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In Photos: Opening Night at José Andrés' Bazaar, or, The Tale of a 49-Course Dinner

kevin h Nov 18, 2008 06:18 AM

Full review with photos: http://www.kevineats.com/2008/11/baza...

I was first introduced to José Andrés at his mezze eatery Zaytinya in Washington DC. This was several years ago, and ever since then, I'd wanted to try another one of Andrés' restaurants: Minibar at Cafe Atlantico, arguably the most progressive restaurant in the country. Andrés, a discipline of Ferran Adrià, is perhaps best known for his small plates, "avant garde" cuisine, so I was thus very excited to hear than he'd be opening a restaurant right here in LA. The anticipation built for several months, and I made reservations for opening night as soon as I could. I was especially interested in comparing the place to XIV (also owned by SBE), as I attended and reported on that restaurant's opening night a month ago.

Here's a rundown of all the 49(!) courses I had:

1: Jamón platter [$32.00
]We have: Jamón Ibérico de bellota, Jamón Ibérico, and Jamón Serrano. Jamón Ibérico comes from the Black Iberian Pig, and was, until recently, not available in the US. Jamón Ibérico de bellota is the most prized version, and is made from pigs that eat only acorns during the last periods of their lives. This resulted in the meat being sweeter, nuttier, and fattier than the non bellota version, which had a stronger, "hammier" flavor. This was my first time having Jamón Ibérico and it didn't disappoint. The much more common Jamón Serrano (made from white pigs) was somewhat drier and less fatty, but still delicious.

2: Selection of five cheeses [$25.00]
Served with 'picos,' Spanish crispy bread, quince jam and almonds:
• Murcia al vino - This was a goat's milk, semi-soft, smooth cheese with a red wine-washed rind from Murcia in southeastern Spain. It had just a hint of fruitiness and nuttiness and was quite nice overall.
• La Serena - La Serena is made from Merino sheep's milk in La Serena, Spain. It had a soft, creamy consistency, backed by a bitter, almost astringent taste.
• Manchego 'Pasamontes' - Manchego is a sheep's milk cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain. I found it firm and mild, with just a bit of saltiness.
• Idiazábal - Idiazábal is a hard, mildly smoky, nutty sheep's milk cheese from the Basque region in Spain. At XIV, I had it paired with bacon.
• Picón Bejes-Treviso - A creamy, sharp blue made from cow's, goat's, and sheep's milk from Liébana, Cantabria, Spain. A prototypical blue.

3: 'Pa amb' Tomaquet [$8.00]
Toasted sliced rustic bread brushed with fresh tomatoes. This typical preparation of Catalan cuisine was surprisingly tasty, with the tomato adding an interesting contrast to the toasted bread. It was a nice accompaniment for the jamón and cheese.

4: Mussels escabeche [$7.00]
Marinated in olive oil, vinegar and smoked paprika. This was definitely one of the better preparations of mussels I've had, with the marinade adding a spicy, tart kick to the natural flavor of the mollusks. Perfect texture too.

5: King Crab [$16.00]
With raspberry vinegar. The raspberry was initially a bit strange, but turned out quite nicely, with the flavor of the berries pairing well with the crab meat's inherent sweetness.

6: Kumamoto Oysters [$12.00]
With lemon and black pepper. Kumamotos are my favorite type of oyster, and here again, they lived up to their reputation, with the lemon adding a great kick. I will say though that although tasty, these were actually quite similar in taste to the oysters on the half shell that you normally get.

7: Sea Urchin [$16.00]
With pipirrana and Andalusian vegetables. This was my favorite of the canned dishes, and was an exemplary preparation of uni. The sea urchin itself was mild, smooth, and delicious, while the veggies (peppers, tomatoes, onions, etc.) added a fantastic textural contrast. Arguably the best dish of the night.

8: Aceitunas con anchoas y piquillos [$6.00]
Stuffed green olives with piquillo and anchovies. Though advertised as "world's best," these tasted pretty much just like olives. The piquillos didn't add much, and the anchovies were simply not apparent.

9: Carrilleras de cerdo con naranja [$8.00]
Braised pork cheeks with California oranges. Quite nice. The pork was braised, so it was very tender, but the meat still had a bit of bite to it, which I appreciated. The oranges did well to offset the heaviness of the meat.

