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John W.

José Andrés' Minibar

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

The feeling is very different between the two, at least in my experience. Alinea, although the food was whimsical, had a much more serious, traditional dining feel to it. Formal presentations. minibar, because you're sitting there right across from the chefs while they put this all together, is flat-out fun. At Alinea the waiter explains things to you, about the mace pillow and the burning oak leaves and all that. At minibar it's the chefs who do the explaining, and you've watched them assemble the dish right there in front of you, from ingredients that have been resting on ice like at a sushi bar. Personally, I enjoyed minibar a lot more, but I didn't do the Tour at Alinea, and I did minibar first and enjoyed it so much that it would be hard for any other restaurant serving similar cuisine to measure up to that experience. I would say if you like Alinea you will like minibar. Each is inventive in its own unique way, with minibar tending a little more toward experimental food science (noodles made of feta water) and Alinea tending a little more toward combining traditional flavors in untraditional ways (matsutake bread pudding, or the celery shooter with pear juice.)

And, on the vegetarian question: I'm looking at the fax form right here and it asks you to check one of the following if necessary: vegetarian, vegan, lacto, kosher. Also it asks you to list food allergies and "please be very specific."

I was not hungry afterward, although I did snack in the mid-afternoon just to be sure I wouldn't be ravenous.


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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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? 

Others have answered regarding the MiniBar specifically, but I'll suggest this option: the vegetarian dim sum brunch. Many of the items in the dim sum brunch also appear at the MiniBar, even some of the flesh containing courses are made vegetarian. This at about half the cost of the MiniBar experience. However, they don't make it right in front of you, and it is brunch not dinner, so it's not an evening out.....but can be a nice way to start a Saturday/Sunday. Other potential drawback; the entire table must order the dim sum brunch. It didn't bother me (the wife is a vegeterian), good food is good food.

Dim sum menu is online (as PDFs), not sure about the MiniBar. Enjoy.

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

Personally, I enjoyed minibar a lot more, but I didn't do the Tour at Alinea, and I did minibar first and enjoyed it so much that it would be hard for any other restaurant serving similar cuisine to measure up to that experience.

Yup, that's about right: I was completely blown away by my first meal at minibar last August, and was inspired to visit Alinea, Moto, WD-50, and Gilt as a result. They're definitely not copy-cats of each other, and all have unique feels. The personal interaction with the chefs at minibar is a key part of the experience. Alinea and Gilt are very formal, and a focused on the regular high-end diner (Gilt even more than Alinea). Service at Alinea was perfect, Gilt took way too long between courses, and refused to split a wine pairing (after a fishbowl-sized cocktail, I didn't need an entire flight of wine). There were a couple of incredible foie gras and truffle dishes at Gilt. Moto and WD-50 are much more relaxed, and focused on technology. (Edible menus and fish braised in a patented plastic box at your table at Moto, lemon-flavored yogurt that curdles in broth at WD-50). minibar carries more of the philosophical underpinnings of molecular gastronomy: deconstructions, reworked junk food (maple pork rinds, popcorn envelope, frozen potato chips). They also are very closely linked to Ferran Adria, utilizing at least a few el Bulli recipes. (Adria apparently visited on the 28th--I missed him by one day! Argh!)

I re-visited minibar wednesday, the first day of their menu featuring several new dishes. New items from August 5, 2005 to March 1, 2006: salmon roe cone, frozen potato chip, popcorn envelope, minibar olives (calcium chloride olives, awesome), ajo blanco (this is where the olive oil bonbons currently reside, joined by a balsamiic bonbon as well), corn on the cob, oyster with champagne grapes, and passionfruit air. Unlike the first visit I needed to make reservations a full month in advance (by calendar date--trying to make reservations for March 1st on January 29th didn't work). I was stressed before the visit, hoping that the first wonderful experience wasn't just the result of novelty. I should not have worried!

On the vegetarian question: the chefs seem to take it as a challenge, not an obstacle, so expect a vegetarian (or even vegan) menu to be just as surprising and delightful. I wish I could sign up for their test kitchen ...

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I was very fortunate to be able to make a very quick trip to DC with my wife to visit Minibar, one of the restaurants in this country that I hadn't yet been to that was at the top of my list to try. The genesis of this visit was to visit chef Matthew Secich at The Oval Room (He went there from what had until then been my favorite local restaurant), dine at Minibar and make a return visit to Citronelle. Chef Secich left DC towards the end of April and since my wife was unable to get away for more than one night (I must admit I have a much easier time leaving the kids behind for a little bit:smile: ), we decided to limit the visit to just Minibar, as much as I would have loved to return to Citronelle and try other places as well.

Minibar Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

If there is a restaurant in the U.S. that is more fun than Minibar, I haven't been there. This restaurant with only six seats is wonderful, edible, interactive theater. While the setting and ambiance is markedly different than El Bulli, the food clearly owes an acknowledged debt to the great Spanish restaurant. Nevertheless the experience at both is wonderful, but markedly different. While hardly formal, El Bulli is a more traditionally western sit at the table meal. Minibar is not formal either, but it's ambiance and style also owes a great deal to the influence of Japanese sushi bars. Indeed it is something of a fusion of modern Spanish and Japanese cuisine.

In upcoming posts I hope to demonstrate with the help of a few photos I took, something of what makes this restaurant so special.


