My sister-in-law made reservations at Bazaar a few weeks back. Last week Frank Bruni wrote a huge piece gushing about Bazaar. Always knew my sister-in-law was on top of the latest and greatest.
The restaurant is located inside the the SLS Hotel on La Cienega in West Hollywood. SLS is a product of many talented people, Philippe Starke being one of them. Even if it isn't your taste, you have to appreciate the concept. The main hotel floor consists of a variety of rooms each with a different vibe. There is a covered room outdoors, books shelves on the right side leading into the hotel, a very chic bar when you enter the hotel and the Bazaar restaurant on the left. Moss, which is one of my all time favorite stores in NYC, has incorporated their products with their design and the lounge and restaurant so you might eat on one of their plates but you can order it to bring home. I am a huge fan of this idea and have been talking about it for awhile.
The chef, Jose Andres, is brilliant. He is originally from Spain and has not only been given many accolades through awards such as from the James Beard Foundation, he trained under El Bulli in Spain for many years. His food is innovative yet refined for the American palette so you won't finding yourself eating strange foams at every turn.
Bazaar's menu is all about tapas, some traditional and others modern. We had 9 people so we really got to taste a lot. As my brother put it ( I am usually a fan of sports analogies but this is pretty good ) that the dinner is like going to a movie with an all-star cast. Some of the actors are just incredible while others just give decent performances yet the movie is incredibly entertaining and enjoyable. There are parts of the movie that you'd even like to go back and see again because they are so brilliantly written and performed and you will remember them for years to come. That is a good description of Bazaar.
We started with a mixture of tapas and then ordered again about 3-4 times. The first thing out is sent by
the chef. A bowl of thick yogurt coated with balsamic vinegar and olive oil served with very thin sweet potato chips for dipping. Really delicious and the mixture of vinegar and oil with the yogurt changed the taste of sour to something sublime. Next out was what began our ordering frenzy with. A mixture of the jambons from Spain which are now available in the states. Supposedly Andres had something to do with that. Each piece was more delicious than the next. That is accompanied with a classic Spanish bread that is toasted and smeared with chopped tomatoes mixed with olive oil. Some of the bread comes with a very thin slice Manchego cheese over the top. One slice of that with a piece of jambon hits the spot.
With this first round we also had the olives which we had all read about. There are 2 parts to this dish. The first is a stuffed green olive with a spicy jalapeno taste. You have to eat that first and once you have finished, then you need to immediately take the small spoon which has a round green looking olive in it and pop it in your mouth. Don't take a bite but eat it whole and keep your mouth closed. The heat inside your mouth makes the olive explode like a balloon and ooze out an olive flavoring. Quite innovative and really good. We also had a few of the cones which are a straight take off of Thomas Kellers starter at French Laundry and Per Se, the tiny cone filled with salmon and creme freche. We had 2 different types at Bazaar. One was like Kellers which was a cone filled with a marzipan type cheese and soy marinated salmon roe on top. Quite explosive in the mouth. The other was so over the top and brilliant that I still remain speechless. On a small stick, is foie gras that has been covered with white cotton candy. Really beautiful. The combination of the sweet sugar melting in your mouth from the cotton candy with the oozing of the foie gras in your mouth creates an incredible taste mixture that truly renders you speechless. That is all I can say on that.
Next round. Sauteed cauliflower couscous. Sort of explains itself. Cauliflower puree mixed in with fried quinoa, lemon peel and harissa broth. I didn't love this one. Interesting and tasty but didn't rock my world. We also had the Brusell sprouts. Leaves of Brussell sprouts with a lemon purees, piece of apricots, grapes and a lemon foam over the top. Really good and the lemon made the dish light. With this grouping we went with the caprese salad. Another brilliant move. Cherry tomatoes that had been peeled ( that alone is an accomplishment without the tomatoes breaking ) served in a small bowl with a leaf of basil over each tomato next to a round mozzarella ball that is loaded with liquid mozzarella and explodes when you bite into it. This dish is cold. Take the tomato, the basil, the ball and a little bit of the oil in the dish on a spoon. Put all of this in your mouth and just let the flavors melt through your mouth. Genius.
We tossed in a few random things here. Chicken croquettes. They actually felt heavy when you picked them up. Lightly covered with maybe a smashed panko crust and filled with pureed chicken and bechamel cheese. Quite delicious. The boneless chicken wings looked so perfect which being able to do that alone gives someone kudos. Deep fried boneless chicken wings with a green olive puree on top and sage leaf. Nothing spectacular but both dishes were solid.
Believe it or not, I am not done. We went with a few "little" sandwiches. Air bread, which is like a crisp stuffed with melted hot cheddar cheese and thinly sliced raw pieces of wagyu beef over the top. His version of the Philly cheese steak. Really delicious. But, this is the other sandwich reigned supreme. Small steamed buns ( think Chinese pork buns ) filled with sea urchin and slices of avocado. A total omigod.
Just because we felt we should taste more, we did. My niece ordered the sauteed mushrooms. A mixture of every type of mushroom you can think of with herbs. Honestly, bland. Pass on this one. The oysters come served in a tin can, like sardines, and you open up the top and there are 4 shelled fresh plump oysters with a bit of black pepper and lemon over the top. Good, salty and sea worthy. His version of paella is really interesting too. Angel hair pasta cooked in a certain way that makes it taste like paella and the pasta is cut into small pieces and made to be almost crunchy like a rice with a few shrimps over the top with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side. Really interesting and worth ordering. We also did an order of the potatoes. Tiny potatoes that have probably been roasted in an oven that sucks all the water out and the salt just sets into the potatoes. This was served along with a green salsa verde. Simple and good.
Wow, I can't even believe how much we ate looking back. BTW, we also had the white wine sangria which is pretty good and I like how they make it. They bring out the pitcher filled with the fruit and ingredients and then open the bottle of wine at your table and pour it into the pitcher. A nice touch.
Last round, before dessert. Tuna that has been chopped with watermelon and soaked in a red wine, soy jalapeno reduction, made into a square, on a stick with a cherry tomato on top. Refreshing. Japanese tacos. Rolled in a shiso tasting wrap was grilled eel, shiso, cucumber and wasabi. Good. Josh thought he was in heaven on this one. Another had to taste was an egg shell filled with a warm potato foam, a poached egg and carmelized onions. Fascinating but not an omigod. Last but not least, the Japanese eggplant. Small eggplant, sliced, roasted and served with a soy sauce dashi glaze and yogurt. Yum.
The desserts were mixed. We had candy and chocolates which were a mixture of different things, all handmade and fun to taste. We also had the apple tart which was cold and not that interesting. The chocolate mousse was rich but the best was definitely the creamy chocolate tart with cardamon. A small chocolate cylinder that oozed when you broke into it and the cardamon made all the difference served over a whipped cream.
Bazaar is a true foodie experience. Innovative, tasty, creative, good service and just all around fun. It's fun to taste new things with a group and have every one discuss each bite. Also, the setting matches the pushing of the envelope food. So Los Angeles, so worth going. Just in addition, check out the bathrooms ( see picture ), I am sure many minds and hours were spent just designing the sinks.