Pdho and I ended up flying back to LA for the weekend which happened to be my brother’s birthday weekend as well. My brother (aka Smooth Obturator) chose to have dinner at The Bazaar by José Andrés which is located inside the SLS Hotel. The ambiance was so “LA” for lack of a better way of describing it. It was dimly lit, trendy and kind of eclectic in decor, but the diners were hip and completely dressed to the 9’s. I seriously felt under-dressed and given the prices on the menu, it only confirmed how chi chi this restaurant was, but once the food started coming, I didn’t really care too much anymore.
We ended up ordering quite a number of dishes, but considering that The Bazaar specializes in tapas aka small plates, we figured that was the whole point. Unfortunately, it’s been a little time since the dinner and with so many dishes, I can’t remember everything…. so the following represents my best attempt to chronicle this unique dining experience.
We started with some sweet potato chips which were okay, but I really didn’t care for what was supposedly the dipping sauce. Even though it was yogurt-based, I think it was overly whipped so that the consistency was so light that it wasn’t even really a sauce, and I wasn’t a fan of the tamarine and star anise flavors, what little I could taste of them in the sauce.
Fusion tacos are all the craze these days. Unlike the masses of chefs who seem to marinade every imaginable protein in some Asian-influenced seasonings and pile it on to a tortilla, Bazaar takes a very unique approach to their Japanese taco. Instead of a typical corn/flour tortilla, thinly sliced cucumbers stand in as the “shell” upon which grilled eel, wasabi and chicharron are served. They were delicate, delicious and definitely a winner with everyone.
This was another interesting twist on a typically average breakfast item. They filled a mini, crispy cone with whipped cream cheese and salmon roe, essentially replicating the flavors of bagel and lox but presenting them in a different vehicle. Although the cones were a bit small, it was quite the experience tasting all the same flavors without the carbs. I liked it a lot but more for creativity than for taste.
Jamón Ibérico was Fermin dry cured, free-range ibérico ham which I think is basically the Spanish twin of prosciutto. It had some nice flavors, but I doubt I could tell the difference with its Italian brother. What I really liked was the Catalan-style toasted bread that was topped with tomato. The toast add some nice flavors and texture to the entire dish.
With this dish, I really started to appreciate the concept of molecular gastronomy, of which José Andrés has become one of the forefathers. This was truly an innovative execution on a traditional Italian favorite, caprese. The cherry tomatoes were skinned and placed alongside these balls of liquid mozzarella. When you bit into the mozzarella ball, it released a burst of liquid that tasted exactly like mozzarella. It was so very interesting but simultaneously confusing for the taste buds, because you’re expecting the taste to come in a solid form. Again, major props for very creative presentation.
Another different approach to the typical sushi roll comes in the form of the Tuna Ceviche and Avocado Roll where the avocado takes the place of the rice and seaweed rather than joining the tuna in the filling. Jicama and micro cilantro were mixed with the tuna, and the whole roll was drizzled with a coconut dressing. The flavors were somewhat similar with the citrusy tuna and creamy avocado, the presentation was creative, and I appreciated the low carb nature of the roll.
I’ve started to enjoy beets more these days, but I was a little bit disappointed with this dish especially considering how pretty it looked. The mix of square cut red and orange beets offered a pleasant-looking presentation, but unfortunately, that’s about where the interest ended. The dressing was a little bit blah and failed to really highlight the sweetness of the beets.
I had high hopes for this dish, but it turned out to be a little bit different than what I expected. The variety of wild mushrooms provided a nice backdrop for the risotto, but it ended up being pretty salty. The consistency was a little bit different since it didn’t seem as creamy. It wasn’t bad, but it could have been better.
This dish offered a nicely cooked Norwegian lobster tail (sweet and succulent, albeit small in portion) served on a small bed of seaweed salad. The lobster essence served on the side was also quite nice yet complex. The creamy lobster-infused broth offered such a depth of flavor. It had the distinct sweetness from the lobster but a mix of herbs and a slight hint of wine maybe sherry to really highlight this entire dish. It was definitely one of the better tasting ones of the evening.
