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What I Ate: March 27, 2010 (The Bazaar By Jose Andres at SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills)

Posted 28 March, 2010 at 4:22pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

There is a distinctly young and hip buzz that came at us when we walked into the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills to dine at The Bazaar by José Andrés (465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048‎ - (310) 246-5567‎). The air is filled with chatter and excitement as twenty and thirty somethings mingle with both the trendy and the trendsetters in the lobby which is filled with art for sale - both beautiful and shocking. Seemingly randomly placed leather chairs and lounge sofas and odd shaped tables scatter this open space with LCD displays portraying paintings of centruries old European nobility slowing metamorphosing into macaques help to complete this fantasy that can only be reality in Beverly Hills or Las Vegas - but it's not Las Vegas since it's not overdone and gaudy. To the right of this receiving lobby that serves as a cocktail bar, coffee shop, patisserie, and art gallery, is The Bazaar - a restaurant not afraid to try to push the envelope while staying rooted in the traditional (sometimes technique and sometimes flavors).
The Bazaar by Jose Andres - Patisserie

Simple black wood tables and cushion chairs or wood benches dominate the dining room at The Bazaar, but there are a few glass tables with neon lights that add to the postmodern decor. Artwork ranges from Spanish photography to energetic chalk designs covering chalkboards mounted to all manner of vertical surfaces. There are no linen table clothes here, nor are there candles or full sets of tableware (most of the time you simply have a fork) to distract from the focus - tapas placed on your table and unapologetically illuminated by an overhead spot light clearly showcasing each dish for what it is - art. And, like art, there were courses that resonated with me and ones that I just didn't enjoy, but it was an adventure to try everything placed before us. It's hard for us to recall when the last time we had a dinner that was this - fun.
The Bazaar by Jose Andres - Dining Room

Everyone on the staff was incredible friendly and unpretentious. (There was some concern that dining in Beverly Hills would mean dealing with a lot of people with their noses in the air and acting superior, but thankfully, there was none of that.) One of the wait staff had a tendency to either appear from out of nowhere and shout the description of the small plate they had brought (it's pretty loud in The Bazaar) while another would mumble the description and disappear before any questions could be asked, but everyone else presented dishes, answered questions, and took care of us excellently.

From the beginning of our meal, we entrusted ourselves to Joshua Whigham, the Chef de Cuisine, who, after we discussed our desire to try as much of the Modern Tapas menu as possible, said he's send us dish after dish until we couldn't handle it anymore. We agreed and Chef out did our expectations. Typically, they recommend 3-4 small plates per diner. Three or four diners at a table works very well at the Bazaar because everyone can share and taste up to 12 or more items without being stuffed. Tina and I worked our way through 17 plates (plus a small dessert) before we had to call and end to our meal (we actually cried uncle after the fifteenth, but there were two more dishes we had to try).

I ordered a bottle of sparkling water and was pleased to have them bring me a bottle of Badiot - one of the best tasting natural spring mineral waters for drinking with flavorful / rich foods. The water is very lightly carbonated (and doesn't have the acidity of may sparkling waters) while a little salty (without tasting metallic) and worked wonderfully well between each of our dishes to cleanse our palate and refresh us.

Sweet potato chips Yogurt, tamarind, star anise, $10. The chips were excellent - both earthy and sweet while being perfectly crisped. The yogurt dip was very well prepared and the tart flavor and spices worked well with the chips.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Sweet potato chips

Olives Modern and traditional, $10. This appetizer is representative of The Bazaar - with half it's menu filled with traditional tapas and the other half with modern tapas (the area we focused on). The traditional olives were nicely brined and filled with a sliver of pimento that you can actually taste. The modern olives are balls of olive juice with liquid centers (most likely made by pureeing olives, extracting the liquid and mixing it with a sodium alginate solution, dropping it into a bath of dissolved calcium chloride, and removing them before the entire olive liquid can gel). The flavor of the modern olives were more pronounced (both more fruitiness and brininess) than the "real" olives. This was a very cool presentation, but I couldn't eat too many (I usually can't eat to many olives since they are quite salty and strong flavored) - luckily there were only enough for two of each for me and Tina.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Olives
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Modern Olives

