Trés – Lunch Fantastique

Restaurant: Trés [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: October 31, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Spanish

Rating: Fantastique

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My brother and I were in midtown and decided to check out Trésfor lunch. I’d already hit it for weekend brunch a couple months ago, and figuring as I’ve recently hit everything else Jose Andres (é by José Andrés and Jaleo in Vegas and a recent Saam meal), stopped in.


The room was dead at 11:45am, but the food wasn’t.


The lunch menu.


“Octopus tacos. Hydroponic bib lettuce, maggie’s farm baby greens, smoked heirloom cherry tomatoes.” Very nice octopus treatment. Succulent grilled meat and a zesty limey vinaigrette on the whole thing.


“Hawaiian bigeye tuna ceviche. Coconut ginger soy, plantain chips.” Not your typical cerviche as the lime flavors weren’t that blast you Peruvian type. But that meant you could taste the fish, and it was good. The plantain chips were tasty too.


I’m nuts over Jose’s Gazpacho. I’ve even made it from his recipe a number of times at home.


And with the soup itself. Yum yum!


“Herb roasted ham and cheese. Tomme de savoie cheese, carmelized onions, herbs.” This was like a Spanish Croque Monsieur. I love this kind of grilled ham and cheese.


Some good fries too with a spicy ketchup.


“The SLS Burger. House made brioche bun, lettuce, tomatoes, onions with cheddar.”


“Lemon tart. Raspberry sorbet.” Not your typical version, but really good. Bright bright flavors and some pate de fruits thrown in there too.


“Hazelnut pear clafoutis. Coffee ice cream.” Like a bread pudding. The ice cream was really good too.

And this crazy zesty lemonade, which served nicely as an aperitif.

Overall, this was a very tasty lunch. It was a little expensive — as you’d expect from a hotel restaurant – but it was very good, which I’ve come to expect from the SLS offerings.

A review of Trés for brunch can be found here.

Click here to see more LA dining, or reviews of The Bazaar and Saam (also at the SLS).

Saam – José Andrés Squared

Restaurant: Saam [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: October 1, 2011

Cuisine: Spanish influenced Molecular Gastronomy

Rating: Awesome, even better than The Bazaar.

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I’m a bit of a Jose Andres groupie as not only have I been many times to the The Bazaar (REVIEW HERE), but also to brunch at Trés, and just last week to é by José Andrés and Jaleo in Vegas.

For those who don’t know, José Andrés is perhaps America’s leading practitioner of  my favorite culinary style: Spanish Molecular Gastronomy. This school of cooking, a radical interpretation of the preparation of food, was begun at El Bulli outside of Barcellona. Andrés cooked and studied there with master chef Ferran Adrià. I first encountered Andrés’s cooking in Washington DC at Cafe Atlantico, and it’s own restaurant within a restaurant, Minibar.

I’ve eaten molecular a number of times in Spain, for example at Calima and La Terraza. The Bazaar and Saam brought molecular style to LA.

Saam is the “secret” prix fixe only room within the Bazaar, open Thurs-Sat.


This is the normal menu for the night. If you let them know they do however adapt very adeptly to dietary restrictions.


Tonight begins with a “Kaviar Kir Royale” which is a deconstructed cocktail consisting of cava.


And miniature “kaviar” (spheres of kir).


You can see them more clearly here, looking every bit like fish eggs. Basically it’s mostly cava, but at your whim you can bit into the little balls of flavor for bits of kir flavor blast.


Then “Lotus Root Chips” with anise powder, making them taste like licorice Pringles.


Then “Tuna Handroll 2009″ which are crispy cones stuffed with very fresh tuna, a bit of wasabi, and a caviar ring in the middle. Nice mix of textures and flavors.


It came time to decide on the beverages. Above is the pairing menu ($100 a person). We didn’t opt for this but I’m sure it’s good. Being as we are talking beverages I’ll mention briefly the water trap. We were five people, and this is a long meal. We ordered bottled water. As usual with nice restaurants they just served it. And served it. Fine, but it added up to $180 of water! This was the only thing on the bill that offended me — but it was mighty offensive. $30-40 would have been sufficient tariff, but $36 a person for water?


We did order cocktails individually, which were both yummy and reasonable enough for such things. “Passion Fruit Up! Orange rum, passion fruit and ginger-laurel syrup, topped with passion fruit foam.” Yum!


“Oyster and Jamon.” A little spoonful of oyster with some ham powder and a crispy crouton. It tasted exactly like it sounds. Like intense oyster and a good dollop of HAM!


“Black Olives Ferran Adria.” Instructions on how to make these can be found here. The pureed juice of the olives is coated in a thin gel. They are colored black with squid ink. There is one green olive that is vegetarian. In general, the olives bursts easily in the mouth, exploding intense oliveness.


A signature “Nitro Caprina” which is the classic brazilian drink, frozen with liquid nitrogen. It tastes like a sherbet, with a highly unusual smooth texture, but it’s intensely potent (in terms of proof). Goes down all too easy.


“Jicama wrapped Guacamole.” Micro cilantro, corn chips. The vegetarian substitution for the ham.


Watermelon and tomato with a bit of a kick (some chili or another).


A traditional mojito. Even way back in the Cafe Atlantico days Andrés always served a great mojito.


“Jose’s Combination.” Jamón Ibérico de Bellota with a blob of real caviar. This ham is regarded as the best in Spain, and among the best in the world. They are fed on acorns. Salt on salt here. A very savory combination.