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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In going back over this thread it has been interesting to get a sense of the evolution of this restaurant. A number of the plates we were served are classics here, while many are newer. To those for whom this might be repetitious, I apologize, but I will include photos and brief discussion on each dish we were served.

The entrance to Cafe Atlantico and Minibar and a photo of the Minibar kitchen from the street below.

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We arrived a few minutes before our 8:30PM reservation and were treated to a glass of sparkling wine as we had to wait a few minutes before being shown to the Minibar. We were then escorted upstairs to a small area in the front right corner of the main dining area of Cafe Atlantico by our friendly and quite knowledgable server Timothy Anne Burnside. Throughout the course of the evening Timothy, who has been at Minibar since its inception, did a wonderful job making us comfortable and keeping things moving.

Our dining companions for the evening at the 6 seat bar also were escorted upstairs with us. In an intimate setting like this, the potential for these people to ultimately effect the quality of our evening and vice versa is quite high. Speaking for ourselves, this proved to be rather serendipitous. Our companions turned out to be Ruben Garcia, who spent five years working as a pastry chef with Albert Adria at El Bulli and now works for Jose Andres, his lovely wife, Andrea and two guests from Catalunya, Llorenc Petras and his wife. Sr. Petras is the proprietor of Bolets Petras, the foremost purveyor of mushrooms and edible insects at the fabulous Boqueria Market in Barcelona, a very impressive stall that I am personally familiar with. Sr. Petras was in Washington as part of Mushroom Festival 2006 at Jaleo. My wife and I having an affinity for all things Catalan along with FC Barcelona's impending participation in the finals of the Champion's League soccer match made for too much to discuss over too brief an evening.

Minibar is set up much like a small sushi bar with stool seating, a dining counter in this case made of copper and a refrigerated glass mise en place compartment between us and the small kitchen. The plates are presented on top of the glass in unison for all six diners. The work of the Minibar Kitchen Team that consisted of Michael Turner, Edgar Steele and Melanie Franks was expert, seemless and very friendly as they were happy to discuss the food, Minibar and anything else. The lighting was excellent for non-flash photography.

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Mise en place and prep work photos. From L to R in the bottom photo are Melanie Franks, Edgar Steele and Michael Turner.

Shortly after we sat down, the courses started to arrive. The initial flight were smaller bites labeled as "Snacks"

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"Mojito"

This refreshing treat was a fizzy encapsulated cocktail on a spoon.

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Beet Tumbleweed

This was light, airy and flavorful. I just loved the presentation.

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Pork Rinds with Maple Syrup

These were crunchy and delicious. They were served simultaneously with the Beet Tumbleweed.

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Passion Fruit Whiskey Sour

Another delicious cocktail, this was a bit more substantial than the Mojito. This was a nice twist on the classic cocktail.

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Olive Oil "Bon Bon"

Simple but beautiful presentation and pure flavor made for a nice touch.

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Popcorn Envelope

This was small, fragile but simply delicious.

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Salmon Roe Cone

This has been described as a "bagel with salmon and cream cheese for adults." The description fits.

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Saffron Yogurt Meringue

Another dish that was light, airy and ethereally delicious. This completes the "Snack" portion of the meal. I will return with the next flight of courses in a little bit.


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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As a brief aside here are a few photos I took in 2004 at Bolets Petras in the Boqueria in Barcelona. It was an honor and a treat to meet and dine with the man behind these while at Minibar.

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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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...back to the task at hand.

The next flight of courses were somewhat more substantial and were delivered under the header "Flavors and Textures"

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Minibar Olives

These were very similar to"olives" I had at El Bulli last summer and were the one dish that I could directly compare. Flavorwise they were comparable, although I thought the presentation was better at El Bulli although that may have been as much a function of the novelty of having the dish for the first time as anything else.

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Michael Turner doing more prep work.

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Salmon Pineapple "Ravioli" with Crispy Quimoa

This dish, one of the classics and truly delectable had the the thinnest shaving of pineapple enveloping the salmon and providing just the right amount of pineapple flavor to enhance and not overpower the salmon. The quinoa provided excellent textural contrast.

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Deconstructed Glass of White Wine

Taken from this post, Schneier describes the construction of this dish perfectly:

11. Deconstructed white wine. This requires a paragraph. Grape juice is let to sit overnight and ferment a little, and is then turned into gelee. This is layered onto a shallow plate. On the gelee are eight flavor components, flavors that you might find in white wine: lemon, orange, apple, mint, fig, pineapple, pomegranate, vanilla. Finally, white wine is sprayed on top to give it dish an aroma. Fascinating.

It was fun tasting each component and guessing what they were much like going through an exercise of identifying the flavor components in an actual glass of wine.

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Preparation of a new dish, the Ajo Blanco. Because this was new, it required more intense concentration during the final production. michael told me that this was one of the most complex dishes that they make.

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Ajo Blanco

This dish, a new one that premiered that very evening, is a study in garlic with various temperature and textural components involved. The grape-like items are actually preserved garlic cloves. The red is a tomato powder. My first taste of this dish left me underwhelmed, however, subsequent tastes awakened my palate to the dish's inherent delights. My initial reticence was quickly overcome by delight. The dish is a winner.

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Slicing the lobster tail.

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Zucchini in Textures

This subtly flavored but delicious dish was all about the textural contrasts of zucchini.

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Michael and Timothy in the kitchen.

