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.
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.
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.