Deconstructed “patatas bravas.” In spain this is a common dish basically being roasted chopped potatoes with a cayenne mayo. This preserves the flavor, but changes up the texture into a little fried cigar. The inside was fluffy and soft. Quite tasty.


“Ottoman Carrot fritter.” Apricots, pistachio sauce. Vegetarian substitute for the chicken below. A deep fried ball of flavor, with a very exotic taste.


“Buffalo Wing.” Looks like fried chicken (and it is), but Wow. Boneless, with a dab of spicy sauce and a blue cheese aioli. An explosion of flavor.


“Not Your Everyday Caprese.” The mozzarella has been through the same sphere process as the olives above, then we have a peeled cherry tomato, tomato seeds, a bit of basil, sea salt, little crackers, and a very fine house made pesto genovese (with extra virgin olive oil). I’m not even a raw tomato fan and this is delectable. The pesto cheese combo really makes it. This pesto is as good as mine (recipe here).


I’m a big fan of priorat and so we chose this wine off the list. Besides the great food and crazy water prices Saam has an annoying high corkage ($50 and one bottle more or less!).


“White truffle risotto.” Instead of the normal Italian risotto rice it used a premium Spanish one, calasparra bomba, and extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Very tasty.


A fantastic special risotto also using bomba rice, with a chunk of fresh santa barbara uni, some black garlic paste, and a bit of bbq eel. It was tremendously good.


“Crispy Nigiri.” A bit of red snapper on a blob of crispy Spanish rice.


“Chipirones en su Tinta.” More or less a classic Spanish dish, octopus in it’s own ink. Plus some squid ink chips. Very soft and tender meat, complemented by the sweetness of the ink.


A non-shellfish variant containing a bit of bbq fish.


“Banh Mi.” A brioche bun with wagyu beef, tofu, cilantro, pickles, pickled carrots, and a kind of mayo. Tasty tasty sandwich. A mix of soft and crunchy too, but the pickles give it a very distinct tang.


“Banh Mi, vegetarian.”


“Carrot gnocchi.” The broth had a vaguely thai curry flavor. The gnocchi are actually cylinders of sphereized carrots, so they burst in the mouth.


“Brussel sprouts, lemon puree, apricots, grapes, lemon air.” This was a big hit, the sprouts aren’t bitter at all, and have a light cabbage-like texture. The lemon air is the best part, adding a nice zing.


“Mirugai.” A bit of geoduck giant clam, radish, and a watercress puree. This wasn’t my favorite dish, being a bit “clammy.”


“Kurobuta Pork Belly.” Massively flavorful bacon chunk, with a spanish cheese infused turnip mouse and little carrots. Yum yum, heart stop heart stop.


Replacing the pork for the vegetarian was a pomegranate cous cous.


With a poured in broth.


“Philly Cheese Steak.” Air bread, cheddar, Wagyu beef. This is on the Bazaar menu, but it’s so damn good. The crispy bread is filled with liquid cheddar goodness.


“Hilly Cheese Steak.” Air bread, cheddar, mushrooms. The vegetarian version of above. Monkey man will get you!


For the dessert courses we ordered some classes of this fine cream sherry.


A very nice sherry, not quite as thick and syrupy as the PX by the same maker (which I love), but still very fine.


“Japanese Baby Peaches.” Burrata, hazelnuts, arugula.Really interesting. The peaches were so tart off the trees that they were soaked in simple syrup. Paired with the blobs of burrata (a favorite of mine), the nuts, and arugala it was pretty divine.


“Dragon’s breath popcorn.” The pre dessert. A gimmick, but neat.

Carmel corn “boiled” in liquid nitrogen.


Breath on a spoon.

It tastes like… carmel corn, but you can exhale it through your nose for a dragon-like effect.


Smaug, eat your scaly heart out.


They call this “saam buca.” It was apple balls with a nice soft creamy custard — good stuff.


“Chocolate rock.” A nitro frozen chocolate foam/mousse with some citrus foam. This was very reminiscent of the chocolate/cream pairings at  é by José Andrés and Jaleo.


Chamomile tea.


The usual Bazaar “sexy little sweets,” a number of flavored chocolates (flat and in domes) and very good pate de fruits. One of the great things about the brunch at Trés is that they have an all you can eat tower of containing all of these!


A little chocolate hazelnut cube and the menu as a “parting gift.”

Overall, Saam is a tremendous meal, even if not every dish is successful (geoduck!). Since I was at cousin restaurant é by José Andrés a week before I can do a head to head comparison. Saam was slightly disadvantaged by the fact that perhaps 40-50% of the dishes hadn’t changed from my previous visit (making them less novel). I’d say that the food at é is perhaps 5% better, really quite close. The format in Vegas is, however, more fun and intimate. Getting to witness the plating and creation of each and every dish is really interesting.

And the $180 for water was really offensive. I really should have taken the manager to task on it. The stuff costs less than a dollar a bottle in bulk. Pure profit center. Otherwise the meal is fairly reasonable given the extremely high level of production. And it is very very good.

For a previous Saam meal, click here.

For a meal and The Bazaar proper, click here.

Jaleo by José Andrés

Restaurant: Jaleo

Location: 3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109. 702.698.7000 (Cosmopolitan)

Date: September 24, 2011

Cuisine: Spanish Tapas

Rating: Fun Tapas Bar

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So what does a true Foodie Club member do after eating a 22 course tasting dinner at é by José Andrés? Why have a second dinner of course!

This is the final part of my mini-Vegas series. Be sure to check out the opulent Twist and é reviews.