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More lobster prep

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Lobster Americaine

Another Minibar classic and deservedly so, this is fun to eat and unctuously delicious. It is with plates like this that even I question the tasting menu format :laugh: I could easily have gone for a few more of these temptresses.

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Feta "Linguine"

Another lovely dish, the noodles are made from feta cheese with a process very fifferent than some other novel noodle preparations such as Wylie Dufresne's shrimp noodles. Once again, this was delicious.

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Prep for the Organized Caesar Salad.

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Organized Caesar Salad

We were instructed to eat the roll with the quail egg first to be followed by the other roll along with the dressing. I love a good Caesar salad. This was a good albeit untraditional Caesar salad.

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Michaerl prepping uni.

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Conch Fritter

The liquid center of this fritter was made by freezing a conch chowder, encoating then frying the frozen balls. These actually have to cool down a bit between frying and service. This too is a Minibar classic.

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Cotton Candy Foie Gras

What else need I say?

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Egg 147* with Caviar

Uruguayan caviar atop a closely temperature controlled quail egg, this dish also had a little bit of a sweet element that came from banana and another fruit, perhaps passion fruit. Chef Michael and I had a bit of a discussion as to whether this constituted sous vide cooking. He said the egg was not cooked sous vide because it wasn't "vacuum-packed" as it was cooked in the shell. I claimed that the vacuum packing was natural and therreby was cooked sous vide. :raz: This was the only dish that had anything resembling sous vide cookery that we were served.

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West Coast Sea Urchin with Pomegranite Air

I love sea urchin. This dish did not disappoint.

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"Guacomole"

Looking more like a fancy sushi roll, this was one excellent guac.

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Corn on the Cob

Another classic, the purity of top-notch corn flavor along with textural complexity makes this dish a winner.

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Hot & Cold Foie Gras Soup

Everything one could hope for regarding richness and flavor with foie gras, this dish may have been my favorite of the evening.

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Prepping oysters and grapes.

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Oyster with "Champagne" Grapes

The fizzy grapes and oyster provided a nice combination. The dish reminded me conceptually of one I had at Moto, the "champagne and Opah", last year.

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Japanese baby Peaches with Yogurt

Refreshing.

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New- New England Clam Chowder

As good as any I have ever had.

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Breaded Cigala

This crustacaean is always a treat when prepared well. This was prepared well.

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Chef Franks lights up the night.

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Philly Cheese Steak

Fun.

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Watermelon Air

This light as an angel course provided the perfect segue into the desserts. More to come later.


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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One of my favorite dishes from my visit to minibar a while back was the gucamole dish, which included a tomato sorbet. This new version is presented quite differently. What were the components of the dish - it looks like the avacado is the wrapper?

It is an example of the dishes that made the most sense to me - the guacamole, the caesar salad, the clam chowder. Dishes that were "re-constructed" for the sake of texture or flavor, often equaling or surpassing the original. I was more disappointed with the reliance on "Wraps" and "Raviolis" in the early days. It looks like they've gotten away from that a little bit.

You've whetted my appetite to return soon - I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks. :biggrin:


Bill Russell

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One of my favorite dishes from my visit to minibar a while back was the gucamole dish, which included a tomato sorbet.  This new version is presented quite differently.  What were the components of the dish - it looks like the avacado is the wrapper?

It is an example of the dishes that made the most sense to me - the guacamole, the caesar salad, the clam chowder.  Dishes that were "re-constructed" for the sake of texture or flavor, often equaling or surpassing the original.  I was more disappointed with the reliance on "Wraps" and "Raviolis" in the early days.  It looks like they've gotten away from that a little bit.

You've whetted my appetite to return soon - I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks. :biggrin:

There wasn't anything served to us that was less than really good, but I agree the "reconstructions" were uniformly superb. I too particularly enjoyed the guacomole. This had all the components of a regular guacomole including tomato, chile, baby cilantro leaves, onion, chive flowers and even Fritos. I don't recall a sorbet being a component of this dish though.


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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We finished with "The Sweet End", as they referred to the final grouping of courses.

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Pina Colada

This layered drink was every bit as delicious and refreshing as its earlier counterparts.

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Apples with Red Wine "Fredy Girardet"

Nice.

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Mignardises

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Saffron Gumdrop

We were instructed to eat this wrapper and all. This was my favorite of this compilation.

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Maracuya Marshmallow

"Maracuya" is I believe a Spanish word for passion fruit. Passion fruit has come to be one of my favorite fruit flavors.

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Chocolate Covered Corn Nuts

These are always a treat. I remember having brought back similar ones from Cacao Sampaka in Barcelona.

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Fruit Salad

Similar in execution to the Lobster Americaine. Nice.

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Halls Lollipop

One better have finished one's wine before this!

The overall experience was one of pleasure, comradery and fun. The food all excelled in conception, execution and delight attained. The staff was professional and friendly. We had a marvellous evening.


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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Doc,

Loved your report, I have been waiting to go to Mini-bar and Citronelle myself. This meal looked like a lot of fun. How many seatings do they have a night? Did they wait for all 6 to arrive before seating you? If one can not make it to Roses would you recommend Minibar as an alternative? There seems to be a little difference in the meal here and El Bulli after the snack portion. How would you characterize it?

Great Report,

Molto E

p.s. When is Citronelle?


