For weeks, I have been looking forward to dinner at The Bazaar, the restaurant that Jose Andres
opened last year in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. I had heard about cotton candy foie gras, global gourmet carts and maybe even something about food being delivered on a white elephant. It sounded like a Mecca for foodies. This was the sign above La Cienega Boulevard indicating that salvation was near.
SLS doesn't stand for subtlety, limits or softness. It's more along the lines of surfeit, louche and sardonic. This was the entrance to the restaurant.
The framed painting was actually an electronic screen that switches between images of a Renaissance monkey-gentleman and a portly prince every few minutes.
Amidst the animals ensconced within the Phillipe Stark-designed rooms, there were other design details that made you go on a mind trip: Industrial Age-era electric lights, mirrored ceilings, chic photos of sporty flappers and long strands of pearl. It looked like the set-up for a house shared by Thomas Edison and Clara Bow.
One of the people I dined with has fatal allergies to nuts and other food. Never fear, waitress Tina was there. Our server was not only knowledgeable of every single item on the menu, steering my friend away from the dishes that would have landed her in the ER. But Tina was also attentive and sincere. Those are important traits lacking in so many of the actors-models-servers working at L.A. restaurants. Good service can never be discounted. That's why it's called a dining experience: it's about the food, decor, ambiance and service.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about spherication
. Tonight, I finally got to try it with Andres' caprese salad. While the tomatoes were the real deal, blanched and peeled, the mozzarella wasn't the expected. Instead, they were liquified and then spherified into a white circle whose thin membrane prevented the squishy interior from flooding the plate.
This is the beautiful close-up of the salad. Sadly to say, it received an A+ for presentation and a B for flavor. It was just bland.
I don't remember the names of the cheeses that we ordered to eat with the ham. The toast was a pleasant surprise. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, even so 20 minutes after it arrived at the table, the toast was smeared with a tomato jelly.
This looks like what the Flinstones would have eaten for breakfast if they were foodies. Inside the eggshell, painted a shade of slate one bit lighter than the rock on which it was served, were layers of potatoes, crispy meat and eggs. It was breakfast in a little cup.
It's also a fine example of controlled chaos.
Dubbed Japanese tacos, the rolls of daikon, lettuce and smoked eel were texturally unappealing. I was expecting more of a crunch from the shell, not a slippery disc that unrolled so easily. The eel was cooked to smoky perfection, however.
Alas, the elusive cotton candy foie gras was in my grasp. The breakdown of the $5 treat went like this: foie gras on a stick, fluff of cotton candy wrapped around it. True, it sounded like a gross combo. If you think about it, it's not a strange a concept as spreading fig preserves on a piece of toast with foie gras. We were instructed to eat the delicacy in one gulp.
One bite of foie gras wasn't enough. So we ordered foie gras burgers.
From top to bottom, the layers comprised fleur de sel, brioche bun, quince paste, foie gras and brioche bun.
Here are more foods on sticks: watermelon skewered with the cores and seeds of tomatoes, enhanced with salt, edible flowers and an exotic-sounding sauce. I had a quick flashback to the summers when my cousins and I sprinkled salt on watermelon. That's the Vietnamese way of bringing out the fruit's sweetness.
This might look like negi toro sushi. It's actually a Philly cheesesteak. A blowtorch provided the little burst of fire to sear the wagyu beef.
Underneath the thin slice of delicate beef was an oblong-shaped crust filled with cream cheese.
We also gave the hilly steak a try. It's the vegetarian version of the Philly cheesesteak. Slivers of mushrooms replaced the beef. It wasn't as good as the carnivorous concoction.
Here are more mushrooms, sauteed in salt and olive oil.
I wasn't quick enough with my camera to photograph the smoked salmon plate when it arrived at our table. It was presented under a glass dome filled with smoke. After lifting the dome, the waiter used his hands to dissipate the smoke. The problem was, so many people ordered this popular dish that the room started to smell a bit like a smoker's lounge. The chickpea pancake underneath was a little too brown, as well. The smoked salmon was cooked perfectly. The softened circles of fennel moved the flavors to another zone of lightness and satisfaction.
Doesn't this look like a scene from "Harry Potter"? It's actually a bartender whipping up a caipirinha with liquid nitrogen. He poured the lime juice and cachaça into a metal bowl and chased it with the liquid nitrogen from the ice-coated pitcher. He stirred the liquid mixture for a minute or so until it turned into ice.
He sprinkled edible flowers and tarragon, along with freshly grated lemon zest, on top of the spiked slushee.
I couldn't figure out why candy would cost $2.50 apiece. Perhaps Andres uses real gold flakes?
From the same dessert menu, we found a nitro coconut floating island that fit the budget. Glazed banana slices supported the mound above the puddle of pureed passion fruit. The little brown swirls yielded an inkling of coffee.
One of my friends said it reminded her of "Super Mario 2."
Our senses continued to be entertained after dinner on a walk through the gift shop-lobby furnished by an eccentric interior shop called Moss. Is this the beloved chihuahua that Mickey Rourke lost a few months ago?
This was cruel and unusual punishment for the teddy bears. PETA should be alerted.
My relationship isn't dysfunctional enough for me to buy these stamps.
Maybe I should make another stamp that reads, "My mind." That way, I could make different statements according to my mood. There's "But I've changed! My mind." Or even, "My mind. It wasn't my fault!"