The Sea Scallops were perfectly cooked resulting in a nice caramelized outer layer with a tender, juicy texture on the inside. However, the seasoning seemed a little too heavy-handed especially on the salt, and I can’t say I found the romesco sauce all that memorable. Not a bad dish (because I still like scallops), but it probably wasn’t a highlight of the meal.
These steamed buns were TINY! Really TINY! Although they looked really cute, they didn’t please my palate as much as I was hoping they would probably because there wasn’t enough of it to really register a blip on my taste buds. I thought there was a little too much bun relative to filling, and that probably ended up absorbing a lot of the flavors. The King Crab Steamed Bun was probably my favorite. The fresh lump crab meat was mixed with some mayo and topped with a slice of a pickle. The Sea Urchin Steamed Bun wasn’t bad either, but I think my taste buds are still acquiring the taste of sea urchin so I don’t think I could full appreciate the freshness or the combination of flavors in this particular version.
The Wagyu Beef Cheeks were braised in a California citrus sauce, and truth be told, I can’t remember too much about it. Generally speaking, the fattiness of Wagyu can sometimes be a little to overwhelming, but I think the citrus sauce helped to cut that richness. I would probably consider giving it another try just because beef cheeks tend to be quite tender and juicy.
I really liked this dish a lot. First off, it’s foie gras, and I have yet to meet a piece of foie gras that I didn’t like, but I think the quince-flavored jam and mini toasted brioche bread which the foie gras was served on perfectly complemented the foie gras. The quince-flavored jam added a nice contrast of sweetness to the little bite. I really wanted to pop more than one, but I decided not to be greedy.
Another creative twist on a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich, but I don’t think this one was as successful. An air-filled pastry filled with liquid cheddar cheese and topped with thin slices of Wagyu beef. It was interesting, as all these creative twists are, but the flavors were really not there for me plus with it tasted like I wasn’t really anything. All the components were so thin and light that even though, it looked like one of the more robustly portioned dishes of the meal, it was probably the absolute least filling.
The Cotton Candy Foie Gras looked really interesting, but it didn’t taste all that interesting. Basically, it was a piece of foie gras on a stick which was then wrapped in cotton candy. I really don’t see the fascination with cotton candy. It’s pure sugar and the moment it hits your tongue, it’s gone. The combination of sweet and savory were not all that complementary in this particular case. I really preferred the Foie Gras Brioche much better.
We finally reached the end of the meal and ordered a number of desserts to share. The first was called Nitro Coconut Floating Island which I can’t really remember too much about…. If I recall, coconut ice cream was frozen solid using liquid nitrogen resulting in a round egg-like looking ball which was placed on top some caramelized bananas and passion fruit puree. It was a very pretty-looking dessert.
The chocolate mousse came with a pear sorbet and salty hazelnut pralines. Not being the biggest fan of chocolate, I don’t really recall too much about this dessert either, but I think my sister seemed to like it.
Although this was the simplest of the three different desserts, it seems to be the only one that I remember liking. The flan was very traditional in its rich, creamy caramel flavor, and I liked the vanilla ice cream a la mode.
Overall, I thought it was a pretty good meal mainly for the unique presentations and variety of immensely innovative preparations of food. As far as taste goes, there were probably as many hits as there were misses, but I think that the real highlight (and probably strength) of The Bazaar is in how the food is delivered and not really on how it tastes. As a result, you can’t really expect to be completely satiated, because the portions are actually very small. It may be hard to believe, but in spite of all the food we ordered, none of us felt really full. You also can’t be completely satisfied, because the price tag is so high for what little food you get that you’re left leaving a little bit wanting and maybe a little cheated. In fact, now that I think about it, it is rather apropos that a restaurant like this is located in Los Angeles (when you think about the stereotype for the City of Angels), because the food, like the residents of its fair city, look really great on the outside but lack true substance on the inside. Haha! I still really enjoyed my experience, but I wouldn’t really recommend unless you are ready to drop a lot of money for very little albeit uniquely prepared food.
The Bazaar by José Andrés
SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills
465 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
PAFO Ratings for The Bazaar by José Andrés:
Price 3½ stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3½ stars