é is the “secret” 8 seat restaurant located within the more mainstream Jaleo, a small chain venture of José Andrés’ bringing moderately authentic Spanish tapas and paella with a modern bent to America.


Certainly the build out in the swank new Cosmopolitan hotel in Vegas is well… swank.


Tapas bar — literally.

Seems pretty Spanish.


They have an elaborate paella station. Racks are situated here where the traditional big pans can brew up this good stuff over wood fires.


Oooh, and the wine list is an iPad app. Which is a cool idea but at current is slightly slower and more awkward than a traditional paper list.


One of the staff from é (who secured us our no wait table) recommended this excellent and approachable Spanish red. “The 2000 Dehesa la Granja Seleccion received malolactic in French oak barrels followed by an additional 2 years in the oak. It offers more complex aromatics (mineral, cedar, spice box, smoke, leather, and black fruits) but is compact, a bit too structured in the mouth, and the finish is somewhat abrupt. If time pulls this wine together, my score will look conservative.”

The menu. Many of the dishes are variants of Spanish classics.


“Endives, goat cheese, oranges, and almond.” Bear in mind that we did JUST EAT a huge four hour tasting menu — and there are only two of us eating this “post dinner snack.” So we started light. These were very tasty, with bright bright flavors.


Gambas al ajillo.” In Spain usually called Gambas pilpil. Basically shrimp boiled (fried?) in olive oil and garlic. These were very typical of what I must have had 30 times in southern Spain. The quality of the shrimp here was higher than is often the case at cheap places in Spain.


Here is photo of a typical example of this I got one afternoon in Cordoba. At Jaleo, they plated them out of the crock, but in spain it’s always served sizzling right off the stove.


Now on to the paella. Which, like rissoto, is all about the rice. In this case Bomba. This rice absorbs a lot more liquid than lamer rices.

The only problem with the Jaleo implementation is that in the interest of expediency they don’t cook the paella as long as they should (at least 45 minutes). Instead they force it at a little higher temperature. This doesn’t allow for the maximum paella effect.


“Arroz a banda con bogavante.” Rice apart from the lobster. The lobster was excellent. The paella itself a tiny bit bitter from the saffron. Still, a very enjoyable dish.


“Arroz con cosillas de cerdo iberico de bollota.” Made with the famous black-footed iberico de bellota pig. Ribs in particular. This was an amazing paella, and the sweetness of the pork leant the rice a sweet meaty goodness. Yum!


The dessert menu. Even “after dinner snacks” need three courses.


“Helado de aceite de oliva con cítricos texturados. Olive oil ice cream with grapefruit.” Two flavors of ice cream, a bit of grapefruit.


And a drizzle of olive oil.


Interesting contrast again of the sweet and slightly oily salty. A satisfying conclusion.

Overall, Jaleo seemed good. I can’t quite judge it fully as we didn’t have a real meal, just a “snack,” but I enjoyed what we had and having spent a month recently in Spain I have a pretty good palette for the stuff. It tasted pretty Spanish — filtered through a bit of internationalization.

Click here for the 22 course meal that proceeded this — the same night!

For more Food Club extravaganzas.

For more Vegas dining reviews click here.

é by José Andrés

Restaurant: é by José Andrés

Location: 3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109. 702.698.7000 (Cosmopolitan)

Date: September 24, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Spanish

Rating: Mind blowing dinner theatre

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Our continuing epic Foodie Club Vegas venture brings us to é, José Andrés’ latest restaurant within a restaurant in Vegas. Earlier in the year we hit up Saam, a similar concept in LA. For those of you who don’t know, José Andrés is one of America’s leading chefs, a disciple of the world shatteringly original Ferran Adria. He apprenticed at elBuli in Spain before moving to Washington DC. My parents found him there at Cafe Atlantico fifteen or so years ago and we’ve been fans ever since. He is certainly America’s leading practitioner of modern Spanish cooking. But you can find some other examples here and in Spain. Calima, La Terraza, his own The BazaarTrés, and Saam.

é is a secret 8 person (2 seating) restaurant located in the back of Jaleo, also by José Andrés, which is a more conventional tapas and paella restaurant.

Half of the tiny room.

Behind the counter. One of the cool things about é is that the food is plated and prepped right in front of you.

One of the young chefs at work stirring a witches brew of nitrogen and alcohol.

Then finishing off the starter cocktails.

A kind of deconstructed nitro gin and tonic. We have nitro frozen gin, lime, and “tonic foam.”

This is a version before the foam was added so you can see the gin itself. Nitrogen is cold enough that alcohol can be frozen without ice (water). This leads to an ultra-smooth texture and a much higher alcohol concentration.

At work on the next course.

Presented in a cast of José Andrés’ hand is “Spanish Clavel” (some dehydrated fruit thing shaped like a flower) and to the left, caramelized pork rinds. The rinds were sweet and crunchy, very light and airy (for lard). The “clavel” was more about a bit of flavor burst and texture than any massive substance.

Our vegetarian was treated to a pringles-style version of potatoes-bravos (potatoes in spicy mayo) instead of the rinds.

Next course. Is that food?

Due to the difficulty in matching this cuisine with wine, we ordered the beverage pairings. These mix all sorts of cocktails, beers, wines, and who knows what with additional fun theatrics. There was even a non-alcoholic variant available.

This particular “flight” was Spanish cava in a machismo decanter where you are supposed to raise it as high as you can and pour it into your mouth. Due to my full-on lack of machismo and concern for my shirt, I didn’t lift it very high.