10: Alitas de pollo [$9.00]
Boneless chicken wings with green olive puree. I liked these. The chicken was extremely juicy and rather fatty, reminding me of almost an Asian-style street food. However, tasting the bird with the included olive puree and greens added layers of complexity to the dish that elevated it above mere fried chicken.

11: Arroz cremoso de setas con queso Idiazábal [$8.00]
Wild mushroom rice with Idiazábal cheese. The rice didn't have that risotto-like texture that I love, but nevertheless, I quite enjoyed this dish and its rich, hearty interplay between rice, earthy mushroom, and smoky cheese. It actually reminded me of the mushroom risotto I had at Café Hiro.

12: Espinacas a la Catalana [$8.00]
Catalan sautéed spinach with apple, pine nuts and raisins. The sweetness hits you first, which is then followed by the bitterness of spinach. A bit strange at first, but then it makes perfect sense. I had a similar Catalan style spinach at Mizuna only days earlier. There, I felt the amalgam was too sweet, but that didn't pose a problem here.

13: Japanese baby peaches [$12.00]
With yogurt and olive oil. The peaches had a lovely sweetness that was deftly set off by the yogurt, an interesting contrast. This looks like it could've been a dessert from Providence!

14: Lomo de buey a la parrilla con piquillos confitados [$12.00]
Seared NY strip with piquillo pepper confit. The meat was aptly cooked and I liked the texture, but the taste somehow seemed off to me; it just lacked the beefiness that I was looking for. The piquillos did work well here though.

15: Mozzarella-tomato pipettes [$8.00]
With micro basil. Interesting presentation here. You first taste the tomato with a hint of basil, then get hit by the mozzarella a second later, resulting in a quasi-insalata caprese experience. Quite a pleasing effect overall.

16: Pimientos del piquillo con queso Caña de Cabra [$9.00]
Seared piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese. Here I noted an initial burst of strong cheesy taste, gradually leading to the much milder flavor of pepper near the finish. Nothing special.

17: Sliced apples and fennel salad [$7.00]
With Manchego cheese, walnuts, olive oil and cava vinegar. I had a really hard time discerning anything else but apple here. There was just too much of it, and it dominated the other flavors. I didn't even know about the cheese and walnuts before reading the menu! With its sharp, cool tartness, this was almost like a palate cleanser.

18: Organized arugula salad [$9.00]
With raspberries, corn and Cabrales blue cheese. The arugula, when eaten alone, had a dry, spicy bitterness that wasn't too pleasant, but adding the cheese didn't help either, as it just overpowered everything else. The corn and raspberries were a tad incoherent.

19: 'Philly cheesesteak' [$7.00]
Air bread filled with cheese and topped with Kobe beef. I loved the lightness of the air bread and how it almost explodes in your mouth, coating it with cheese. Unfortunately, the cheese drowned out the taste of the beef.

20: Ensaladilla Rusa [$7.00]
Classic Spanish salad of potatoes, imported conserved tuna and mayonnaise. The tuna flavor was very strong here, though not unpleasantly so. The dish reminded me of a cross between tuna salad and potato salad. In that vein, I think it would've been better served a bit colder.

21: Lomo de corder con patatas y trufas [$14.00]
Lamb loin with foraged mushrooms and potato. The meat was extremely tender and almost pork-like in nature (one of my dining companions guessed that it was done sous-vide), and served as a base on which the potatoes and mushrooms could come to the fore.

22: Cigalas con algas Finisterrae [$14.00]
Norwegian lobster with seaweed and a soup essence. The seaweed added an extremely briny essence to the dish that tended to overpower the lobster; I wasn't a fan of its texture either. My attention was pretty much drawn to the seaweed and not the lobster.

23: Sautéed cauliflower "couscous" [$9.00]
With cauliflower puree, vegetable harissa broth, preserved lemon and fried quinoa. I'm generally a fan of cauliflower, and I appreciated its creative use here as "couscous." It had a subtle bitterness that contrasted with the sweeter elements of the dish, along with a great mouthfeel. Quite good.

24: Croquetas de pollo [$7.00]
Chicken and béchamel fritters. The unique amalgam of chicken and béchamel gave the croquettes a lovely golden brown interior hiding a warm, creamy center. It was akin to a chicken pot pie, and I rather liked it.