Fermin sample Jamón Serrano Fermin (Dry cured ham), Jamón Ibérico Fermin (Dry cured, free-range Ibérico ham), and Jamón Ibérico de bellota Fermin (Acorn-fed, free range Ibérico ham). We had a very small sample of these cured hams in order to preserve as much stomach space as possible for more tapas to taste. Normally, when you order the jamón, two whole ounces are served. The left hand slices are serrano ham which we felt were salty and had a very peculiar (almost pungent) tone to it. The middle slices are Iberico ham which we described the flavor as being "clean" and pleasant. The right most slices completely blew us away. The flavor was amazing - naturally sweet with a prominent clean pork flavor which was smooth from beginning to end. Tasting the Jamón Ibérico de bellota after the others brought the contrast between them out as stark as the difference between night and day. Although I would love to have had a full order of the Jamón Ibérico de bellota ($38), I highly recommend getting the platter of all three ($34) in order to truly appreciate how outstanding the Jamón Ibérico de bellota is.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Fermin sample (cured ham sampler)

Not your everyday Caprésé Cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella, $12. This is the craziest Caprese salad ever. It's as if someone decided they wanted to duplicate teh flavors of a Caprese salad while at the same time making it as different from Caprese salad as possible. The mozzarella cheese is served in a liquid form inside a small white bubble (about the diameter of a nickel). The cherry tomatoes are cooked with some seasonings and peeled. The basil is found in the pesto that forms the base of this dish. The three elements are placed on a spoon and the whole bite is placed in the mouth. Once the mozzarella bubble bursts, the flavors and textures combine to form the most perfect replica of a Caprese salad. In fact, I believe this is better than the best possible traditional Caprese salad because it has superior texture and portioning. The ratio of cheese to tomato is precisely controlled and there is no bland chewiness from chomping through a slice of chunk of fresh mozzarella. There is also no stringiness from chewing on a basil leaf or tough skin from the tomato to possible contend with. It's the perfect bite of Caprese salad. Simply amazing.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Not your everyday Caprese

Baby beets Citrus, pistachio, Sherry dressing, $9. Neither of us liked this particular beet salad. It was a nice presentation of a few types of beets and you could really taste the difference between the beets (some were sweet, some had an earthy quality, and another was slightly bitter), but we both felt it lacked much complexity. Even with the sauces, it was just beets upon beets and needed something more to help contrast the flavors. Also, served in this quantity, it would have been nice to have had something to break up the monotony - like some spicy mustard or completely different root vegetable.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Baby beets salad

Japanese taco Grilled eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi, chicharron, $10. I felt the presense of the shiso (a Japanese mint) conflicted with the unagi and the whole creation needed some citrus to lighten it up. Tina's first "taco" could have had a bitter slice of cucumber since she tasted quite a bit of bitterness.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Japanese taco

Organized Caesar Quail egg, parmesan, $8. These salad bites are almost as clever as the Caprese salad. Small bundles of lettuce are topped with anchovy with quail egg or shredded parmesan and wrapped in a thin slice of jicama. No need to use a knife and fork! I found that you had to munch on one roll first, then immediately place the second roll in the mouth for the egg, anchovy, and parmesan to combine to taste like Caesar salad dressing while it blended with the lettuce in the mouth. Unfortunately, this only worked for a few seconds before the sensation passed and I was back to eating a small mouthful of individual ingredients. The flavors that popped up in my mouth went like this in time: yolk, anchovy, (second piece added to mouth), parmesan (almost overwhelming), Caesar salad (couple seconds), anchovy with parmesan, parmesan, lettuce. It didn't work at all for Tina - she just tasted lettuce with each individual topping and they never combined into the proper dressing for her.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Organized Caesar
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Organized Caesar

