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Bazaar is Wack

e
emile Jun 12, 2009 02:12 PM

Last night I had the opportunity to check out Bazaar restaurant at the SLS hotel. All in all the night was rather entertaining but fell quite short of all the hype and PR that has been circulating for months on this place.

We began our night checking in with the hostess. A little unattentive to say the least. Three women stood behind the podium yet none of them was able to look up, ackowledge our arrival or offer any sort of warm welcome or smile. Not sure if this is the desired effect as I know that some places claim to treat people like this purposely but I, for one, am not a big fan of this type of "service". There are just too many great restaurants in this city that I refuse to deal with impolite staff just so that I can try the food. Unfortunately, the service problems continued throughout the night with a waiter that literally could not be found for over 45 minutes (even after I asked another waiter to send him over).

Regardless, I realize that service is just one peice of the restaurant pie so I will try to focus more on the food. It should be noted that prior to last night, I had heard many great things about Bazaar from people far and near. My particular interest was in the molecular gastronomy aspect but I had also heard that the food was authentic Spanish tapas and spectacular.

The menu: The menu is broken into two distinct sections (1) Traditional Tapas and (2) Modern Tapas. The Traditional Tapas included such classics as canned seafood, jamon, cheeses and all of the traditional tapas one could find in Spain.

Traditional Tapas: Regretfully we did not try any of the jamons but we did try the canned kumomoto oysters as well as other traditional plates.

- Kumomoto Oysters: Fresh, clean and sweet. These are typically my favorite oysters and the chef kept it simple and clean. It should be noted however that these oysters are only served in a can and not taken from a can. They are NOT canned and, for the first time that I can recall, I was upset to see fresh oysters rather than canned as Spain is famous for its canned seafood and the canning process actually adds a consistency and flavor unattainable elsewhere. Either way, these were tasty.
- Sauteed Mushrooms: A nice dish packed with earthy flavors of wild mushrooms and garlic. Nice and simple but not amazing.
- Sauteed Shrimp in Garlc: Again, nice, well cooked shrimp with nice flavors. Solid but not amazing. Its garlic shrimp for heavens sake, this is not rocket science.

Modern Tapas:
- Organized Ceaser salad: An interesting take on the classic. This was a ceaser salad wrapped in Jicama and topped with a quail egg, presented similar to a sushi roll. Unfortunately I did not try this but it looked cool. The comments seemed to be, "yep, that's a ceaser salad, nothing special."
- Avocado Tempura: A strange dish. I love avocados and anything tempura and so this was a nice dish but it felt greasy and heavy. The avocado peices tasted a little like deep fried potatoe squares. Nothing great here and left a greasy after taste.
- Tuna ceviche and avocado roll: The was the best dish of the night. A fairly basic tuna roll. Tuna sashimi wrapped in avocado with some type of corn nuts sprinkled on top. A great combination of flavors and textures that create a real party in your mouth. Well seasoned and very tasty and, if I hadn't heard so much hype, I would stop there but since this place is a walking advertisement I'd be remissed if I didn't point out that this was, all in all, a tuna roll and, again, not rocket science. Still, it was the best plate of the night.
- Sea Urchin & Avocado Steamed Buns: I LOVE Uni and, typically, can eat Uni all day long. This dish was different than anything I've ever had. Although the bun was bigger than I would have liked and tended to over power the uni, this was tasty and different. Not great but interesting.

Overall, I would say that the food and service are truley nothing to write home about. I would take a night at Providence, Sona, Il Pastaio or In N Out over this. In fact, I ended up going by In N Out on the way home to eat a real dinner. Interestingly though, I would recommend people to go at least once to check out the place. The eye candy walking around is typical of most trendy Beverly Hills/LA scenes. Beautiful people abundent throughout. It is a kwirky, strange and unorthodox design inside but it is a scene worthy of Los Angelinos and Hollywood types. Worth grabbing a drink and a snack but bring your checkbook. I'll never go there again for 'dinner' but I could see myself taking a date for drink and a lite snack.

Too bad this turned out to be a little disappointing. All in all, relative to the hype and write-ups I have read recently, Bazaar is wack IMO.