25: Artichokes and citrus salad [$9.00]
With orange blossom dressing and pomegranate. I found the citrus jarring, and not at all integrated with the artichoke, which was just bland. This was disjointed to say the least, a mismatched mishmash and one of the weakest dishes of the night.

26: Ajo blanco gelatin [$8.00]
With tomato granité. Also competing for the title of worst dish of the night was this strange amalgamation. Ajo blanco is a type soup traditionally made from bread, olive oil, vinegar, water, garlic, and almonds. Sounds pretty good on its own, but here the interplay of savory and sweet elements just didn't work out. The jarring coldness of the granité didn't help either. Like an experiment gone wrong at Alinea.

27: Seared cantaloupe [$7.00]
With arugula and grapefruit salad. I've never had seared cantaloupe before, but I must say that the cooking process intensified the natural flavor of the fruit and gave it a rich heaviness that stood in stark contrast to the grapefruit. Surprisingly nice.

28: Brussel sprout salad [$8.00]
With lemon puree, apricot preserves and lemon air. Having found a new appreciation for Brussels sprouts just days earlier at Ford's Filling Station, I rather liked the salad. The sprouts had a great crunchiness along with their signature bitterness, which was subsequently cut by the use of lemon and apricot.

29: Olives Ferran Adrià [$10.00]
Liquid 'olives'. A nod to his former teacher, the "olives" consisted of an olive flavored liquid encased in a thin membrane. I'm not sure what the hype is all about, it tasted like an olive, nothing more.

30: Traditional Ottoman carrot fritters [$7.00]
With pistachio sauce. The fritters had a decidedly "Indian" taste to them, which I rather enjoyed. I also appreciated their texture, which was not unlike that of a hash brown. Nice!

31: Stewed baby carrots [$8.00]
With coconut sorbet and ginger. The sorbet by itself was superb, with a rich taste of coconut backed by a lovely cool creaminess. The carrots were also quite tasty by themselves. But when eaten as a whole, the dish just fell apart for me, with its quasi-Thai flavor.

32: Taylor Bay scallops [$10.00]
With beet nitro, pistachios and arugula. All I could taste was the sweetness of the beets and berries, locked in some sort of frozen mass. Were there even scallops here? Could've fooled me!

33: Watermelon tomato skewers [$15.00]
With Pedro Ximénez reduction and sexy tomato seeds. Yes, the tomato seeds are actually described as "sexy" on the menu. But sexy or not, this was damn good. The tartness of the tomato formed the perfect foil for the watermelon, and the whole mélange was ridiculously juicy to boot.

34: Warm leek salad [$8.00]
With goat cheese and lemon dressing. I don't recall the particulars about this dish, but I do remember that I didn't care for it. The table agreed with me, and these were left largely untouched.

35: Japanese eggplant [$8.00]
With soy sauce-miso glaze and yogurt. Continuing the trend from the previous dish, this was pretty awful. I'm not sure what else to say. I don't think it had a single redeeming quality. Sorry.

36: Papas Islas Canarias [$8.00]
Salty wrinkled potatoes with "mojo verde." The potatoes were delightfully salty and very delicious on their own, with an absolutely lovely texture. They were even tastier when dipped in the piquant mojo sauce. Simple, yet effective, this was one of the highlights for me.

37: Traditional tzatziki [$7.00]
Diced cucumbers, garlic, dill and yogurt, served with pita chips. A very straightforward preparation of tzatziki, this would've been a great starter, but just seemed out of place at this point in the meal. Nothing wrong with it though.

38: Pisto Manchego con flor de calabaza [$9.00]
Sautéed peppers, zucchini, onions, eggplant and tomatoes with squash blossoms and egg. Here we have basically a medley of sautéed vegetables, decent on their own, but made much better by the unifying presence of the soft boiled egg.

39: Tortilla de patatas 'new way' [$9.00]
Warm potato foam with a slow cooked egg 63 and caramelized onions. I actually quite liked the flavor of this course, but its soft, creamy, foamy texture just seemed a bit incongruous to the dish's character.

40: Setas al Ajillo [$9.00]
Sautéed wild mushrooms in garlic and aromatic herbs. Sautéed mushrooms can hardly be bad, and certainly this was no exception. At the same time though, it's not like this brought anything new to the table.