“Apple Brazo de gitano” is like edible styrofoam filled with a white apple filling.

 It melted in the mouth and was actually quite delicious. Pairing nicely with the apple was a stripe of caramel.

A non-alcoholic tomato and watermelon drink.

More action.

“Nitro almond cup.” The black stuff was caviar, the cup itself (but not the rocks) edible and cold. Inside was a kind of almond foam. I’m not sure what the cup was made of. It had about the consistency of nitro-frozen foie gras, which possibly it was.

“Crispy chicken skin in escabeche.” This was a lump of chicken on some chicken skin with a complementary foam. It tasted very chickeny — in a good way.

“Membrillo and la serena cone.” A little edible cone filled La Serena cheese and membrillo (quince) paste. So it’s like slathering this paste on cheese and toast, which is amazing by itself. This is typical of this cuisine, taking these traditional combinations and blending them in new shapes and textures.

“Black Olives Ferran Adria.” Instructions on how to make these can be found here. The pureed juice of the olives is coated in a thin gel. The olive bursts easily in the mouth, exploding intense oliveness into the mouth.

“Bocata de calamares.” This is a mini brioche sandwich containing Uni, mayo, cucumber, and scallion. It’s a riff on a traditional beach food. It was certainly delicious, as almost any hot seafood in such a roll would be.

An inside peek.

A really whacky tasting blend of sherry and beer!

“José Taco.” Jamón Ibérico de Bellota with a blob of real caviar. This ham is regarded as the best in Spain, and among the best in the world. They are fed on acorns. Salt on salt here. A very savory combination.

Sphere making at work.

“Cava sangria.” This is a sphererized white sangria (made with cava). Inside is a bit of watermelon and mint. Basically like a burst of the drink in your mouth.

A ginger beer.

“Artichoke puree with vanilla.” These are little hearts of artichoke with vanilla foam.

“Lobster with citrus & jasmine.” Delectable. I can’t remember if the foam was the citrus or the jasmine. The mousse was the other. The lobster itself was tender and succulent.

The vegetarian version, eggplant instead of lobster.

A surprise visit from the executive chef, José Andrés himself!

“Cel phones and cameras are the bane of the modern chef,” he commented. :-) But he was game to pose with everybody in series.

A non-alcoholic carbonated sangria.

Plating.

“Chickpea stew with iberico ham.” The garbonzo beans were sphereized which makes them pop in your mouth. A sort of ham and bean soup — and a very good one.

The vegetarian received José’s amazing gazpacho.

This stuff is so good I’ve taken to making it at home.

Cucumber, sugar, and fruit “margarita.”

The show goes on.

There is an egg under that crispy thing.

Then a kind of bouillabaisse broth is added.

“Catch of the day.” A turbot steamed, with black garlic and little citrus spheres. Very nice and light.

One of several nice Spanish wines.

Pouches at the ready.

“Rosemary wild mushrooms in papillote.” Sautéed, then heated with a rich cream and mushroom sauce in the bag.

Pop. These are “lobster mushrooms” with a really thick meaty texture and almost lobster/abalone like flavor.

The rosemary foam complemented perfectly.

Finally a red!

To go with the “secreto of iberico pork.” This is Spain’s most famous pig, here roasted with rosemary and garlic. The cut is fatty, from behind the shoulder.

And served with chanterelle mushroom, black truffle, and balsamic.

The vegetarian got Vegetarian Paella.

And close up.

A medium sweet sherry.

“Orange pith puree with la serena cheese and crisp.” The cheese (which you can’t see) is like a Spanish goat Vacheron (one of my favorite cheeses). So this stood in as the “cheese course.”

Pineapple juice!

More nitro.

And tweezer work.

“Flan.” Flan with a granite of fruit. In any case it tasted like amazing Hawaiian shave ice (the kind with the ice cream).

A kind of chocolate coffee.

Back to work.

“Pan con chocolate aceite y sal.” Basically a big blob of whipped cream, crispy nitro frozen chocolate and high quality Spanish olive oil and salt. You’d think this wouldn’t work, but boy does it.

The sweet and salty and olive oily combo is very interesting and very Spanish.

“Arroz con leche.” A little cone of creme and fruit (lime?) fillings. Yum.

“25 second bizcocho.” This is a 25 second microwave version of some kind of traditional pastry. It was light, fluffy, with a soft citrus cream (the yellow blobs).

“Gin and Tonic.” This is a lovely and more traditional variant on the drink. The bitter tone of the tonic was actually kind of settling.

“Air chocolates.” Puffed white and milk chocolate rice crispy treats (without the rice crispies). Somehow the texture is manipulated into this form.

“Fizzy paper.” This is a crispy sugar confection that tastes like citrus pop-rocks. Very pleasant actually.

Overall this was a staggeringly fun meal. The combination of the playful yet delicious food, the theatrics, and the intimate little cluster of eight people (all of whom were diehard foodies — this being a very hard reservation to get) made for a really fun evening. I’m heading back to Saam in a few days so I can get a head to head comparison, but as it stands é seems to have a leg up on it, particularly in such as the smaller format with the plating in front of you is more intimate and fun.

Another amazing fact about this seemingly immense meal is that it was not in the least overwhelming. In fact, afterward us hardcore foodies went and had an entire second (albeit smallish)  three-course meal outside at Jaleo. Those less dedicated to gluttony went to gamble. It’s also worth noting that the service was fantastic and very attentive in é, they may have had four or five staff members to our eight guests!