  1. Kitchen Queen Jun 12, 2009 03:39 PM

    Thank you for this 'cuz I am always leary about paying for ambience rather than amazing food. The place sounds a bit like Disneyland meets Cirque d'Soleil to me w/ a little Magic Castle thrown in. For my (50th) B-day celebration this weekend I think I'll stick w/AOC and Campanile.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kitchen Queen
      r
      RicRios Jun 12, 2009 04:16 PM

      "The place sounds a bit like Disneyland meets Cirque d'Soleil to me w/ a little Magic Castle thrown in."

      You just nailed down quintessential Sam Nazarian's SBE in a single line.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Naza...

      1. re: Kitchen Queen
        SDGourmand Jun 12, 2009 05:56 PM

        I had some similar issues as well.
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/611359

      2. javabean116 Jun 12, 2009 06:03 PM

        Great review of bazaar. I've been tempted to go, but i really don't want to spend an arm and a leg for "mediocre" food. This sounds like a pre-dinner place to me.

        1 Reply
        1. re: javabean116
          OC Mutt Jun 12, 2009 08:34 PM

          Agreed. I don't mind paying when the food is amazing but paying top $ for food that is not the pinnacle of dining offend's a customer's sensabilities. Everything is a value proposition and restaurants - especially high end ones, would do well to get a better understanding of that.

        2. c
          conor610 Jun 12, 2009 07:59 PM

          I've not been, so I cannot offer my own take, but it seems to me like you had a fairly small sampling of their food, and like you didn't try any of the really "hypermodern," or whatever you want to call it, dishes. Were any of the dishes you tried from the new tapas menu, other than the salad, particularly interesting, at least? I would be pretty disappointed to go there and not have a minibar-like experience.

          1 Reply
          1. re: conor610
            e
            emile Jun 15, 2009 09:31 AM

            Agreed. We probably did not try everything on the menu but I did feel like we tried enough items to get a good understanding of the food. Unfortunately, after eating, we left not really knowing much about the chef and his style because the food didn't really represent much of anything. One point that I forgot to mention in my original post, that I felt was quite important, was the fact that most of the seating throughout the restaurant is incredibly uncomfortable. For dinner we sat on a deep couch that made reaching the table quite difficult. For desert we sat on marble stools about 12 inches tall so that my knees were in my face. The desert table was also about 12 inches tall and my entire group felt ridiculous. I'm all for aesthetics but not when functionality must be sacrificed.

          2. f
            fdb Jun 12, 2009 08:28 PM

            I've been to The Bazaar 4 times and still enjoy it. Just when I thought I have tried every menu item, they come up with new ones--although I've noticed the portions are decreasing. Some are great, some are so so, but overall I really like dining there. If you go back, I highly recommend the Jamon Iberico de Bellota
            (acorn-fed, free-range ham)--the most tasty ham I've ever had.

            1 Reply
            1. re: fdb
              s
              SugarFrosted Jun 13, 2009 02:55 PM

              Yes, God that ham is like butter!

              And don't forget the Foie Gras Pop. It's mind blowing!

               
               
            2. a
              amela Jun 15, 2009 01:04 PM

              We were treated quite well by the hostess staff. I did make a point of speaking to the hostess by name that took our reservation and thanked her for the small favor of changing our reservation time by 30 minutes. Perhaps that personal touch helped. I saw no favoritism the night we were there celebrating my 17 year old's birthday. We were treated quite well and were even given a few samples and were visited by several staff throughout our meal. We had none of the dishes you ordered so I cannot comment on the quality of your choices but we were very happy with ours, even the price seemed appropriate. I surely hope our next visit will mirror our first and that your experience is not the new norm.

              1. SDGourmand Jun 16, 2009 06:14 AM

                After re reading your review, I have to say, you made some poor ordering choices. You said that molecular is what you were interested in, but you didn't order anything that had to do with it. Why not at the very least get the spherical olives. I have been 3 times now and have been happy all times. Except for the minor issues I wrote in my review. I think you need to give it another go and get the tasting and leave up to the chef. I think you'll be much happier with the outcome.

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