea of what to expect aside from lots (and lots) of tiny courses, and cotton candy foie gras--and I thought that meant cotton candy foie gras, not foie gras <em>wrapped</em> in cotton candy. I was also somewhat trepidatious, since of two previous trips to Cafe Atlantico one was disastrous and the other mediocre (granted, the first--truly awful--experience was probably before Jose took over). The polished copper bar, intimate setting, and wonderful aromas (apples sauteed in red wine, I believe) certainly made a positive impression, but I was still worried.

Needlessly. With the first course, I was stunned. A thimblefull of olive oil and dash of vinegar encased in a crystalline caramel shell. The experience was similar to reading William Gibson's Neuromancer, or hearing the Rite of Spring for the first time. Truly revolutionary (at least to my sensibilities). Although no single additional course had the impact of the olive oil bonbon, the sequence of ideas, techniques, and tastes was a continuous rush. Every dish was described by the three chefs--one for every pair of diners. Highlights included pineapple salmon ravioli (bites of salmon wrapped in pineapple), liquid cantaloupe ravioli (cantaloupe juice in a gelled shell), the famous deconstructed new england clam chowder (lightly killed clam with baked potatoe foam), and the philly cheese steak (exquisitely rare Kobe beef wrapped around a cheddar cheese sauce). Misses (relative misses, these were still intriguing) were the zuchini in textures (but I've never liked zuchinni, so I'm biased), deconstructed guacamole, and sweet pea caviar (both too cold, which muted the flavors).

A dish that may define the minibar was the deconstructed glass of white wine: a white wine gelle spread across the bottom of a long, thin rectangular plate with evenly spaced, tiny piles of flavor components commonly found in wine: lemon zest, mint, vanilla, etc. The chefs (with whom we were constantly interacting--a true joy) instructed each of us to sample the flavors one at a time, and guess what they were. A much better way to learn about wine than the aroma wheel!

I left that night with my head absolutely spinning. In fact, I was so impressed that I arranged a trip to Chicago to see <a href="http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/pages/home.asp">Body Worlds,</a> and squeeze in meals at Alinea and Moto. I'm glad to say minibar held its own. Although they are similar in a broad sense, the three restaurants each have a distinct feel. Alinea seems to be more about experimenting with complex flavors. Moto is pushing the boundaries of technical preperations. minibar (should I capitalize a lower-case proper noun at the beginning of a sentence?) is more intellectual, encouraging you to think about what you're eating. They also have many dishes with minimal ingredients, focusing on texture or temperature combinations, rather than complex blends of flavor, and perhaps more playful (even if the pop rocks are gone). The atmosphere is welcoming and the chefs are amazing. An extra bonus--it's a lot less expensive than the Chicago pair, and every bit as good.

Now, is anyone willing to send me to NY to sample WD-50 on an expense account? How about El Bulli?

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Rob, I think the "seats only six" issue may be a big part of the reason for Minibar's relative lack of presence. I wouldn't say it goes unmentioned -- Jose has been mentioned several times in outlets like the New York Times and the major food magazines. Rather, the coverage doesn't really seem to get Jose's significance. He is also punished a bit, I think, for daring to be commercial and for operating multiple wildly successful upper-middle-market restaurants. In terms of public acceptance, however, I'm just not sure how one can expect a restaurant with six seats to generate all that much buzz outside of the hardcore foodie subculture. I'm sure someday Jose will open a whole restaurant serving Minibar-style food. When that happens, I hope the media and public reactions will be different. However, it should be noted that right now the Latino Dim Sum weekend lunch offers many items that are the same or stylistically similar to those served at Minibar, but in the whole restaurant. There's also a chef's tasting menu that offers some of those items.

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 work in Penn Quarter and have occassional work functions at the surrounding restaurants like Cafe Atlantico, Poste, Rosa Mexicano, Jaleo, Ginger Cove, etc. Bummer because I sample the lunch menus and cocktail food, but never eat dinner because I don't want to socialize at restaurants I associate with "work". However, we had a cocktail function at Cafe Atlantico a few months ago, and just the "cocktail" food my company had them serve was wonderful. The conch fritters with liquid centers were amazing, and the tuna and coconut ceviche was a close second. Even the guacamole that they put out for us was completely addictive. So, maybe I'll just get off at a different Metro stop so I don't have to pass my building on the way to dinner and explore the menu some more. It sounds fabulous.

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Rob, when was the last time you explored DC's dining scene in depth?
I know DC caters to the expense account meat and potatoes crowd, but that's ridiculous.

It depends how you define "in depth". I work in the food hell of Greenbelt, and live not much closer in. I am well aware of the amazing array of ethnic places (I probably visit Pho 75, Food Factory, Mandalay, Costa Allegre (tacos), any one of a number of ethiopian restaurants, and the vegetarian Indian buffet across the street once a month each), and hit 2-3 super high-end restaurants a year for special occasions, plus another 1-2 on travel [this summer being a notable exception (did I mention I was completely blown away by molecular gastronomy?)]. Aside from minibar, I <strong>really</strong> like Palena, had good experiences at Equinox and Le Paradou, and enjoyed the trio of Ceiba, DC Coast, and Ten Penh. Sushi Ko, Kaz's, and Sushi Taro are all good for the obvious. Citronelle was a disappointment (my appetizer and entre were almost identical) and I've never been to Maestro, the Galileo, or The Inn at Little Washington.