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Doc,

        Loved your report, I have been waiting to go to Mini-bar and Citronelle myself. This meal looked like a lot of fun. How many seatings do they have a night? Did they wait for all 6 to arrive before seating you? If one can not make it to Roses would you recommend Minibar as an alternative? There seems to be a little difference in the meal here and El Bulli after the snack portion. How would you characterize it?

Great Report,

Molto E

p.s. When is Citronelle?

Thanks, Eliot. There are two seatings per evening one at 6 and the other at 8:30. all six of us were at the regular bar downstairs waiting a few minutes until they were ready to seat us. I imagine that they would probably wait a short amount of time to seat everyone together if some were late.

This is the closest experience I have had to El Bulli outside of El Bulli at least as far as the food style and ambiance. That is not to say, however, that it is a clone of El Bulli. Clearly the debt is large, but it is still its own unique restaurant. I would certainly recommend it to someone who would like to get a sense of what El Bulli is about. I think if someone likes Minibar they will likely enjoy El Bulli and vice versa.

I didn't get to Citronelle unfortunately on this very brief trip. That remains one of my great meals, however.


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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Beautiful photos, Doc. Really captured the flavor and mood of the place as well as the sights.

It definitely sounds like the guac prep has changed since I was there last September. Previously the thin avocado roll was filled with a very cold tomato sorbet. Since this was not one of my favorite dishes there I'm happy to hear they've changed it.

I can taste those feta water noodles again just looking at that gorgeous photo. Thanks again for sharing your experience!


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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Awesome shots! I was out in DC last week for the annual Heart's Delight event. We dined at Minibar on Friday the 12th and it was amazing.


Graham Elliot

@grahamelliot

www.grahamelliot.com

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Beautiful photos, Doc. Really captured the flavor and mood of the place as well as the sights.

It definitely sounds like the guac prep has changed since I was there  last September. Previously the thin avocado roll was filled with a very cold tomato sorbet. Since this was not one of my favorite dishes there I'm happy to hear they've changed it.

I can taste those feta water noodles again just looking at that gorgeous photo. Thanks again for sharing your experience!

I'm not sure that the "Guacomole" didn't have the sorbet in it, although I don't specifically remember a cold textural contrast within. Regardless, I loved that dish as it captured the essence of guacomole with a unique and beautiful presentation.


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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Awesome shots!  I was out in DC last week for the annual Heart's Delight event.  We dined at Minibar on Friday the 12th and it was amazing.

Thanks, Chef. Was your menu different than what I had? Ifso, what ws different? Do you recall whether the "Guacomole" had a tomato sorbet within the avocado wrapper?


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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My one complaint on my previous visit was that they hit a bit of a rut midway through -- a lot of variations on mango ravioli. Appears that they've cleared that up nicely and I am now plotting my return. Thanks, Doc.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Just went to Minibar on Thursday, and it was fantastic. While many of the dishes included new (to us) flavor combinations, everything tasted good if not great. I had really high expectations, and Minibar definitely lived up to them. Michael was the chef directly in front of us, and cheerfully answered all our questions. It's incredible how much work goes into creating these meals, and very impressive that the chefs can turn out such technically challenging courses so rapidly.

I took photos, but it seems that almost all our dishes were included in docsconz's report from May (and he took much better photos than I did!). One dish that I haven't seen anyone mention before was the smoked oysters and apple:

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The oysters and their liquid were smoked, and the smoked oyster liquid was used to create a smoke air. Under the oyster was a sort of apple puree/cream. This was really intensely flavored.

Other new(?) items:

Margarita with salt air

Fried shrimp--tiny shrimp deep fried, served in a paper cone. This wasn't bad, but wasn't particularly interesting either.

Also, the mojito was really cool. It was mojito mixed with calcium chloride, then spherized in alginate and charged in an ISI-whip for 3 hours. I mentioned that it seemed the carbonation process would break the alginate spheres, and apparently the chefs did not try this dish for a long time after thinking it up because they never thought it would work. Anyway, it does work, and this was definitely a highlight for us.

Other standouts:

Conch fritter--I want to try to make a version of this at home. Basically frozen chowder battered and fried. Mmmmmmmmm

Ajo blanco--Docsconz described this pretty well, but there was also shaved almond on top. The chefs instructed us to eat this in layers, working our way down to the buried garlic, olive oil and vinegar

Egg 63 degrees with caviar--the banana and passion fruit worked amazingly well, and the texture of the egg is perfect.

Feta noodles--The tomato jam really made this dish fantastic.

Philly cheese steak--the bread was like a crispy hollow pita, filled with melted cheese, topped with shaved truffles and torched American "Kobe" beef steak slices. So good.

My only negative comment is that the wine pairings weren't great. Granted, it's nearly impossible to match wine to more than 30 courses, but nothing really stood out. I also would have preferred to have a slightly slower pace, but I guess that's supposed to be part of the experience.

Basically, this was by far the most interesting meal we've had, and being able to watch the chefs work was a lot of fun. Michael never made us feel like we were bothering him with questions and even joked around with the diners, even though he was probably exhausted at the end of a 12+ hour day. I would definitely go back again, but probably not for at least a year, so we can have more new dishes.


Edited by Nishla (log)

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Just went to Minibar on Thursday, and it was fantastic. While many of the dishes included new (to us) flavor combinations, everything tasted good if not great. I had really high expectations, and Minibar definitely lived up to them. Michael was the chef directly in front of us, and cheerfully answered all our questions. It's incredible how much work goes into creating these meals, and very impressive that the chefs can turn out such technically challenging courses so rapidly.