It’s also worth noting that é only allows non-flash photography. And it’s fairly dark. For me, with my 5D mark II, a fast 2.5 F-stop macro, and 6400 ISO this was no problem. But if you’re trying on a snapshot or with a cellphone, forget it.

Overall an 11/10. Different, but a little more playful and approachable than the previous night’s Twist.

For more Food Club extravaganzas.

For more Vegas dining reviews click here.

Weekend Draft

I just finished the rough cut of the third major draft of my new novel, Untimed. Just in time too to get out of town.

This weekend will be quiet and post free. I’m off to Vegas with the Foodie Club for some more high end gluttony. Namely Twist by Pierre Gagnaire and  É by José Andrés (my review of the comparable Saam here).  You can expect detailed coverage when I get back.

For more on the revision process, see this recent post.

Or for more posts on writing, click here.

Quick Eats – Bar Pinxto

Restaurant: Bar Pinxto

Location: 109 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA. (310) 458-2012

Date: August 19, 2011

Cuisine: Spanish Tapas

Rating: Quick little lunch bargain

ANY CHARACTER HERE

After seeing Fright Night we shopped around Santa Monica for a lunch place and decided to revisit Bar Pinxto. This is a genuine Spanish Tapas Bar, in that it’s a bar first, restaurant second. Still they have a wide variety of traditional Spanish Tapas (as they would in Spain).


There is a small amount of outside seating.


And the cute little interior space.


Being Spanish, olives grace the table. Bar Pinxto has a $15 3 course lunch menu which is an excellent deal and a lot of food.


First course was Gazpacho. This was certainly a good implementation of the classic form of the soup. Not quite as good as the Jose Andres variety at The Bazaar/Saam/Tres, but good. I like the fine pureed texture.


Classic Paella, one of the second courses. This was pretty traditional, with muscles and chorizo. It could have benefited from a few more ingredients, but was respectable.


Squid with squid ink over Spanish rice (basically paella). The squid was soft and tasty, although the portion was smaller than the paella.


Pot du creme, chocolate. This was a damn good chocolate cream/mousse thingy. Damn good. Sort of a chocolate version of Gjelina’s butterscotch one.

Overall, the quick Pinxto $15 lunch is an excellent deal. The food was good and pretty authentically Spanish, and you certainly get a lot for your money.

Click here to see more LA restaurants.

Trés – Brunché Fantastique

Restaurant: Trés [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: July 31, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Brunch

Rating: Fantastique

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I follow José Andrés on twitter, and I was reading (and crying) about the final meal at elBulli, so when the restaurant selection for brunch with friends came up, the SLS came to mind.


Enter the whacky world of Trés at the SLS.


Inside is the same kind of bizarre Philippe Starck space as at Bazaar. High tables on one side.


Comfortable lounging on the other.

The brunch menu is here. There are buffet, ala carte, and “experience” options. We went for the experience which is the buffet + an entree + a mimosa for only $10 more (the mimosa alone is $16).


The buffet is endless, but i’ll begin with breads and pastries.


And more.


And condiments for such.


And the table des fruits.


Melons.


Various fruit juice “waters.” These are lighter than regular juice. There were about six exotic types.


If you are so inclined, you can add them to these glasses of fruit for a blend of fruit and juice.


And these spectacular yogurts with fruit.


Cereal if you are boring.


The the vege station. Prep glasses for gazpacho.


A zoom of one. You add the gazpacho yourself, and there are other condiments.


The gazpacho.


Salad plates and condiments.


Pull back for the big picture.


Then the meat and cheese station.


Pig, pig, and more pig. Hams and salamis.


Jamon del Iberico!


Some more fruits.


Spanish cheeses.


And more.


And rolls and condiments. To the rights are jams and butters.


Inside are mini steam buns (more on that later).


Amazing smoked salmon and caviars and accompaniments.


Creme fraiche, chives, onions, quail eggs, two types of caviar (including the real stuff).


The salmon was amazing.


And roast beef.


Then some desserts.


And more.

And an extensive assortment of petite fours from the pasticerie. Passion fruit pate des fruits on top, bon bons, cookies.


Our meals came with mimosas. This is the classic. The alcohol is cava (Spanish champagne).


Or the even yummier grapefruit mimosa.


A close up of a bit of caesar salad. Very tasty.


The gazpacho was amazing. Just totally amazing. I had three helpings as did several others.


A plate of goodies. You can see the caviars (and meats).


I made a couple of these custom steam buns. Wow!


Fried potatoes.


An omelet with mushrooms and zucchini blossoms.


360 degree eggs, toasted brioche, hollandaise air, and Jamon Serrano. This was one of the better eggs benedict I’ve had — and I’ve had a lot.


The salmon version.


Grilled cheese.


Fries — always yummy.


This Greek yogurt with fruit (this one had apricots) were so incredibly delicious! Sweet though.


Then some desserts, which are more or less highlights of the Bazaar’s desserts. These are mango and cream.


“Hot chocolate mouse, three layers,” mini version.


Classic Spanish flan.


Some of the whacky decorations.


more

and more.


Even the bar nuts are cool.


And this crazy zesty lemonade, which served nicely as an aperitif.

Overall this was a fantastic brunch. Different than your typical one, but fantastique for sure. It holds up in every way to the quality level of the various José Andrés offerings at the SLS!

Click here to see more LA dining, or reviews of The Bazaar and Saam (also at the SLS).


The entrance again, behind us is the parking zoo. And it’s a serious zoo.

Also check out a lunch meal here.

