Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Bazaar by Jose Andres, Mid-City West

I've been terrible about blogging, but I promise it's because I've been busy living it up in the short while that I've had to spend in LA. Less than a week until I leave for Korea (have I mentioned that?) for probably four or five months!

It isn't sudden, I just haven't posted about it because ... I don't know, I was afraid of jinxing it? It's been an ordeal, let me tell you- receiving a visa is one of the most annoying things I've done in recent history, and I recently moved 800 miles, which is no easy task.

So I'm trying to prepare to leave the country for a while, as I also try to do all the things that I wanted to do in this city and meet all the friends that I haven't seen in a long time. One of the things that we did was go out for a fabulous dinner (after being thwarted by a power outage in chunks of Hollywood and Beverly Hills the first night, during which we were completely infuriated because nobody at the Bazaar picked up the phone or, as I would have expected, called to cancel our reservation and tell us that their kitchen had no power).

The Bazaar by Jose Andres
(in the SLS Hotel)
SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills
465 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Telephone: 310.246.5567

Sunday - Wednesday:
6:00 pm - 10:30 pm

Thursday - Saturday:
6:00 pm -11:30 pm

Overall, it was quite the experience. The hotel itself is a cross between how I imagine Mr. Toad's house and Alice's Wonderland. Pretty, unusual, and with lots of little labels and signs for the different things that "SLS" could stand for (sweet little sweets, scribble little secrets, etc.)- the SLS Hotel is just called the SLS Hotel, they're not the initials for the founder or anything like that.

One of the huge points that I noticed right when I walked in- the valet is terrible and the bar, restaurant, and dessert shop are all way too loud. They need to figure out their driveway and add some sound-proofing, because one should not be waiting for a $14 valet (not including tip!) and one should not be shouting to be heard over a platter of Spanish hams that are rare finds in LA.

Lots of pictures ahead, because I was that crazy girl in a bar / restaurant / sweets shop that was taking pictures like mad on her phone.

We started at the bar (Bar Centro) for drinks. An interesting thing about the Bazaar is that if you have a dinner reservation, they will find your party and guide you through. First the bar, then dinner, then the Patisserie (which means bakery in French- I knew that high school French would come in handy one day).

I had a Jale Berry (which is pronounced Halle Berry) because our waitress recommended it. It was a gin drink (I hate gin) with fresh blackberries, Cointreau, and a slice of jalapeno. The jalapeno was mysteriously subbed by lemon peel, but the flavor of the jalapeno was there, with a subtle bite in the aftertaste. It was delicious, though extremely strong on flavor (and gin). I didn't hate the gin, which was a nice surprise.

We proceeded to the restaurant (Rojo Y Blanca) after drinks, where we perused the enormous menu (divded into traditional and modern tapas, the modern dishes being mostly molecular gastronomically enhanced foods). I don't know why (maybe because of the reservation the night before being canceled due to power failures?), but the waiter sent over two dishes to us as we sipped our drinks and powered through the menu, trying to decide what to get.
Sweet potato chips with a yogurt dipping sauce. The yogurt dip had tamarind and star anise, plus what appeared to be a vat of olive oil (good Spanish olive oil, I'm sure). The chips were amazing. Really, really thin, crisp without being greasy, perfectly fried. The dip was just okay. Tasted like Greek yogurt and a little tamarind.
Let me start by saying, I hate olives. This was a mixture of the old and new- old style olives, traditionally made, very cute in their little tin. I declined to try one. I did try one of the modern olives, which is basically a liquid olive held together by science and a spoon. You take a spoon, throw back the little olive-colored ball, and then it explodes in your mouth. It tasted like olive, but it also didn't taste like olive. Liquid, briny, without the texture of a "normal" olive, I didn't mind it.

