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Feb 27, 2013 03:42 PM

Dinner @ Minibar, 2/19/2013

Reporting back on our trip to Washington, DC (February 19-25, 2013) . . .

First night: MINIBAR

I’ll confess. Lynn & I set the bar pretty high with our first meal of the trip at Minibar, but before we praise Caesar - uh, José - let us criticize him . . . .they have the STRANGEST wine policy on the planet – or , I should concede, in my experience. Permit me to explain . . . .

I had previously dined at é (José Andres’ similar restaurant inside Jaleo in Las Vegas), and there the wine list of Jaleo is also the wine list at é. I could meet with the sommelier of é and – since I had no idea what that evening’s menu would be – I selected a couple of options and then asked the sommelier which of the wines would match up best with the cuisine he knew would be coming. But when I emailed Minibar regarding the wine, I was told that their wine list was not the same as Jaleo in Washington, and they emailed me a copy of their RESERVE wine list.

One wine on the reserve list is <$100. There are seven red Bordeaux; four Grand Cru red Burgundies and two Grad Cru whites; five Rhônes; one Loire white; five Italian reds; four Spanish reds; and six from California – two Chardonnays and four Cabernets. The list tops out at $851. Now, the reason I’m going into such detail is that the list comes with the following “instructions”:

In preparation for your minibar experience, we invite you to choose from this list of carefully selected wines from world class producers and classic vintages to pair with your meal. A two week notice of your selection is necessary.

So I need to order two weeks’ in advance, without knowing the evening’s menu, and certainly not knowing what I’ll be in the mood for that evening. Hmmmm . . . .

The regular list is more doable, but corkage is only $25/btl., so I flew out to DC with two Rioja reds – one “old style” (2004 La Rioja Alta “Viña Ardanza” Gran Reserva) and one new (2008 Benjamin Romeo “Predicador”). We also ordered a bottle of 2010 Huet Vouvray “Clos de Bourg” demi-sec to accompany our opening courses, and ended up opening both of the reds, sharing them with the sommelier and our four fellow diners.

OK, onto the meal itself – 28 courses, and not one misstep.

Oaxacan Marshmallow
Asian “Coca de Vidrio”
Pillow of PB&J
Parmesan Leaf
Walnut Mimetic
“When Pigs Fly”
Foie Bomb
Churro Tendon
Almond Tart with Blue Cheese
Pigtail Curry Panini

Chicken “Shawarma”
Baby Carrots with Coconut & Curry
Beech Mushroom Risotto with Truffle
Smoked Oysters with Escabeche
Fabes con Almejas
Grilled Lobster, Peanut Butter & Honey
Parmesan Egg with Migas
Espardenyes with Bone Marrow
Thai Soup

Olive Oil Soup with Mandarin
Dragon’s Breath

Pine Snow with Honey
Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

Piña Colada Tablet
Sablé Bon Bon
“Jurassic Park”
Lava Rock Chocolate

I understand that Washingtonian Magazine dropped Minibar completely off their Top 100 List for 2013 (from a spot in the Top 10 in 2012). I do not know why, but I found no fault in any of the dishes, which I found to be more sophisticated than those prepared at é and yet filled with purity and delight.

Lynn and I find ourselves already thinking of when we shall return to Washington and dine yet again at Minibar.

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  1. Not only did Washingtonian drop Minibar, but The Washington Post demoted it to two stars. But none of that really matters, the most important thing is that YOU were pleased. Thanks so much for the rundown. It's hard to find a recent menu on the internet.

    I think it's a mistake to try to pair wine with this meal. It can't be done, and their wines are a waste of money.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Steve

      Actually the Vouvray was an excellent match, with most of the first half (or so) of the meal. The 2008 Predicador worked better, IMHO, than the wine from La Rioja Alta -- but by then, the six of us were just having fun, and whatever remained in the bottles, we left for the chefs . . .

    2. if I ever make it back to minibar, I think I'd keep the beverage neutral, either champagne or vodka (depending on the buzz intended) on a flavor rollercoaster like that, I doubt even the best sommelier can keep up.

      4 Replies
      1. re: hill food

        Can you get away with drinking tap water there? Or is there a $50 "pipeline charge?" ;)

        1. re: MikeR

          My question is: if you bring a boxed wine, would they charge 'Corkage'?

            1. re: MikeR

              I don't know, but even the menu sounds like a joke to me.

      2. Since many have mentioned the wine issues, I'd like a recommendation-- I am "saving up" for MiniBar and would like for it to be an event meal in the fall of 2013... however, I do not drink and if I someone in my group of friends were to go with me, they are not drinkers either.

        So, with the idea that the presentation is essentially "unpairable" anyway, what will I be drinking? $100 Fillico water?

        I wonder if they'd consider a "juice flight"....

        4 Replies
        1. re: Kris in Beijing

          They have a non-alcoholic option . . .

          1. re: zin1953

            Yes; it's $45. I'm just wondering what you GET for that : )

            1. re: Kris in Beijing

              in retrospect, seriously I'd just order club soda ala carte or a Pelligrino instead.

              1. re: hill food

                I'd order a carafe "de l'eau dans la façon paysanne."

                The price is fully justified.