A Bazaar Duel


Editor’s Note: When I (this is gansie) was 12 my jazz dance recital class performed to Paula Abdul’s Opposites Attract. At the time I thought it was the silliest thing I ever heard: how could two people that didn’t agree on a majority of issues actually like each other. Turns out almost every couple I know are comprised of fairly dissimilar people. Same is true for Britannia and his love-thang. Brit will experiment with rare ingredients; his boy doesn’t even like bananas. Here’s their he vs. he take on one of the most innovative and popular restaurants in the country.

On my not-so-recent trip to LA I decided to pay a visit to a not-so-new-restaurant, The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Beverly Hills. The Bazaar’s food concept is similar to that of minibar in DC: adventurous meals in one bite. I was too impatient to wait for a reservation at minibar so I figured jumping on a plane was the easiest thing to do, natch.

The LA Times 4-star-rated Bazaar is an Alice in Wonderland of sorts, the décor is ostentatious and the furniture is playful. Exactly what is needed when one eats food from Andrés. Upon entering the restaurant you are greeted by Bar Centro, a place where the drinks are as simple as a Dry Martini or unusual as a Nitro Raspberry Daiquiri, which was worth every penny (how many pennies are in $20?)

For dinner there’s a choice of dining in one of two rooms, Rojo or Blanco, one room steeped in traditional Spanish flair or one of white drapes, white chairs and white tables. I have poor taste so I opted for the latter.

There were four of us dining, two friends from LA and my better half (Deej). If you are a regular reader to ES you will know that my other half is not so easy to please when it comes to his palette. Despite this we tried the Seven Wave tasting menu.

Here is my take and my bf’s barely clothed hatred take on our experience. And whatever Mr. Picky has to say, do know that the meal was a lot more expansive than we had anticipated and certainly worth the money.

Olives, Traditional and Modern


I have to admit I am not a fan of olives so when we were presented with this dish early on in the meal I was slightly disappointed. The traditional olive is served stuffed with anchovies and drizzled in oil. They were presented in a quirky anchovy tin, which perhaps suggested that the fish wasn’t fresh (doubtful though). The modern “olives” were actually liquid in a membrane-type pocket. They were served on a spoon which once on the tongue with slight pressure provides an explosion of olive juice. You can imagine for someone who is not an olive fan this wasn’t too thrilling, however an experience none the least (there is a similar style dish with mozzarella which was much more enjoyable).

When this dish came to the table, I immediately thought that I had not sampled enough of the DELICIOUS cocktails to suffer through this “experience.”  (The “Magic Mojito” and the “Nitro Raspberry Daiquiri” are worth the trip alone!)   So the traditional olives were okay.  I’m not a fan of olives but I can choke one down when necessary.

Now the little Jello-like shooters of olive oil took some preparation.  I had to tell myself:  “I love Italian food.  All Italian food has olive oil. Olive oil must be good. And I love jello shooters!!  This I can do.”  Yeah not so much.  The “jello” just kind of sits on your tongue and then explodes–shooting nasty salty olive juice everywhere.  Ick!  (And the mozzarella ones taste like the water that the buffalo balls are floating in at Whole Foods.  Ick x2!)  On a scale of 1 to 10, these get a -3 and -4 respectively.

Soy Marinated Salmon Roe Cone


A cone, it was just that, and indeed served in a funky cone stand, the sort you would find at the local ice cream shop. A quaint one mouthful dish, the cone was filled with a rich cream topped with the salmon roe. I’d place this as one of my favourite dishes, but with my limited knowledge of salmon roe we could have had the caviar cone and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

Absolutely disgusting.  I’ve never had caviar before and I can say now, I probably never will again.  First of all it did look amazing…like a little vanilla ice cream cone with tiny sprinkles of orange jello.  If only it had tasted like that!!!  First the “ice cream” was like some rancid Philly cream cheese mixed with way too much dill.  And then the roe…oh the roe!  Tiny orange gel pellets of salty fishy grossness.   Who thinks that cream cheese needs a topping of gelatinous, neon-orange fish liquid???  ICK!   This gets a -7.

Catalan Spinach with Apple, Pine Nuts, Raisins


The spinach came like a green miniature tumble weed as if it had gone rolling along a kitchen floor, catching pine nuts and raisins along the way. I know, not the most pleasant way to describe food but it’s true. The spinach was tough and soggy, the apple was barely noticeable and raisins don’t belong anywhere on my plate, the only saving grace for me was the crunch of the pine nut. Barely.