Just shrimp cocktail "Yeah Right", $12. I'm still not sure what is meant by the description "Yeah Right" on this menu item, but this shrimp was the best I've had in capturing the natural flavor and texture of a well prepared shrimp while blending with the traditional flavors of cocktail sauce. The presentation is a bit gimmicky - the shrimp is placed in the mouth and pulled off the pipet as you squeeze and suck to withdraw the liquid sauce. The shrimp is perfectly cooked and topped with edible flowers that give it a wonderful (but subtle) floral scent (leading me to wonder why this isn't done more often) and the sauce captures the essence of a cocktail sauce without overwhelming the shrimp. It has the spiciness and tomato of cocktail sauce without falling into the pitfall of excessive horseradish or overpowering tomato paste. Simply perfect. Still not sure about the presentation since we both struggled with squeezing and sucking while holding a shrimp in the mouth, but the resulting mouthful was pure delight. Highly recommended.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Just shrimp cocktail

Tuna ceviche and avocado roll Jicama, micro cilantro, coconut dressing, $14. We liked this avocado roll just fine, but there weren't any stand out flavors that caused us to become excited by this dish.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Tuna ceviche and avocado roll
The Bazaar by Jose Andres - Tuna ceviche and avocado roll

Sea urchin sandwich Avocado, steamed buns, $12. I liked the flavors (Tina did not) but felt there was too much bun. I would have preferred if these ingredients were prepared together in some other vehicle.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Sea urchin sandwich

King crab steamed buns Pickled cucumbers, $18. This was just okay - Tina felt the inclusion of shiso was a little too strong for her bun. My bite tasted very mild and the flavors seemed to blend together okay - however, there are more enjoyable ways to eat king crab than this bun.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - King crab steamed buns

Foie gras sandwich Quince, toasted brioche sandwiches, $15. Foie gras served with preserved fruit on toasted brioche is one of the best ways to taste and appreciate the complexity and gustatory beauty of foie gras. This sandwich is the best bite I have ever had in incorporating these three elements together. The foie gras is both soft and light in the mouth (which retaining the full and imcomparible flavor of foie gras) and just enough is provided to go with the quince preserve which provides the acidity and sweetness that pairs so wonderfully with the rich and fatty liver. The brioche is lightly toasted but not to the point where all of it is hard - in fact just a tiny bit forms a crispy crust that gives the mouthful that needed textural contrast without making it difficult to manage (a fully toasted piece of bread would make holding that juicy bite in the mouth very difficult). From beginning to end these little sandwiches are perfection. Highly recommended.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Foie gras sandwich

Tortilla de patatas "new way" Potato foam, egg 63, caramelized onions, $5 per person. I love eggs cooked until the yolk just begins to gel, so I couldn't pass up this modern take on the traditional Spanish potato omelet. The potato foam was excellent and worked perfectly well with the soft boiled egg (held in an immersion circulator at 63°C). The only problem was that the tiny spoon made it difficult to scoop out reasonable amounts of the egg and potato at the same time. The opening at the top of the egg could have accommodated a slightly larger spoon without any problems. If you like potatoes, you don't want to pass up this dish.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Tortilla de patatas

Brussels sprouts Lemon purée, apricots, grapes, lemon air, $8. Every part of the lemon was used in this dish - the zest was in the salad, the pith was pureed, and the juice made into a foam. I felt it worked fairly well with the blanched Brussels sprouts, but personally I look to a more nutty (and rich) flavor profile when I eat Brussels sprouts. The use of light acidic fruits is an unique take on this little cabbage, but not for me.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Brussels sprouts

Oven roasted cippolini onions Clementines, passion fruit, pumpkin seed oil, $8. These onions are roasted for nearly an hour at a relatively low temperature to bring out as much caramelized flavor as possible without having them dissolve into French onion soup. As such, they have the strong flavors of grilled/caramelized onions which worked well with the pumpkin seeds and the citrus. I like onions, but to a point - I'm don't think I can eat more than two cippolini onions, so if you're like me, order this if you have people to share with.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Oven roasted cippolini onions