I took photos, but it seems that almost all our dishes were included in docsconz's report from May (and he took much better photos than I did!). One dish that I haven't seen anyone mention before was the smoked oysters and apple:

gallery_45959_3064_20352.jpg

The oysters and their liquid were smoked, and the smoked oyster liquid was used to create a smoke air. Under the oyster was a sort of apple puree/cream. This was really intensely flavored.

Other new(?) items:

Margarita with salt air

Fried shrimp--tiny shrimp deep fried, served in a paper cone. This wasn't bad, but wasn't particularly interesting either.

Also, the mojito was really cool. It was mojito mixed with calcium chloride, then spherized in alginate and charged in an ISI-whip for 3 hours. I mentioned that it seemed the carbonation process would break the alginate spheres, and apparently the chefs did not try this dish for a long time after thinking it up because they never thought it would work. Anyway, it does work, and this was definitely a highlight for us.

Other standouts:

Conch fritter--I want to try to make a version of this at home. Basically frozen chowder battered and fried. Mmmmmmmmm

Ajo blanco--Docsconz described this pretty well, but there was also shaved almond on top. The chefs instructed us to eat this in layers, working our way down to the buried garlic, olive oil and vinegar

Egg 63 degrees with caviar--the banana and passion fruit worked amazingly well, and the texture of the egg is perfect.

Feta noodles--The tomato jam really made this dish fantastic.

Philly cheese steak--the bread was like a crispy hollow pita, filled with melted cheese, topped with shaved truffles and torched American "Kobe" beef steak slices. So good.

My only negative comment is that the wine pairings weren't great. Granted, it's nearly impossible to match wine to more than 30 courses, but nothing really stood out. I also would have preferred to have a slightly slower pace, but I guess that's supposed to be part of the experience.

Basically, this was by far the most interesting meal we've had, and being able to watch the chefs work was a lot of fun. Michael never made us feel like we were bothering him with questions and even joked around with the diners, even though he was probably exhausted at the end of a 12+ hour day. I would definitely go back again, but probably not for at least a year, so we can have more new dishes.

Nishla, thanks for the fine report and the compliment! While the food is fun and phenomenal, one of the things that really makes this such a particularly wonderful and unique experience is the intimacy of sitting at the bar and interacting with the Chefs as they are preparing the food. It makes for a truly great combination. Did your party take up the six seats? If not did you interact with the other diners? That was another feature I particularly enjoyed.


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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Nishla, thanks for the fine report and the compliment! While the food is fun and phenomenal, one of the things that really makes this such a particularly wonderful and unique experience is the intimacy of sitting at the bar and interacting with the Chefs as they are preparing the food. It makes for a truly great combination. Did your party take up the six seats? If not did you interact with the other diners? That was another feature I particularly enjoyed.

There were three sets of two diners that night. My husband and I sat on one end, and we chatted a bit with the two guests next to us (brother and sister). The brother, Erik, had come out from Seattle for the meal, while I think his sister was just along for the ride. Overall, though, we ended up talking with the chefs more than our neighbors since we had so many questions about the food!

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I managed to score a reservation for minibar on Sept 28th when I'll be in DC for a med school interview!

I am absolutely completely excited!!!!!

The closest I can get to El Bulli without crossing the pond.

I'll return with a full report!

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I managed to score a reservation for minibar on Sept 28th when I'll be in DC for a med school interview!

I am absolutely completely excited!!!!!

The closest I can get to El Bulli without crossing the pond.

I'll return with a full report!

I, for one, will look forward to it. By the way, Welcome to eGullet and good luck with your interview!


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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I understand that there are quite a few new dishes in service at minibar nowadays. I will have to find some time to get back to try them.


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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I understand that there are quite a few new dishes in service at minibar nowadays. I will have to find some time to get back to try them.

Will be dining there tomorrow night. I'll take tons of photos and write a full report!

Too bad they don't have something like Moto's "moto to-go", my girlfriend can't make it but I'd love to bring something quintessentially minibar back to Boston for her!


Edited by Chinorlz (log)