Son of Saam – Actually more Bazaar

Restaurant: Saam [1, 2]

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: February 10, 2011

Cuisine: Spanish influenced Molecular Gastronomy

Rating: Awesome, even better than The Bazaar.

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I’ve been to The Bazaar (REVIEW HERE) about 8-10 times. For the last four or so of these I’ve been trying to get into Saam, which is their “secret” prix fixe only room. Mostly because it’s only open Thurs-Sat it took me a while to manage it. So made it the destination of our fifth official Foodie Club outing.

For those who don’t know, Saam and the Bazaar are the children of Jose Andres, perhaps America’s leading practitioner of  my favorite culinary style: Spanish Molecular Gastronomy. This school of cooking, a radical interpretation of the preparation of food, was begun at El Bulli outside of Barcellona. Jose Andres cooked and studied there with master chef Ferran Adrià. I first encountered Jose’s cooking in Washington DC at Cafe Atlantico, and it’s own restaurant within a restaurant, Minibar.

I’ve eaten molecular a number of times in Spain, for example at Calima and La Terraza. The Bazaar and Saam brought molecular style to LA, and now Jose also has a new and very tempting pair of restaurants in Vegas. My colleague at Kevin Eats was lucky enough to make that pilgrimage.

Saam is a separate room, offering only a single continuously evolving prix fixe. They do however adapt very adeptly to dietary restrictions, as we shall see in a moment. But like most molecular prix fixes it begins with a specialty cocktail. In this case a champagne sherry concoction.

The sherry.

Some of our fellows kicking off the evening.

“The Golden Boy.” If you zoom in you can see the little golden speckles. It tasted like sherry and champagne.

Tonight’s menu. Click to embiggen.

“Lotus Root Chip.” Star Anise dusting. Like a very salty potato chip with a slight licorice flavor.


The first of my wines. The only beef I had with this otherwise perfect restaurant is extremely steep $50 corkage! Very displeasing. And they have a 3-4 bottle max, plus the Bazaar recently raised it’s corkage from $20 to $35. Contrast that with the Bistro LQ FREE corkage where we opened 8 bottles! I really despise these steep corkages.

Parker 97, “The 2004 Reserva, according to Remirez is “a great vintage, a lot of nerve, like 1994, that needed a long aging period”. Opaque purple in color, it offers up a splendid bouquet of sandalwood, incense, Asian spices, balsamic, and black cherry. Layered, opulent, and impeccably balanced, it is a monumental effort.”

“Tuna Handroll 2009.” Like the typical tuna tartar on a potato crisp — but a cooler shape.

“Bagel & Lox Steam Bun.” The dim sum style steam bun topped with salmon roe. Inside must have been some cream cheese or similar. Very interesting interplays of texture and taste.

“Olive Oil Bonbon.” Spanish extra virgin olive oil, coated in sugar and dusted with sumac and Maldon sea salt. Pretty amazing, a bit of candied crunch and pure olive oil is released. Very candy like.

“Black Olives Ferran Adria.” Instructions on how to make these can be found here. The pureed juice of the olives is coated in a thin gel. They are colored black with squid ink.

The olive bursts easily in the mouth, exploding intense oliveness into the mouth.

Spherified green olives. The “olives” are after spherizing marinated with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and orange. This is the first of many Vegetarian Substitutions (VS), as the squid ink in the black olives isn’t exactly veggie.

“Jose’s Combination.” Jamón Ibérico de Bellota with a blob of real caviar. This ham is regarded as the best in Spain, and among the best in the world. They are fed on acorns. Salt on salt here. A very savory combination.


“Jicama wrapped Guacamole.” Micro cilantro, corn chips. The VS for above.

“Pastrami Saul.” Crunchy potato taquito filled with veal “pastrami.” Crunchy, salty, meaty.


“Tortilla de Patatas ‘New Way’.” Potato foam, egg 63, caramelized onions. The VS for above. This is a fairly radical reinterpretation of the classic Spanish Torilla de Patatas (what we might think of as a potato omelet). Egg is mixed with a potato foam and micro chives and caramelized onions.

“Buffalo Wing.” Looks like fried chicken (and it is), but Wow. Boneless, with a dab of spicy sauce and a blue cheese aioli. An explosion of flavor.

Just like it’s more plebeian cousin, it leaves a good grease stain.

“Ottoman Carrot fritter.” Apricots, pistachio sauce. VS for the chicken. A deep fried ball of flavor, with a very exotic taste.

“Not Your Everyday Caprese.” The mozzarella has been through the same sphere process as the olives above, then we have a peeled cherry tomato, tomato seeds, a bit of basil, sea salt, little crackers, and a very fine house made pesto genovese (with extra virgin olive oil). I’m not even a raw tomato fan and this is delectable. The pesto cheese combo really makes it. This pesto is as good as mine (recipe here).

“Crispy Nigiri.” A bit of red snapper on a blob of crispy Spanish rice.

“Chipirones en su Tinta.” More or less a classic Spanish dish, octopus in it’s own ink. Plus some squid ink chips. Very soft and tender meat, complemented by the sweetness of the ink.

Ink art. A tradition with me.

“Zucchini with Zucchini air.” VS for the octopus.


Parker 94. “The 2007 Laurel, a blend of 65% Garnacha and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, is deep purple-colored with a bouquet of wet stone, Asian spices, black cherry compote, and incense. Dense and sweet on the palate with tons of spice, it is super-concentrated, rich, and smooth-textured. Give this lengthy effort 2-3 years of additional cellaring and drink it from 2013 to 2027.”

This is an amazing wine, deep grape.