41: Buñuelos de Bacalao [$8.00]
Codfish fritters with honey aioli. I'd appreciate another type of fish here, as I found the cod rather mushy and a touch fishy, though the aioli did help with the latter problem. Next!

42: Ibérico ham and pineapple [$12.00]
With fennel sherry dressing. While I was eating this, all I could think of was Hawaiian pizza (not necessarily a bad thing mind you). What really stood out to me though wasn't the ham, but the sweet juiciness of the pineapple.

43: Gambas al ajillo [$12.00]
Sautéed shrimp with garlic and guindilla pepper. Nice texture on the shrimp, but the accompanying sauce was just plain strange. I don't know what it was, but it certainly didn't taste like garlic or pepper. I thought the equivalent dish at The Courtyard was much better.

44: Jicama wrapped guacamole [$10.00]
With micro cilantro and corn nuts. I didn't get much of the supposed corn nuts, but the jicama wrapper added a lovely crunch to the smooth creaminess of the guacamole. Very light and refreshing, with a great avocado taste.

45: Bogavante a la Gallega [$15.00]
Galician-style lobster medallions with olive oil crushed potatoes and smoked paprika. I ate the claw of the lobster and was duly disappoint, as I found it overly salty and limp in texture. The potatoes were quite good though I'm told.

46: Endivas con queso de cabra y naranjas [$8.00]
Endive with goat cheese, oranges and almonds. Not bad, but not great, the whole thing just sort of melded together taste-wise and nothing was particularly discernable. Juicy though.

47: Butifarra con ceps y montgetes del gantxet 'Daniel Patrick Moynihan' [$9.00]
Homemade pork sausage with white beans and ceps. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a US senator from New York, and apparently he was a huge fan of these sausages. I'm not as enthusiastic, though it certainly wasn't bad. It just lacked the rich flavor and juiciness that I'd hoped for.

48: Patatas Bravas "New Way Jose" [$7.00]
José's fried potatoes with aioli and spicy tomato sauce. The tomato sauce here tasted basically of ketchup, and the whole dish seemed rather blunt and unrefined. "No way José!"

49: Trucha a la Navarra [$8.00]
Seared trout with Jamón Serrano, Navarra style. We found this far too fishy and just not very good in general, one of the worst preparations of trout I've had actually. We didn't exactly end the meal on a good note here.

I think there are two things that need to be addressed at The Bazaar. First is the food. Though we had some great dishes, we also had some truly god awful ones. I mean, some of it just tasted plain bad (as in, what were they thinking putting this on the menu?). Indeed, many of the dishes are very ambitious in terms of flavor pairings, and while I appreciate such novelty, sometimes it just doesn't work. I think what needs to happen is that the menu needs to be rationalized, to cull out the weaker dishes, and perhaps add some new ones to make up the difference. Hopefully, if you're thinking of going to The Bazaar, I've been able to help in deciding which the stronger dishes are. I do think there is a lot of potential here though; the place simply needs time.

Moving away from the food now, I was actually much more put off by the no photography policy that the restaurant has. While we were waiting for our table, we were told that we could not photograph the decor, because it was designed by Phillipe Stark and thus "copyrighted." Now, I'm no lawyer, but this sounds like a BS reason and I question if it's legally defensible. Note that XIV was also designed by Stark and we encountered no such "copyright" issues there. Once we were seated, we were informed by the "manager" (I didn't get her name) that food photography was similarly prohibited; she then directed me to Andrea Sun, a public relations manager, who reiterated that line. Interestingly, one of my dining companions later told me that he'd received permission from Andrea to photograph the food earlier in the night, so perhaps the restaurant needs to hold a consistent line on this. Except for that, I actually didn't have a problem with the service, and in fact, give a lot of credit to our server for handling our sometimes mercurial requests. I will say though that I don't plan on coming back until the restaurant institutes some less ridiculous policies.

Full review with photos: http://www.kevineats.com/2008/11/baza...

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    Adsvino RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 06:29 AM

    Wow, nice work. I feel like I tasted some terrible food there!

    1. Servorg RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 06:35 AM

      Great review, as always, Kevin. I guess ExileKiss must have used a spy cam to take pic's of the food last night (lol). I will never dine here as it just doesn't interest me, but reading your take on things is always fun.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Servorg
        kevin h RE: Servorg Nov 19, 2008 03:04 AM

        I believe Exilekiss dined earlier in the night, so perhaps the management on shift was different. That's not really an optimal situation either, as that means that the staff is inconsistent regarding the issue.