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Dinner at Cafe Atlantico/the minibar.</span><br><br>I've been looking forward to this one for a month now and there was zero disappointment with this experience. I arrived at around 7:45 for the 8:30 reservation at the minibar and sat down at the bar and had a glass of riesling at the suggestion of the bartender when I asked him for something to complement my dinner at the minibar. We talked about the food, the ideas and how he used some of those approaches in his drink designs.<br><br>Finally 8:30 rolled around and Pablo, the server for the minibar gathered the 6 people who had minibar reservations that night (only two seating at the minibar every night and only six people can eat there per seating. That's right. Only twelve people eat there a night.) and we all headed upstairs.<br><br>Two chefs were on the other side of the minibar (Melanie and Mike I think...) and after talking briefly about how we were going to be there for two and a half hours and eat about 35 different things, they got to work.<br><br>I'll let the photos tell the rest with some captions.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb1.jpg"><br>Outside. It was raining. A lot.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb2.jpg"><br>My side of the minibar. A layout of many of the ingredients we were going to eat in the next 2.5 hours.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb3.jpg"><br>The silverware. Lovely stuff!<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb4.jpg"><br>Preparation by Mike of the fizzy mojitos.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb5.jpg"><br>The beet tumbleweeds being topped with microgreens.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb6.jpg"><br>Passion fruit whiskey sours being finished.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb7.jpg"><br>The salmon roe cone (minibar interpretation of the lox & cream cheese combo) being finished.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb8.jpg"><br>In media res constructing the deconstructed glass of wine.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb9.jpg"><br>Foam. I think this one was passion fruit foam.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb10.jpg"><br>Construction of the Ajo Blanco. This dish was definitely one of the highlights.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb11.jpg"><br>Preparation of the caviar with quail egg cooked via "in-shell sous vide"<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb12.jpg"><br>The tomato sorbet being put on the avocado for "guacamole"<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb13.jpg"><br>Prep of the new new england clam chowder. On the left are freshly shucked clams.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb14.jpg"><br>Blowtorching kobe beef and mushrooms for the "philly cheese steak"<br><br>____________________________________________________________<br><br>OK! Now onto the dishes themselves.... there are a lot.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish1.jpg"><br>Olive Oil bon bon. A sugar encased liquid olive oil drop. Placed into your mouth, you cracked it and the most luscious olive oil flows over your tongue. The sugar isn't overwhelming (likely tempered by the coating of your tongue with the oil) and adds a subtle dimension to the pure flavor of the olive oil. I liked this start not only because it showed you what was to come, but because it let you actually enjoy the purity of olive oil. A flavor we almost take for granted now.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish2.jpg"><br>The fizzy margarita. Done of course with the alginate/calcium chloride gelation method. In your mouth it popped and fizzed lightly. A nice contrast to the olive oil. I saw it almost as the extremes of flavors you would taste over the evening. Note the El Bulli silverware. <br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish3.jpg"><br>Saffron yogurt merengue. A nice little bite. Very very light and subtle.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish4.jpg"><br>Next up were the beet tumbleweeds. Extremely fragile and sweetly delicious. They reminded me of a softer and more texturally interesting version of beet Terra Chips.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish5.jpg"><br>The passion fruit whiskey sour. Not really a shot in the liquor sense. Very flavorful. The way the menu was organized, each dish varied enough from the one before to keep the palate awake and interested.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish6.jpg"><br>Maple Syrup Pork Rinds. These were given at the same time as the whiskey sour. Definitely a play on bar food. These were perfect. Not oily, but those really nice thick pork rinds that the mass-produced bagged versions can't even touch. The salty-sweet combo and the crunchiness...mmmmm.....<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish7.jpg"><br>Fried whole fish. This was pretty much the only dish that I found to be disappointing. These were like dried fish slivers that I can get in the Chinese market. Not bad, but not interesting either.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish8.jpg"><br>Lox with Cream Cheese. Salmon roe and light 'n airy cream cheese served in a crispy cone. One bite.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish9.jpg"><br>Cotton candy foie gras. A cube of foie gras terrine whisked quickly in a cotton candy machine. The classic pairing of something sweet with foie worked very nicely here. The foie was creamy and cool and the cotton candy was still slighty warm from being spun. <br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish10.jpg"><br>Minibar Olives. Definitely an interpretation of the El Bulli olives. Olive flavors encapsulated in the alginate/CaCl2 method. With an olive puree and bits of orange for a sweet addition to the salty olive flavor. Very nice! Although they were difficult to get off the plate without popping them.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish11.jpg"><br>Boneless chicken wing with bbq sauce and bleu cheese. Cute and a tasty morsel.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish12.jpg"><br>Conch fritter. Frozen conch chowder is battered and fried. I could eat a lot of these!<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish13.jpg"><br>Salmon with pineapple, avocado, quinoa. Overall a nice dish, but the salmon itself was underwhelming. The razor thin slice of pineapple provided much more flavor than I would have anticipated.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish14.jpg"><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish14b.jpg"><br>The deconstructed glass of wine. The guy who sat to my right worked as a wine rep and was a big fan of this one. White grape juice gelee was topped with various flavors you'd get in a glass of wine and then it was spritzed with actual white wine to complete the presentation. Right to left (I could be rememering some incorrectly...) lemon zest, orange zest, lime zest, coconut, mint, pineapple, passion fruit, cantaloupe, apple, pomegranate, fig, vanilla. A really cool dish that I looked forward to trying out after reading about it.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish15.jpg"><br>Ajo Blanco. The minibar version of a classic spanish dish. This was the only dish that used a pacojet. Flavor-wise it started off very basic but as you dug deeper, became incredibly complex. Some garlic, almond (I think this was the pacojetted ice), intensely flavored tomato powder, top notch balsamic vinegar and olive oil. One of my favorites of the night.