“Hot and Cold Foie Soup with Corn.” The top is a delicious foam that tastes like sweet corn soup, underneath is the salty rich foie soup. I first had a variant of this dish at Cafe Atlantico. I’m very fond of these rich little soups.

“Traditional Gazpacho.” Not only is it pretty, but it’s a nice example of the classic.

“Banh Mi.” A brioche bun with wagyu beef, tofu, cilantro, pickles, pickled carrots, and a kind of mayo. Tasty tasty sandwich. A mix of soft and crunchy too, but the pickles give it a very distinct tang.

“Banh Mi, vegetarian.” VS, same as above, no meat.

“Linguini and Clams.” Another reinterpreted dish. A very sweet and sour, dishy and salty thing going on. Soft textures.

“Cauliflower ‘cous cous’.” VS for clams.

“Kurobuta Pork Belly.” Massively flavorful bacon chunk, with a spanish cheese infused turnip mouse and little carrots. Yum yum, heart stop heart stop.

“Brussel Sprout Leaves.” Lemon purée, apricots, grapes, lemon air. No hint of bitterness, and the fruit tangs nicely zest up the sprouts.

“Black truffle risotto.” This was an optional supplemental dish. Instead of the normal Italian risotto rice it used a premium Spanish one, calasparra bomba, and extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Very tasty, but as the first truffle dish I’d had since our crazy 27 course Truffle Night, it gave me funny flashbacks.

“Philly Cheese Steak.” Air bread, cheddar, Wagyu beef. This is on the Bazaar menu, but it’s so damn good. The crispy bread is filled with liquid cheddar goodness.

“Hilly Cheese Steak.” Air bread, cheddar, mushrooms. The VS version of above. Monkey man will get you!


We move on to a sweet wine as we approach the end of the savory courses.

Parker 94. “The auction lot of Prum 2009 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese A.P. #22 differs from the “regular” Auslese in a manner analogous to the relationship between the two corresponding Spatlesen, the most striking aspect of the present cuvee being its uncanny sense of near-weightless delicacy. “This came from a good but not absolutely top-class parcel,” notes Manfred Prum, “but one that got quite a bit of botrytis which we permitted to develop and then selected-out very late.” Given that description, one has to say this was the noblest of rot, so subtle and positive was the flavor concentration and creamy textural allure it engendered, while in no way freighting the wine or lending a taste of botrytis per se. Indeed, this strikes me as the finer of the two non-gold capsule Sonnenuhr Auslesen I tasted, incorporating underlying nut paste richness and a cloud-like sense of wafting sweet floral perfume. Furthermore, this introduces a salinity that renders the finish saliva-inducing and compulsively swallow-able. It should dazzle for 30-40 years.”

“Japanese Baby Peaches.” Burrata, hazelnuts, arugula.Really interesting. The peaches were so tart off the trees that they were soaked in simple syrup. Paired with the blobs of burrata (a favorite of mine), the nuts, and arugala it was pretty divine.

“Dragon’s breath popcorn.” The pre dessert. A gimmick, but neat.

Carmel corn “boiled” in liquid nitrogen.

It tastes like… carmel corn, but you can exhale it through your nose for a dragon-like effect.

Mutant lamp in the room.

“Rose Clementine.” Clementine ice cream, shards of extruded sugar, and rose water ice cream and foam. I really like the exotic taste of rosewater, reminding me as it does of Istanbul and Persian weddings.

“Chocolate Eucalyptus.” Extruded chocolate ganache with a peppermint meringue and eucalyptus ice cream. Very nice and creamy chocolate band, with a soft mouse-like texture. The ice cream is the eucalyptus, which went well but makes me think of spa steam rooms.

Video of one of us breathing the dragon.

“Birthday spun sugar.” Tastes… sweet.

“Sexy Little Sweets.” Passion fruit and raspberry pate-fruits. Mint white chocolate, regular chocolate, and various bonbons. The passion fruit pate was my favorite.

“Crown of Sugar.”

The room itself.
The Bazaar is great, and Saam is even greater. The presentation is nicer, and it has more experimental dishes. I’d wish they’d go even wilder. This is exciting food with strong combinations of flavors and unexpected textures.
As I said earlier my only beef is with their agressive corkage policy. I know restaurants make a good share of profit on their wines, but I like to pick my own.

Food as Art: The Bazaar

Restaurant: The Bazaar

Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555

Date: Oct 30, 2010

Cuisine: Spanish influenced Molecular Gastronomy

Rating: Awesome, one of LA’s best places.

My first exposure to the genius of José Andrés was at Cafe Atlantico in Washington D.C. On an occasional Sunday I’d go with my parents for their Nuevo Latino Dim Sum, which was a ludicrously large prix fix brunch (30 some courses and several hours). I was thrilled when he opened a restaurant in LA. The spectacular result is The Bazaar in the SLS hotel. I’ve been five or six times and the scene alone is great. They  have a number of different rooms and restaurants  grouped together. There is the bar, with cool snacks and molecular cocktails, the scrumptious pataserie, two rooms of the main restaurant, and the secret prix fix only Saam. This meal  was in the main Bazaar. Everything is tapas style, small dishes (about 4 per person) shared by all.

They have all sorts of interesting cocktails, but the signature one is the nitro caprina. Dry ice is used to freeze the rum and lime concoction down without added ice or water.

The result is above. It tastes like a sherbet, with a highly unusual smooth texture, but it’s intensely potent (in terms of proof). Goes down all too easy.