        1. re: kevin h
          Servorg RE: kevin h Nov 19, 2008 03:17 AM

          The restaurant runs two different shifts for the same nights dinner service? That would certainly be highly (as in I have never encountered that before) unusual.

          1. re: Servorg
            kevin h RE: Servorg Nov 20, 2008 04:52 AM

            It would be unusual indeed. Maybe it's not different shifts per se, but just a few different people depending on the time of day, some more paranoid than others about photos? So far burumun and I have had problems, while others, including exile, JL, and eater LA have not.

            I would ask that the next blogger to try Bazaar attempt to get an official clarification from the restaurant.

      2. Perceptor RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 07:32 AM

        wow... you guys ate ALOT!!! Thanks for the detail report Kevin.. great coverage...
        so even though they said no photography, you will still able to get full coverage?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Perceptor
          kevin h RE: Perceptor Nov 18, 2008 08:07 AM

          Thanks Perceptor! I basically had to take the shots very quickly and surreptitiously, using my fellow dining companions as lookouts. That's why some of the photos didn't turn out that great. Needless to say, this situation did not make for the most comfortable dining environment.

          1. re: kevin h
            Perceptor RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 12:37 PM

            aaah... the quick photo and put the camera away technique...

        2. n
          Nicole RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 09:48 AM

          Thanks for your incredibly thorough review...you did the research for all of us so that we can avoid the lackluster dishes and order the standouts. That uni dish looks incredible!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Nicole
            kevin h RE: Nicole Nov 18, 2008 10:48 AM

            Yep that was sort of the point of this whole exercise, to identify the best dishes. I wanted to try them all but our stomach capacities didn't allow for it!

            I'd definitely recommend the uni, and actually, all of the canned dishes were pretty good.

          2. n
            namstermonster RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 12:52 PM

            hrmm... how much do U think 2 girls would spend for dinn??

            1 Reply
            1. re: namstermonster
              kevin h RE: namstermonster Nov 18, 2008 02:42 PM

              Under $50 per person. The server recommened 3-4 tapas per person.

            2. l
              linus RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 02:16 PM

              i apologize, i just want to make sure i understand this clearly. are you saying the no photography policy alone will keep you from returning to this restaurant?

              thanks.

              1 Reply
              1. re: linus
                kevin h RE: linus Nov 18, 2008 02:42 PM

                Well that and the fact that I wasn't terribly impressed with the food overall. I think the food will work itself out given time. I also think that they'll eventually get rid of the policy.

              2. ipsedixit RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 02:22 PM

                Thanks for the wonderful report.

                Some of those dishes just "look" god-awful. I suppose if you're going to serve 49 of anything there are bound to be clunkers in the crowd.

                "longest bill I've had" ... gotta love that line!

                1 Reply
                1. re: ipsedixit
                  kevin h RE: ipsedixit Nov 18, 2008 02:43 PM

                  I definitely agree about the presentation on some of them, though some of the ones that looked bad actually tasted pretty good. ;)

                2. J.L. RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 03:16 PM

                  Thanks for "taking one for the team" on this! Sorting out the wheat from the chaff is very helpful. Mrs. J.L. is a Jamon Jabugo-phile, & I look forward to trying their jamon.

                  SBE has been inconsistent about the photo policy at their places. I will be going later this month and I will report back. You'd think that us Chowhounds taking photos would be the EXACT type of good press the PR manager would want for a budding kitchen....

                  Also, I agree that some really tasty foods just don't photograph well.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: J.L.
                    kevin h RE: J.L. Nov 18, 2008 10:23 PM

                    The jamon was definitely one of the highlights and I'd not hesitate to recommend it.

                    Bazaar was only the second SBE place I've been to. As mentioned before, XIV had no problem with photos, and I think my blog of the place did generate at least a bit of positive word of mouth. Heck, they even added the "gamut" as an official menu item after we did it!