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish16.jpg"><br>Zucchini in textures. This was sitting in a warmer in the back of the minibar until this point. It was subtle. Topped with a gelee, you dug through the nicely cooked seeds into a puree underneath. I like zucchini so this was nice, but didn't seem to fit well into the overall scheme. Some would consider it a dull dish, but I can understand it as Andres' exploration into the potential of a single ingredient.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish17.jpg"><br>Lobster Americaine. A pristine lobster tail was sliced, quickly warmed in a pan and then affixed to the pipet. The pipet was filled with a strained puree of tomalley (the tasty stuff you find in the head). The instructions were to put the lobster/pipet in your mouth and as you pulled the lobster off of the pipet, you squeezed the sauce in. <br><br>For those that are allergic to raw crustaceans, the lobster is 90% cooked (as it should be) but I know I had a very mild reaction to it (prickly mouth, itchy back of throat). I get this from sous vide cooked shrimp (at WD-50) too. Not a huge deal, but just so you're aware.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish18.jpg"><br>Feta Linguine. Feta "water" (probably a consomme) was gelled into noodles and served with small chunks of actual feta, tomato puree and a light feta sauce. Not overpowering or boring, but with the minibar fork, it was hard to eat.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish19.jpg"><br>Organized Caesar Salad. This one took Mike a while to make. The skins were gossamer thin and you can see there needs to be a lot done for correct and clean presentation. A fun dish to eat with the hands.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish20.jpg"><br>Egg 147 and caviar. A quail egg is cooked slowly at 147 degrees and served with caviar. The bottom of the dish had a bit of passion fruit and banana puree too to offset the salinity of the caviar. Very nice, but the egg flavor was a bit too subtle. In the end it just added a creaminess to the dish.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish21.jpg"><br>Sea urchin with pomegranate foam. Really nice dish. Nothing like fresh sea urchin. They seem to love the salty/sweet combo at minibar.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish22.jpg"><br>Roasted corn on the cob. Definitely a fun dish. A little baby corn was seared and served with chopped corn nuts and a roasted corn puree. The roasted corn flavor came almost exclusively from the corn nuts. This is one that you could easily do at home.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish23.jpg"><br>Guacamole. Thin layered slices of avocado were rolled around silky tomato sorbet and garnished with chopped fritos, tomato and bits of lime. I liked the unconventional usage of snack foods (fritos, corn nuts) by Andres'. They fit perfectly for these dishes. Beautiful presentation and another one that isn't impossible to replicate at home.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish24.jpg"><br>Smoked oyster with apple. A fresh oyster (maybe lightly poached) served with a smoky lightly apple flavored sauce and smoke foam. A miniature cube of apple provided a sharper apple taste and nice contrast in texture.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish25.jpg"><br>New new england clam chowder. My god. This dish was amazing. Freshly shucked clams that tasted like the ocean. I did not know that raw clam could have such strong flavor. A potato puree, cream foams, bits of bacon and other ingredients came together. I could definitely have had much more of this dish.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish26.jpg"><br>Breaded cigala. A crayfish looking crustacean that was fully cooked and the a sliver of some crust added to one side. Served with a sauce that tasted like it was made from the shell and head. Very nice. Flavorful without being overpowering.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish27.jpg"><br>Philly cheese steak. Slices of kobe beef were torched along with mushrooms (I think they were the canned variety) laid on top of a crust tube that was filled with very airy cream cheese. It was finished with a few drops of truffle oil before being served. The cream cheese inside the tube melted a little and added to the mouthfeel and texture of this dish. Another nice interpretation of an american classic.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish28.jpg"><br>Young Japanese peaches served with light cream and foam. Droplets of balsamic vinegar added to the flavor of these interesting fruits. <br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish29.jpg"><br>Berries and pistachio. This was probably the closest thing to a "normal" dish all evening. A mixed berry sorbet, pistachio cream and some raspberries/blackberries. The red foam were solid foam chunks of berry essence that melted in your mouth. Nice and clean.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish30.jpg"><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish30b.jpg"><br>Coconut and Peanut "brittle". Not sure what their name for this dish was but it was definitely a difficult one execution wise. The peanut sheets were extremely fragile. Melanie had to go through 10-12 sheets before 6 good ones could be had. A light coconut sorbet was topped with the sheet and this was topped with a thick peanut sauce (essentially smoother peanut butter imo). The droplets on the sides are intense bits of tamarind syrup.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish31-34.jpg"><br>The final plate. A pipet of coconut cream with sweet cantaloupe and ginger (such a perfect combo!) skewered on it. Cocoa coated corn nuts, passion fruit syrup filled marshmallow, saffron gumdrop in an edible wrapper (rice paper?). All were really really nice. I was preoccupied with the pairing of cantaloupe and ginger throughout.<br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/dish35.jpg"><br>The Halls lollipops. Not overpowering, but very strong and a nice way to cleanse the palate. <br><br><img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v684/Chinorlz/mb15.jpg"><br>Final "dish" of the night. Six servers come and each stands behind one person and announce that this is the final dish. They set an egg in front of you and they all smash them at the same time revealing..... your bill.<br><br>All in all, exactly what I hoped for in my minibar experience. In the sense that I both knew and did not know what to expect from it. After my meal at WD-50 a couple of months ago, this was a great next step in my foray into experimental/molecular gastronomy. Aside from the fried fish dish, I have essentially no qualms about the meal at all. For $95, it's quite possibly the best meal you can have at that price. A dinner, show, and absolutely memorable experience all in one. The two and a half hours went by so quickly.<br><br>Minibar and WD-50 have provided me with absolutely the two BEST dinners I've had all year. Hopefully my brother and I will be able to go to Chicago for a weekend to eat at Moto and Alinea in the next several months. With El Bulli soon opening lines for reservations in 2007, I hope that I can score one. Minibar has been both a great meal in it of itself, and also a primer for this almost uncategorizable style of cooking.<br>

