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.
“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.
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.