                  2. n
                    nosh RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 05:14 PM

                    With a bar, a dessert section, a main restaurant section, a tapas section, a gift shop, a wait here and vogue section, open kitchens, carts rolling around -- what am I omitting? -- do they have a deli counter where you can simply buy some of that ham by the pound?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: nosh
                      kevin h RE: nosh Nov 18, 2008 10:24 PM

                      They do have a ham and cheese bar in the Roja y Blanca (the tapas restaurant) section. Not sure if the jamon is available by the pound though.

                      1. re: nosh
                        s
                        silence9 RE: nosh Nov 19, 2008 12:44 PM

                        Nosh writes: " a wait here and vogue section...". Best line of the week :-)

                      2. l
                        lesleyb RE: kevin h Nov 18, 2008 06:16 PM

                        Just to play devil's advocate here, "taking one for the team" is one thing, but why would anyone let one person's reaction to a first-night menu keep you from tasting/trying the same things or going at all? What if you liked bacalao, which kevin did not. Would you not try because he said the bacalao fritters weren't good because they had cod and not some other fish (when that's exactly what bacalao is = dried salted cod)? Do you have exactly the same palate as his? Do you know you that eat the same exact way he does? How about if the kitchen takes some of these early critiques and tweaks the dishes to make them better? What if some of these things he said were awful actually turn out to be stellar in a few weeks or months, the time it usually takes for any kitchen to get their bearings together? Wouldn't you be so disappointed if you didn't try the best things in the house because all you're remembering is his first review?

                        I think Kevin's review is very thorough and an interesting read, especially with the photos It's admirable he wanted to try everything on the menu, but at some point it was too much, so (like tasting too many wines in one day), could that mar his views? I was there last night too and tried some of the same dishes he did; some he didn't like and I did. Even at my table, some dishes I liked (the fideo paella) and my dining guest did not (at least as much as I did). We had some scallops that had far too much salt on them rendering them inedible, although they were cooked perfectly and the accompanying sauce was delicious. We loved the spinach, a perfect lingering balance of salty and sweet, with pine nuttiness. Our pork cheeks were a little overcooked, dry. I thought the sausage with white beans was delicious, the meat juicy and fatty at once. And of course the liquid olives taste like olives but the hype is that THEY AREN'T. To those who won't go or who won't order the same dishes that Kevin did, isn't there something to be said for thinking for yourself, testing the waters, finding out what you do and don't like? There's a lot to that menu, there are a lot of items, and my guess is they will in fact see what works and what doesn't. I can't wait to go back, especially when Jose Andres is in the house. He wasn't last night, but he will be. Just sayin....

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: lesleyb
                          J.L. RE: lesleyb Nov 18, 2008 07:34 PM

                          All I was saying is that.... before trying a new place, having recon/intel is better than having no recon/intel. Doesn't mean I won't try something just 'cuz Kevin didn't like it.

                          It is assumed that I would still be the ultimate arbiter of what my meal consist of.

                          1. re: lesleyb
                            kevin h RE: lesleyb Nov 18, 2008 10:43 PM

                            I agree Lesley. I'd like to provide some rough guide of the dishes, but ultimately it's up to the individual diner to determine what's right for his or her palate. I do believe that the dishes will improve given time, and I wouldn't mind going back in a while to try things out, assuming of course that management won't boot me off the premises on sight!

                            Regarding palate fatigue, I certainly agree that food gets less appetizing the more you eat. But at the same time, it doesn't prevent me from recognizing what I consider to be "good" food. The fullest I've been was at French Laundry, and toward the end, I literally did not want to eat another bite, but I kept at it, even though I didn't particularly enjoy what I was eating. At the same time though, I was still able to appreciate the quality of the food, and knew that, if I were hungry, I'd be having a fantastic time with it.

                            Concerning the bacalao, I know it's supposed to be cod, but not one of the six people in my party liked it. Why not have a new style "bacalao" with another, more palatable fish? I know Andres doesn't shy away from reinventing old classics.

                            1. re: kevin h
                              l
                              lesleyb RE: kevin h Nov 19, 2008 09:35 AM

                              Points taken. About that cod, I loved those fritters. I didn't find it oily or fishy at all, in fact as far as bacalao goes, i thought it was pretty mild. They were also light and fried to perfection. The sweet aioli on the side was a nice touch. And while Andres and his team are all about reinventing the classics, they don't need to reinvent everything. It was a delicious rendition. I liked the more traditional tapas on the menu (the jamon was amazing) anyway. Rojo's menu is supposed to be more "traditional," with the Blanca menu the "modern" interpretations. If anything, maybe he'll come up with an old and new way like they did with the tortilla patatas. Which, for the record, tasting the two side by side, I loved the tradtional version much more than the modern one with the potato foam in the martini glass. ...it also made a tasty leftover for breakfast the next day (with the homemade sausage that I liked).