That drink in the picture above is a Passion Fruit Up!, which consists of orange rum, passion fruit, and ginger-laurel syrup, with passion fruit foam on top. The foam was substantial, more like whipped cream, and delicious. I didn't taste the ginger-laurel syrup at all, but it was a great drink.
Tortilla de patatas "new way," which means ... baby food. Delicious baby food, but it had the consistency of baby food. Spanish tortillas are not like Mexican tortillas- I would say that Spanish tortillas are more like a potato frittata, thick and starchy. This newfangled tortilla was delicious, with carameled onion goo on the bottom. I know. I don't make it sound good, but it was!
One of the "traditional" tapas, which we had to have. There is a rather broad selection of Spanish hams at the Bazaar, and they were delicious. We elected to go for the Fermin platter, which consisted of (from top to bottom): Jamon Iberico de bellota Fermin, Jamon Ilberico Fermin, and Jamon Serrano Fermin. Delicious with Catalan toasts (charred bread rubbed with garlic, smeared with olive oil, and then slathered in tomato). The Iberico de bellota Fermin was by far my favorite, but they were all unbelievable.
From the old world (the hams were sliced the traditional way, with the entire pig leg on display) to the new world- tuna ceviche and avocado roll. Thinly sliced avocado wrapped around tuna ceviche, with jicama, cilantro, and coconut dressing. I love avocado and I hate raw fish, but I tried this. It was too buttery, which sounds like it should be good, but the dressing was overpowering. With the coconut and the avocado, I didn't taste the fish at all. My least favorite of the night.
Not your everyday Caprese. Baby basil, cherry tomatoes, a little balsamic, some pesto, tiny croutons, and liquid mozzarella. Much like those modern olives, these mozzarella balls exploded like salty little bombs. A really good salad- one tomato, one crouton, and one cheese ball were the perfect bite.
The famous cotton candy foie gras! Little bites of foie gras with cotton candy wrapped around them. It surprised me that the foie gras was cold (which makes sense, since the cotton candy would melt off if the foie gras was hot). It surprised me more that I really liked this. The sweetness of the cotton candy, and the grittiness of the sugar, really offset the rich foie gras in a fun way.
Piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese. A traditional tapas dish, and very good. Their piquillo peppers were excellent, and the micro-greens were lovely, dressed perfectly. Very filling, what with all the goat cheese, but yummy.
Philly cheesesteaks! If the Jamon platter was my favorite, this came in second. Bread shaped like tiny footballs, puffed with air- they were very thin and delicate, not as substantial as they appear in the least. Liquified cheddar inside the bread, and thin seared slices of Wagyu beef. Really, really good, except the cheese oozes out of the bread after the first bite, and then it's a scramble to finish up the sandwich before you end up with cheese all over the place (I still ended up with cheese all over myself).
We hemmed and hawed about getting this one, but had to because of its name- Your Life Will Change Dashi Linguini. Linguini created with some sort of chemical, so that it's not prepared the traditional pasta way- the noodles had that glassy look, like cellophane noodles. Quail eggs and parmesan, with some sort of white sauce (cream?) were all mixed together thoroughly, then one tomato pierced on a fork, some pasta twirled around said fork, and then whole bite stuffed into your mouth. Sounds so good ... but it wasn't life-changing. It wasn't that great, actually. Dashi and dairy, not a good combination.
At the Patisserie, where we were escorted after dinner, we ordered a few small bites- the chocolate mini-tablettes are white chocolate with red peppercorn and dark chocolate with Maldon salt. They were good- really good chocolate. I couldn't taste much of the red peppercorn or the Maldon salt, but at least their chocolatier knows what he's doing.

That candy-looking thing is saffron pate de fruit with edible paper. Basically, a gumdrop. It was so sticky that they had to use edible paper- unless that paper was greased like crazy, this candy was never going to come off any paper. It was interesting. Very saffron-y, not too sweet. I'm not a big fan of saffron, even at the best of times (like paella), so I took a nibble and was done.
Spanish coffee. Basically, strong coffee with brandy, topped with whipped cream (softly whipped, not too sweet) and orange sugar around the rim. Really good. Not overly sweet, good orange sugar, and a great warming effect from the brandy.
We shared one dessert because we were all stuffed from dinner. Nitro Coconut Floating Island. It looks rather deceptive. That white UFO looked hollow to me, but it was a firm pillow, that was simultaneously light, airy, extremely coconut-y, and not at all dense. Delicious, and I don't like coconut much. The caramelized bananas at the bottom were great, with a thin, crunchy coating, and the passion fruit sauce was amazing.

It was really an entire experience that should be had if possible. The drinks, the food, the desserts- they were fun to eat, but also great to look at and interesting to hear about.

My quibble would be that all the food was way, way too salty. Of all the dishes we had, the only thing that wasn't too salty was the Catalan toasts, and even they were more salty than I would expect from bread. I don't know if they're all about seasoning everything too heavily rather than too lightly, but it was a little overmuch. I felt rather like I had a sodium overdose.

Still, despite the saltiness, I would go to the Bazaar again in a heartbeat, especially with someone who's never been. It's a fun time!

Next time, someone definitely has to get a capirinha, with its dry-ice table service.

I'm exhausted from the sudden blogging (should have stretched first!) but will try to blog again this week. So many pictures, so little time!