I'm not trying to say that DC has bad food, but that people flock to steak houses and other rather boring places while ignoring something brilliant. It's not just DC metro residents, but the national press, who don't recognize what we have. For instance, Chicago Magazine compared Aline and Moto to WD-50 and Per Se (Per Se !?! -- one of these is not like the others.) Another article I read rated NY, Chicago, SF, Las Vegas, and New Orleans as the best food cities in the U.S. I'll grant the top three as being clearly superior to DC (although recent trips to SF have been relatively disappointing), but Vegas?--it's almost entirely duplicate restaurants. (I've never been to New Orleans). Maybe I'm just pissy because Ruby Tuesday's, Friday's, and Chevy's are always packed, and the handful of decent neighborhood ethnic places within 15 minutes of Greenbelt are never more then 3/4 full.

I really just wanted to point out that minibar is spectacular and inspiring.

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I was able to get Friday night reservations for two at minibar with less than 24 hours notice--astonishing for a restaurant that seats only 6.

You were extremely lucky. I called the other day to attempt a reservation for a special occasion three weeks out and they were booked on weekends through September 30. Maybe I'll cross my fingers for a cancellation and call again.

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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  • 2 weeks later...
I don't understand it--3 months after opening, Chicago's Alinea is garnering an ever-increasing chorus of praise, and two like-minded establishments (Moto and WD-50) are receiving national media attention. Meanwhile, minbar goes unmentioned despite its relatively long history and purebreed pedigree (Jose Andres returns to El Bulli annually to work with Ferran Adria). Here on Egullet Alinea spawned its <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showforum=163">own forum,</a> and has <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=66997&st=0">a thread</a> 11 pages long. I was able to get Friday night reservations for two at minibar with less than 24 hours notice--astonishing for a restaurant that seats only 6. I know DC caters to the expense account meat and potatoes crowd, but that's ridiculous.

I arrived at the minibar, brother in tow, without having a specific idea of what to expect aside from lots (and lots) of tiny courses, and cotton candy foie gras--and I thought that meant cotton candy foie gras, not foie gras <em>wrapped</em> in cotton candy. I was also somewhat trepidatious, since of two previous trips to Cafe Atlantico one was disastrous and the other mediocre (granted, the first--truly awful--experience was probably before Jose took over). The polished copper bar, intimate setting, and wonderful aromas (apples sauteed in red wine, I believe) certainly made a positive impression, but I was still worried.

Needlessly. With the first course, I was stunned. A thimblefull of olive oil and dash of vinegar encased in a crystalline caramel shell. The experience was similar to reading William Gibson's Neuromancer, or hearing the Rite of Spring for the first time. Truly revolutionary (at least to my sensibilities). Although no single additional course had the impact of the olive oil bonbon, the sequence of ideas, techniques, and tastes was a continuous rush. Every dish was described by the three chefs--one for every pair of diners. Highlights included pineapple salmon ravioli (bites of salmon wrapped in pineapple), liquid cantaloupe ravioli (cantaloupe juice in a gelled shell), the famous deconstructed new england clam chowder (lightly killed clam with baked potatoe foam), and the philly cheese steak (exquisitely rare Kobe beef wrapped around a cheddar cheese sauce). Misses (relative misses, these were still intriguing) were the zuchini in textures (but I've never liked zuchinni, so I'm biased), deconstructed guacamole, and sweet pea caviar (both too cold, which muted the flavors).

A dish that may define the minibar was the deconstructed glass of white wine: a white wine gelle spread across the bottom of a long, thin rectangular plate with evenly spaced, tiny piles of flavor components commonly found in wine: lemon zest, mint, vanilla, etc. The chefs (with whom we were constantly interacting--a true joy) instructed each of us to sample the flavors one at a time, and guess what they were. A much better way to learn about wine than the aroma wheel!

I left that night with my head absolutely spinning. In fact, I was so impressed that I arranged a trip to Chicago to see <a href="http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/pages/home.asp">Body Worlds,</a> and squeeze in meals at Alinea and Moto. I'm glad to say minibar held its own. Although they are similar in a broad sense, the three restaurants each have a distinct feel. Alinea seems to be more about experimenting with complex flavors. Moto is pushing the boundaries of technical preperations. minibar (should I capitalize a lower-case proper noun at the beginning of a sentence?) is more intellectual, encouraging you to think about what you're eating. They also have many dishes with minimal ingredients, focusing on texture or temperature combinations, rather than complex blends of flavor, and perhaps more playful (even if the pop rocks are gone). The atmosphere is welcoming and the chefs are amazing. An extra bonus--it's a lot less expensive than the Chicago pair, and every bit as good.