                              Also re: Photos. Now, I blog but I don't (generally) take food shots documenting every dish on the table. But no one told me not to take pictures, and my camera was sitting on the table the entire time. I did take several photos that night because the food was just too gorgeous. On one hand, sure, it's cool to have someone post lovely food shots on their blog; on the other, we've all seen really BAD food shots, and no restaurant wants that, plus it doesn't help the consumer. Just strokes the bloggers ego (hey look ma! i'm a picture taker!). Also, I've been in rooms with the flashes going and it's just freaking annoying. So does the restaurant have the right to create their own rules? um, yeah. Damn straight they do. If a restaurant doesn't want you taking pictures, respect their wishes and move on. Just because you're a paying customer (even over $1000) doesn't mean you can do whatever you want. It's also a ridiculous reason to not go to a restaurant.

                              1. re: lesleyb
                                kevin h RE: lesleyb Nov 19, 2008 05:53 PM

                                I'd actually have to give the edge to the more traditional "Rojo" menu as well, though, as you mentioned, a "Blanca" interpretation of bacalao would probably suit me better.

                                The thing with the photos is that it's not just an ancillary exercise for us; rather, it's an integral part of the dining experience. Thus, to ban photography would diminish our enjoyment of the meal. For us, it'd be akin to a restaurant banning critiques of the food while dining. I wouldn't stay away from a restaurant *simply* because of a no photo rule, but I certainly won't be as excited I'd be otherwise (Masa in NY comes to mind). I'm in full agreement about flash though, as it annoys me just as much. I don't use it. Finally, I do find it interesting that you weren't hassled for photography. It seems like enforcement is therefore quite inconsistent, and is thus another issue that the restaurant needs to work out.

                          2. aliceyoo RE: kevin h Jan 15, 2009 09:02 PM

                            Very thorough review! Very nice. Too bad they were jerks about the picture taking. I love Starck but he needs to get off his high horse about this photography BS.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: aliceyoo
                              kevin h RE: aliceyoo Jan 15, 2009 11:44 PM

                              Thanks. Fortunately, it seems like they've since relaxed their photography policy, as other bloggers have been able to take pictures without hassle.

                            2. l
                              lizziee RE: kevin h Jan 26, 2009 11:11 AM

                              You now can take photos anytime you want.

                              Update from Saturday night.

                              I have had Jose Andres’ food at Cafe Atlantico in Washington DC, unfortunately not at the mini bar, but his American dim sum brunch.

                              We waited a bit for the buzz to die down before trying Jose Andres food at the Bazaar in the SLS hotel. Let’s just say the buzz is still there. Joseph Sabato, the manager, said they did 350 covers on Friday and expected about the same on Saturday. The bar has become somewhat of a scene and they have instructed the valets to stop taking cars after 9:30. Jose Andres wants a restaurant, not a club, but that might be an uphill battle in Los Angeles. The early crowd was more food-focused, but the later it got the crowd grew younger, loud and food seemed to be secondary to scene. Also, most of the tables were groups of 6 - very hard for a kitchen to deliver food in a timely matter, particularly when you are serving numerous tapas style dishes. (In fact the servers punch in their orders directly to the kitchen as they take your order).

                              In terms of service, the FOH was terrific. Lucas Paya, Beverage Director is from ThinkFood Group, Jose Andre’s team out of DC. He worked at El Bulli starting in 2002 (we missed him by a year) and is knowledgeable as well as charming. Our server, Heidi Elizabeth was very good as well as enthusiastic. She had tasted the dishes and was excellent at detailed explanations. Everyone who brought food to the table appeared to have been trained in how to describe the dishes.

                              We brought our own wines.
                              NV or some say Multi-vintage Krug Champagne–wonderful as always, clean, crisp, delicious. I would have it all the time if it was affordable.