Sautéed cauliflower "couscous" Cauliflower purée, harissa, lemon, fried quinoa, $8. This was the biggest disappointment of the evening because of how good it could have been. The cauliflower was mixed with quinoa in such as way as to truly mimic couscous (in fact, both Tina and I forgot we weren't eating couscous for a few seconds) in texture but with the outstanding flavor of mild cauliflower and Moroccan spices and fruits. Unfortunately, ours was over salted - so salty that neither Tina nor I could take more than a few bites before having to set it aside.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Sauteed cauliflower

"Philly cheesesteak" Air bread, cheddar, Wagyu beef, $8 per person. I still don't know if I liked this dish - but I have to recommend trying it. The thinly sliced Wagyu beef was cool and almost had no flavor when it first hit my tongue. The bread can only be described as the most delicate crust of an artisan French bread but without any inside (as if the crumb of the bread had been teleported away leaving only the crispy crust). Inside this bread (and this came as a surprise to me as it poured all over my hand), is a white liquid that tastes vaguely of cheese. All three components seemed strangely muted in flavor to me, but a couple seconds AFTER I consumed them, I had the strong sensation that I had just eaten a Philly cheesesteak. The flavors of all the components came forward and blended properly on my tongue and (from the back of my mouth up my nasal passage) I could smell it just as if I had a cheesesteak hoagie in front of me and I had just taken a bite. It was one of the more interesting experiences, and it's incredibly cool.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres -

Cotton candy foie gras, $5 per person. This was one of the more clever preparations of foie gras that I've ever seen. A cube of foie gras is dusted with corn nut crumbs and then cotton candy is spun around it. One bite and the cotton candy melts in the mouth into a sugar syrup that envelopes the foie gras cube acting as that sweetness that typically fruit provides instead. The corn nuts mimic the texture of a slice of toasted bread and together the little magic trick is complete. It's fun and inventive and definitely a wonderful departure from the traditional way of serving foie gras. As good as this creation is, the foie gras sandwich is still better in terms of sheer flavor and enjoyment. If you like foie gras and looking for a little whimsical diversion, order both. You'll regret it if you don't.
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Cotton candy foie gras

Bonbons. We ended the meal with some exquisitely crafted bonbons filled with flavored ganaches (from left to right): lemon-ginger, Earl Grey tea, star anise, and saffron. The Earl Grey tea was very mild, but the flavor was still easily detectable. The star anise was too mild (might be better to taste this one first in the future). The saffron was our favorite - what a great spice to use in a ganache!
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Bonbons
The Bazaar By Jose Andres - Bonbons

They're making some amazing food at The Bazaar by Jose Andres and taking some risks presenting food outside of the traditional or "normal" means. Because of this, it's not for everyone - but makes for an incredible dining experience if you're open to thinking about your food and find it exciting and enjoyable to be intellectually stimulated by your dinner. It's hard not to smile when you encounter a dish that is just phenomenal and when you don't like a dish, it's okay - there's only a couple more bite fulls before you move on to the next part of the adventure!
The Bazaar by Jose Andres - Kitchen

3 comments to What I Ate: March 27, 2010 (The Bazaar By Jose Andres at SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills)

Optimista, March 28th, 2010 at 6:07 pm:

  • Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.

    Gorgeous photos. Wonderful write-up. I'm so glad you guys are having such a delicious trip!

Peter, March 29th, 2010 at 2:41 am:

  • Superb write-up. LA, for all of its jaw-exhuasting good food, needed a place like Andres' Bazaar. Thanks for the intro (and the tasty pictures).

abel, October 3rd, 2010 at 12:54 am:

  • I am looking for anyone that worked at the SLS Bazaar that had knowledge of the recipes of everything on the menu. If you do contact me at abeldaryan@gmail.com