Then I pulled out the first of my wines. The 2007 Laurel. Yum. As I mentioned in my review of Calima this is a fantastic Spanish wine buy. Parker gives it 94 and says, “The 2007 Laurel, a blend of 65% Garnacha and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, is deep purple-colored with a bouquet of wet stone, Asian spices, black cherry compote, and incense. Dense and sweet on the palate with tons of spice, it is super-concentrated, rich, and smooth-textured. Give this lengthy effort 2-3 years of additional cellaring and drink it from 2013 to 2027. Laurel is produced from the young vines of Clos Erasmus as well as from the results of a triage in the vineyard and cellar of the flagship wine.”

Ordering here can involve a bit of planning — not to mention paper and pen.

This first dish is “Sweet potato chips, yogurt, tamarind, star anise.” The crisp chips are used to scoop up the fluffy cool yogurt, which has a pleasing fruit tang.

Then we have “Spanish olives, traditional.” Classic olives with pimentos and anchovy.

This is followed by “Spanish olives, modern.” Pureed olive has been “sphereized.” The flavor is basically the same, but these pop in your mouth to deliver a concentrated burst of olive.

“Embutidos platter, chorizo, lomo, salchichos.” A selection of pig, pig, and pig. The chorizo in particular is intense, although not nearly as much as some of the examples I had in Spain where each bite transported you magically to the barnyard sty.

Served with some grilled “tomato bread.”

“Bagel and lox cone,” is deconstructed and re-interpreted. Cream cheese is paired with Ikura (salmon eggs). Tasty.

Bunuelos, codfish fritters, honey aioli,” these are specular (but hot, right out of the fryer). The sauce gives them an almost Chinese flavor. Fried fish always works.

“Baby beets, citrus, pistachio, goat cheese.” A nice variant on what has become an LA classic.

“Sea scallops, romesco sauce.”

“Brussel sprouts, lemon puree, apricots, grapes, lemon air.” This was a big hit, the sprouts aren’t bitter at all, and have a light cabbage-like texture. The lemon air is the best part, adding a nice zing.

“Jicama wrapped guacamole, micro cilantro, corn chips.” This was really good, vaguely like a caterpillar roll.

“Barramundi, black beans, garlic,” was an incredibly tasty fish. The skin was perfectly crisped, the meat moist.

“Not your everyday caprese, cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella.” This is a near perfect deconstruction of the caprese. The mozzarella balls explode in your mouth, and pair great with the pesto and the little crunchy crackers.

“Seared artichokes with pastrami Saul, La serena cheese with PX reduction.” This wasn’t my favorite. The artichokes seemed a little dry.

The deconstructed “Philly cheese steak” is one of my favorites. The bread is super crispy with liquid parmigiana. the beef is wagyu.

You can see the cheese oozing out.

The vegetarians got this “Hilly cheese steak” with mushroom instead of beef. Same cheese.

“Braised Waygu beef cheeks, California citrus.” This tastes like the best pastrami you’ve ever had, melts in your mouth.

“Catalan spinach, apple, pine-nuts, raisins.”

“Butifarra senator moynihan, Catalan pork sausage, white beans, mushrooms.” The beans were a little dry, but the sausage rocked. This dish reminded me of the equivalent Tuscan sausage and fava beans. I suspect in both cases it hearkens back to the traditional Roman combination of pork sausage served with lentils (over at new years, the lentils symbolizing coins and the wish for wealth in the new year).

At some point we switched up to the 2008 Flor de Pingus, which is even better than the Laurel, deep inky, but silky smooth. Parker gives it 96 saying, “The 2008 Flor de Pingus had been in bottle for 2 weeks when I tasted it. It offers up an enticing nose of smoke, Asian spices, incense, espresso, black cherry, and blackberry. On the palate it displays outstanding volume, intensity, and balance. Rich, dense, and succulent, it has enough structure to evolve for 4-5 years and will offer prime drinking from 2015 to 2028.”

“Lamb loin, Jacques Maximus pistou, trumpet mushrooms.”

My personal favorite along with the cheese steak, “Cotton candy fois lollypop.” The little cube of fois pairs with the sugar like a Sauternes. Oh so yummy.

If that little bit of fois didn’t stop the heart, take a “Fois gras, quince, toasted brioche.” A perfectly put together burger version of the classic pairing.

On Halloween eve, weird costumes abound.

Savory dishes complete, we transferred over to the patisserie for desert. I ordered a glass of this lovely 1927 Pedro Ximenez sherry. I love PX. This one was like sweet motor oil.

“Nitro coconut, floating island, passion-fruit, banana.” I don’t like bananas (had too many with half a bottle of whiskey in ’91), but the nitro island was delicious. Cold, refreshing coconut.

I’m a huge flan fan and this Spanish classic didn’t disappoint.

“Chocolate cupcake.”

“hot chocolate mouse, three layers.” This was good. You gets to inject it with the little syringe of chocolate and the little balls add great texture.

The passion-fruit “Pate des fruits” packed a wonderful wallop of fruit flavor.

Assorted bonbons.

No other restaurant in LA has the combination of ultra modern chic and whimsical playfulness that The Bazaar does — plus everything tastes great and you get to experience an great melange of flavors in one meal. One of these days I need to try Saam and let the chef throw his best at us. I never plan far enough ahead. One note, I ‘ve done The Bazaar’s “set menu” twice, and ordered myself four times. If you know what you are doing doing it yourself is the better way to go, particularly because they don’t mix up their set menu enough. However, if it’s your first visit, letting them handle serves as a fine introduction.