Now, is anyone willing to send me to NY to sample WD-50 on an expense account? How about El Bulli?

Nice post! I agree that Per Se has no place in the comparison with those other restaurants. While I haven't yet been to minibar, that would be a natural comparison along with possibly manresa in California. These are probably the most cutting edge restaurants in the country today or at least the most successful ones. Minibar and Manresa are the two I haven't yet been to. It is no accident that they are the top two American Restaurants that I haven't yet had the pleasure of dining at that I most want to. The wine dish sounds particularly fascinating.

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

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I can highly, highly recommend the minibar experience. Managed to get in on a cancellation for last Saturday, and was consistently wowed by dish after dish after dish.

I enjoyed the deconstructed white wine, but for me the dish that defined the minibar was that olive oil bonbon. If you're not up for that, you're not up for the rest of the night.

In terms of deliciousness, nothing beat the "Philly cheese steak."

Kats mentioned that he is soon to be photographed, along with Grant Achatz of Alinea and a third guy (I'm guessing the one from WD-50?) for an upcoming NYT piece. minibar is very present in the food press and if it's not getting Alinea-level attention, well, that's because it's not new.

I would urge everyone to go, go, go. I had been a little concerned about wine options but they had quite a few smart choices: I had a flight of three Champagnes and the birthday boy had a flight of three white wines. Ideal for the constantly shifting flavors and textures of the food.

I've heard people say that having gone to minibar once is enough; I'd love to get back there in six months and live through the whole thing again. Really incredible, what those guys are doing.

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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i JUST went to MiniBar last night to celebrate my birthday. Let me tell you, I was completely floored. It was Disneyland for me.

I'm not sure who else feels a little bit crazy when going to a restaurant as a "foodie"- i am always extremely self-conscious and kind of awe-struck because i KNOW about all of the stuff that's supposed to be going on there, and sometimes almost feel envious of my ignorant but much less awkward feeling peers. I never want to talk to the restaurant like i'm a big in-the-know person because i'm not sure how they feel about people who are not actually in the business thinking that they know all about it.

Anyway, enough waxing... This experience is truly amazing. You know all about the dishes, and they were, without exception, spectacular. Each one of the courses is immaculately crafted, manicured even, and they do it 5 feet from your face. The chefs were friendly, ready and eager to answer any questions. I felt sheepish for being so excited about everything but I think that they were happy about it. My dining partner is a total food ignoramus, but one-half of the other couple that was there with us was pretty knowledgable too, so together we oohed and aahed about the chef's experiences at El Bulli (one had just returned from there) and we kind of interrogated them about what it was like to work with Ferran, etc. I felt totally starstruck but was impossibly happy.

I had to decide between this and Citronelle as my birthday present, and although i was hesitant at first i am SO HAPPY that i went there, i can honestly say this was the most amazing dining experience i've ever had, i will be giddy about it for weeks to come. GO THERE!

Mariana

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  • 3 months later...
And when you do go, be sure to say hello to our favorite minibarador, the soft-spoken young man pictured here:

i154.jpg

I'm drawing a total blank on his name, so someone who has been is going to have to help me out.  But putting that aside, his story is interesting.  He was living in Cleveland when Jose and Steve came out to cook at a special event.  He worked the event and discovered that what Jose was doing really resonated with him.  Arrangements were made, he packed himself up and headed east, and now he's behind the minibar.

Don't think anyone has responded to this, but either way, we were there this past Thursday, this fine young man is still working there, and his name is Edgar.

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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  • 2 months later...

I have just come across this place and am dying to visit, but have a few questions? Does anyone know if the Minibar would be able to cater to/accomodate my vegetarian fiancee?

Second, we recently ate at Alinea in Chicago and was wondering if anyone could compare and contrast. Thanks

Also, while we were all stuffed after Alinea, many of Alinea's portions are larger than what I am seeing from the Minibar pictures posted. Do most people here feel that you get enough food for the evening or is this more of a fun place to be wowed, drink, and have lots of fun snacks before a late dinner?

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Does anyone know if the Minibar would be able to cater to/accomodate my vegetarian fiancee?
You are asked on the telephone when you reserve, and again on a confirmation form you must return via e-mail or fax(!), to "specify all dietary restrictions and food allergies so that we can better accommodate the minibar menu for your experience," and most of the of dishes we were served were meatless to begin with. That said--and depending on what flavor of vegetarian your fiancee happens to be--the food is prepared à la minute and served to all participants in unison, so call just to be sure.
Do most people here feel that you get enough food for the evening or is this more of a fun place to be wowed, drink, and have lots of fun snacks before a late dinner?
It's far more than a bunch of fun snacks, but just a bit less than a full meal for the trencherman. We enjoyed Cafè Atlántico's ample "Latino Dim Sum" earlier in the day, and so felt the need for little more than coffee or tea after the Minibar.

Go, by all means.

"To Serve Man"

-- Favorite Twilight Zone cookbook

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