                              2004 Wm. Fevre Chablis Le Clos–probably the best vineyard in Chablis. We love the Dauvasset and Raveneau from the same vineyard. It drank perfectly and was a very good pairing with most of the food. Yes, we might have had some red [Spanish preferred] with the Philly Cheese Steak, but at $30.00 per bottle corkage it is not a good idea to have too many bottles.

                              Caviar Cone - brik pastry cone filled with cauliflower creme fraiche puree and topped with coast of Maine caviar - good, but I am not sure I would re-order these at $10 a piece.

                              Cotton Candy Foie Gras - absolutely spectacular - the foie gras terrine was rolled in corn nuts and then wrapped” in vanilla cotton candy

                              The next dish was presented in a tin. The menu states that “canning was invented in 1810 in France by Mr Nicolas Appert. Spain adopted this technique and today is known for producing the best canned products in the world. Here at SLS, we make them in house daily.”

                              In the tin, fresh Kumamoto oysters, lemon, black pepper - absolutely delicious

                              Octopus terrine with potato, airy mayonnaise, sorrel - another A+ winner

                              Japanese taco - grilled eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi wrapped in thinly sliced jicama and topped with black sesame seeds and chicharron (the skin of the pork seasoned and deep fried) - this was very reminiscent of a sushi bar eel roll, but with a Spanish twist.

                              Tortilla de patataas, new way - warm potato foam, caramelized onion with a slow cooked egg 63 and topped with baby croutons - an ode to comfort food

                              Philly Cheesesteak - air bread filled with oozing cheese and topped with Kobe beef - I could have eaten 3 of these - absolutely perfect and a must order

                              Uni in a Bao - this was the only loser of the night - the bun was horrible and the dish just didn’t work. To the restaurant’s credit, they took this off our bill.

                              I would definitely go back to Bazaar. There were many dishes that I wanted to try the miso linguini, the sea urchin in the can with pipirrana and Andalusian vegetables, the fried squid, the lamb loin just to name a few.

                              One interesting aspect about Bazaar that Joseph mentioned is that they don’t want people to see Bazaar as a “special occasion” place. They don’t push you to order a huge array of dishes, suggesting 3 or 4 plates per person with most being served family style and meant for sharing. They are trying to get people to select a more random and lower priced package of dishes so they are at $60.00 per head without wine/drinks.

                              Pics here:
                              http://lizziee.wordpress.com/category...

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: lizziee
                                kevin h RE: lizziee Jan 26, 2009 01:59 PM

                                It's good to see that Bazaar has revamped the menu a bit; I probably do need to make it back there again sometime.

                                I'm also happy to see that they've gotten rid of the draconian photo policy. I wonder what made them change their minds. Perhaps the whole debacle of my visit there?

                                1. re: kevin h
                                  mylastbite RE: kevin h Jan 26, 2009 08:42 PM

                                  Kevin, Did chef Andres ever contact you after you had dinner with him?

                                  1. re: mylastbite
                                    kevin h RE: mylastbite Jan 26, 2009 10:18 PM

                                    Nope. Was he supposed to?

                                    1. re: kevin h
                                      TonyC RE: kevin h Jan 27, 2009 10:06 AM

                                      Spoke with our waiter who has served @ Bazaar since grand opening day. He insisted there was NO "no photo" policy.. *confused*

                                      I went to town. Almost got up on the banquet to take an top-down desserts shot (prime lens)

                                      1. re: TonyC
                                        kevin h RE: TonyC Jan 27, 2009 02:53 PM

                                        The servers may be genuinely unware. Next time see if you can talk to Andrea Sun from SBE PR. I'd love to hear her take on this whole photo fiasco.

                                        In any case, I look forward to seeing your shots.

                                      2. re: kevin h
                                        J.L. RE: kevin h Jan 27, 2009 03:44 PM

                                        Just bring the camera and take the fotos. I ran into no resistance. I even took fotos with Chef Andres himself! He certainly did not object at all to cameras in his restaurant....

                                        1. re: J.L.
                                          eatdrinknbmerry RE: J.L. Feb 2, 2009 10:37 PM

                                          I came here back in early December and was confronted by the manager. But I told them the truth, "for a blog, no flash" and they granted me access. Besides Andres was too busy talking to some cougars, while Marcel was busy on his laptop replying to fan email. Definitely want to go back for the updated menu, after I eat a 3-lb burrito of course.

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