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      In his introduction of Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller -- perhaps the most celebrated American chef ever -- described four elements that go into making a great chef. The chef must be aware. Once aware of one’s culinary and other surroundings that chef can then be inspired, which leads to the ability to interpret those surroundings. But a great chef does not stop there. Instead, the great chef continues to evolve. Ferran Adria, perhaps more than any other chef who has ever lived, is the embodiment of those four elements.

      The moment that Ferran Adria strode towards Thomas Keller on the stage at the CIA/Greystone’s World of Flavors’ “Spain and the World Table” Conference was electric -- as if a giant Van de Graf generator had been turned on. The feeling didn’t subside when Adria took the stage from Keller; it only became more pronounced as the packed crowd rose to its feet, raining applause, admiration and love on the Spanish master. Adria accepted the response with aplomb, and gave it right back to the audience -- and to his fellow Spanish cocineros, who were standing off to the side. He brought each one up to join him on the stage for a rousing thank-you to the conference organizers, sponsors and participants. Once this emotional release subsided, Adria got down to what everyone had been waiting for -- his discussion and demonstration.

      Ferran Adria, with eyes sparkling like the finest cava, began speaking Spanish in a voice as gravelly as the beaches of the Costa Brava, while Conference Chairman Jose Andres translated. The crowd, hushed and straining for every word, moved forward in their seats as Adria explained El Bulli and himself, with a lesson in recent culinary history thrown in. Ferran explained that El Bulli is not a business. While offshoots of El Bulli are operated on a for-profit basis, the restaurant runs without profit as a primary motivation. For example, he said, the greatest difficulty they have is distributing reservations. Given the extraordinary demand and the severely limited supply, he explained that they could simply raise the price of a meal to the point where the supply and demand met. Indeed, the price of a meal at El Bulli is in itself quite reasonable given the stature of the restaurant and well within means of most motivated diners should they be able to get there, and this is how Adria prefers it. He stated that he was not interested in cooking solely for those with the most money. He prefers to work for people with a true interest in exploring the limits of cooking with him. To this end he showed a short film depicting “A Day in the Life . . .” of El Bulli set to the Beatles’ song of the same name. The film showed a couple’s response to the experience.

      Ferran’s voyage into creativity began with a visit to Jacques Maxima at Le Chanticleer Restaurant in Nice, France. He learned from Maxima that to be creative is not to copy. This idea changed his entire approach to cooking -- from making classic cuisine to making his own. Aware of elaborate books of French cuisine, Adria resolved to catalogue his work, the results of which are the richly detailed El Bulli books, published by period. These books, as wonderful as they are, are huge and extremely expensive. During his presentation, Adria announced -- and demonstrated -- that the individual dishes photographed and described in a chronology within each book are all now available online at elbulli.com.

      He finished the philosophical discussion by talking about the general style of haute cuisine that he and others are engaged in. While others have coined the term “molecular gastronomy” to highlight the scientific component of the creativity involved, Adria rejected it, saying that all cooking is molecular: most of his techniques are in fact rather simple and don’t employ radical new technology. Most of the technology that they do use has been around for some time; they have simply adapted it to their own purposes. Nevertheless, he applauds contributions to gastronomy from Harold McGee and other food scientists, and welcomes their collaboration in the kitchen. He has yet to find a term that describes the movement: as of now, he feels that there really is no good name for this style of cooking.

      More than any other single thing, Ferran Adria is known for the use of “foams” in cooking. While he is proud of his achievements with foams, he stressed that while appropriate in some circumstances, the real utility of foams is limited. He bemoans their ubiquity -- and wishes to not be blamed for others’ poor deployment of the concept. In the course of describing this and other techniques, Adria made a point of stating that using them should not be inferred as copying. Techniques and concepts are to be used and shared. He invited everyone to learn and harness whatever they found interesting, and to employ it in to their own pursuits.

      Another set of techniques discussed and demonstrated by the master and his assistant, Rafa Morales from Hacienda Benazuza, included three types of spherification. These included the use of calcium chloride (CaCl) and sodium alginate as well as the converse, and exploration of a new agent, gluconodeltalactone. The original combinations of alginate into CaCl for “caviar” production, and CaCl into alginate for larger “spheres” have chemistry-related limits as to what can be sphericized. In private correspondence, Harold McGee explained to me that Adria described encapsulating a mussel in its own juice. While this would make the dish technically an aspic, unlike conventional aspics it remains a liquid. Adria said that though gluconodeltalactone is very new, and they are just beginning to get a handle on it, he is very excited by it. He also demonstrated a machine for spherification on a larger scale than they had originally been able to do, as well as liquid nitrogen and freeze-drying (lyophilization) techniques. At the conclusion of his demonstration -- and thus the Conference -- the audience once again awarded him a standing ovation.

      While Adria’s appearance was the culmination of the conference, the energy it produced was not just because of his stature in the world of gastronomy -- it was also due to the excitement generated by the conference that preceded it. If there had previously been any doubt, Thomas Keller’s welcome of Adria was a clarion: Spanish cuisine has landed on North American shores and is finding a niche in the North American psyche. Spanish cuisine -- in its multifaceted, delicious entirety -- lives here, too.

      + + + + +

      John M. Sconzo, M.D., aka docsconz, is an anesthesiologist practicing in upstate New York. He grew up in Brooklyn in an Italian-American home, in which food was an important component of family life. It still is. His passions include good food, wine and travel. John's gastronomic interests in upstate northeastern New York involve finding top-notch local producers of ingredients and those who use them well. A dedicated amateur, John has no plans to ditch his current career for one in the food industry. Host, New York.
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