This was the one dish that I found most surprising of the evening.  I can tolerate spinach.  I like apples.  I like raisins.  And I love pine nuts as they are an ingredient in the best food ever—PESTO.  So this can’t be too bad…Oh how I was wrong.  Completely and utterly wrong.

The second I popped it into my mouth I knew there was going to be some trouble.  It was too big to swallow in one gulp so I had to chew.  And chew.  And chew.   My throat did everything it could to not let it go down but I finally forced it.  And then it hit my tummy!  My one thought during this entire fiasco– “This meal tasted so gross going down… I canNOT even imagine what it tastes like coming back up!”  With the help of a tall glass of water, let’s just say everything managed to stay down.  But Britannia (or Britasshole at this point) got one EVIL look.  And my part of the check!  This gets a -38 plus a little “go back to hell you evil devil spawn” thrown in!

Philly Cheesesteak; Air Bread, Cheddar, Wagyu Beef


This was one of the final dishes of the evening and perhaps a highly calculated way to end a meal. This held all the flavours of a cheesesteak with none of the grease and usual messiness that comes with a sandwich. The meat gently caressed a light and cheesy puff ball which melted in your mouth, no need for veggies or condiments with this one (not that we would) as it was a perfect combination of meat and bread. I easily forgot about the spinach and the olives after eating this.

Absolutely amazing.  Meat + Cheese + Bread = Everything that is good in this world.  (And for those of you that don’t know—Wagyu is Japanese for Yummy!)  This gets an 11!

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The Bazaar by José Andrés
is a serious restaurant with many fun and fresh elements to it, introducing you to new and exciting foods. This place can easily be just as a great for a group of friends before hitting the town or  a meal that would impress a client. I will be visiting again when I head back out West in the fall, perhaps without Deej.

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  • BS June 8, 2009  

    Hilarious write-up, boys. I think deej should get his own TV show where he goes to the fanciest restaurants in the world and trashes them. That’s a shame about the spinach dish, because Andres does a similar thing at Jaleo, but much simpler – just sauteed spinach with pine nuts, raisins and garlic, and it’s delicious. Goes to show you that inventiveness is not always needed.

  • Natalie June 8, 2009  

    “The spinach came like a green miniature tumble weed as if it had gone rolling along a kitchen floor, catching pine nuts and raisins along the way”

    LOLOL I seriously laughed for a good five minutes after reading this.

  • Maids June 8, 2009  

    I know molecular gastronomy is all the rage and that some pretty awesome food stuffs have been created in kitchen laboratories. however, I will assert that as a rule modern cooks should refrain from creating membrane pockets. Membranes are usually unpleasant textures when we are confronted by them in the natural world and even more so when they are man-made vehicles for familiar tastes. Those olive juice membrane pockets sound disgusting, and I love olives.

  • JoeHoya June 8, 2009  

    The spherified olive oil is a mainstay of the Minibar menu here in DC, as are the cheesesteaks and the roe cone (described at Minibar as a recreation of the flavors that go into a bagel topped with lox and cream cheese).

    I’m a big fan of the olive oil spheres – I don’t remember the membrane being especially noticeable once it bursts, and the texture wasn’t as offputting as Maids assumes it might be at first.

    We did a write-up of a visit to Minibar back in March, and we tried to describe as many of the dishes as possible. At that meal, the spherification technique was used on a carbonated mojito.

    To me, calling it “molecular gastronomy” doesn’t really capture Andres’ approach. Better just to call it “playing with your food.”

  • TVFF June 8, 2009  

    “This held all the flavours of a cheesesteak with none of the grease and usual messiness that comes with a sandwich.”

    I cried when I saw that sentence.

  • gansie June 8, 2009  

    deej – you fucking kill me. and i love your *i love italian* rationalization for eating the olive dish.

  • Pinch o Minch June 8, 2009  

    YES on the olive hate, they’re disgusting. Can we please make Brit/Deej reviews a weekly feature? Hilarious.

  • dad gansie June 10, 2009  

    looks all tasty, i’m from philly, they don’t serve something that looks that good as aphilly cheese steak
    i’d like to try those olives too

  • Pingback: Colicchio & Sons Review | Endless Simmer April 7, 2010  
  • Ariell Kirylo October 18, 2011  

    I also had mixed feelings about Bazaar and more importantly had a terrible time staying at the SLS. Come 2012 we can welcome both establishments to Miami…ayyyyye! Will definitely be taking a trip down there to just to see if they cannot screw it all up again. Great review, Gansie.

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