Monday, November 24, 2008

An Evening with Jose Andres: Bazaar at the SLS Hotel

SLS Hotel
465 S. La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 247-0400

We have a new tradition. It is now our favorite Sunday activity to pack the dogs in the back of the car and head out to an LA neighborhood far away. We take them on a long walk around the hood, stopping in cafes and stores, window shopping and talking to people. We buy things, we give the hounds a lot of attention, we meet people and we get to eat food outside our neighborhood.

Yesterday, we headed for West 3rd Street. We did some Christmas shopping at Vie Boutique, an eco-store. I bought feminine care products at Long's on the other end. Then somewhere in between we came across a man in a dark alley. Initially slightly alarmed despite the accompaniment of 230+ pounds of dog, we were pleasantly surprised to find out he is a nurse in a senior care/nursing home facility nearby, then immediately alarmed to find out he had lost a patient. Somewhere along the 3rd street corridor was an extremely senile man rolling himself around in a wheelchair. We decided to assist in the search, jumped in the car and started patrolling the streets. After 20 minutes or so, we saw the man, nattily dressed, arms raised in the air screaming at the gods, attended to by another nurse from the facility. We drove back to tell the would-be mugger, and boy was he relieved. This made us hungry.

On a Sunday night in LA, you can often get a coveted table rather easily, especially when it is 6:30 pm. There are several new places I am dying to try, but Bazaar tops the list by miles. MILES. And yes, they could take us.

Bazaar is located in the new SLS hotel, on La Cienega in the space that used to house Le Meridian. Le Meridian was nice enough, but no destination hotel. We stayed there for about 5 days once during The Great Rat Infestation of 2005. Starwood turned over the project to Phillipe Stark, and he went wild in his typical Starkian fashion. It is SO Stark, that I thought it was owned by the Morgan's Group. That Stark.

Gorgeous, whimsical, engaging. The front entrance of the hotel to the right of the valet area.

These playful monkeys are part of a theme echoed in many places throughout the hotel and in the restaurant's many spaces. I want to take on the one with the tennis racquet. I bet we would have a Bacchanalian tennis match. Did Bacchus play tennis?

There are enticing little seating areas all over the hotel. This is one outside the entrance to the hotel. I love the fact that they have basically made the lobby outside. Once inside there is almost nowhere to sit. It's Southern California. It's late November. It's going to be 80 outside today. Let's be outside.

Another seating area in the outdoor lobby.

I like this alternative to the taxidermy collection at the Saddle Peak Lodge. I don't like the killing of animals for sport. I forgive the Saddle Peak Lodge because I know their collection is very old, and previous generations had a different mindset about this.

Inside the hotel by the elevators. This candle is taller than moi.

After our stroll around the hotel area, we headed back to the restaurant. The restaurant is equally a focal point on the property as the hotel, perhaps moreso. I was hesitant about taking pics of the restaurant because one of my favorite bloggers, Tangbro, was told off for taking shots of the interior. I didn't want to be restrained from shooting pics of my food. However, another blogger I read regularly, Kevin, was given carte blanche. Check out his photos of the interior. He did a great job.

The restaurant is divided into four parts. As you walk in the door you are facing an expansive lounge. Lots of cozy, intimate seating arrangements. Further to the right is the Bazaar itself, an actual shop full of things in many price ranges. Interesting objets d'arte, luggage, shoes, books, cameras, and so on. Everything a joy to look at. To the far left upon entering are the two restaurants, Rojo and Blanca. The menu is also divided by Rojo and Blanca, however both sides of the menu are served in both sides of the restaurant. Rojo is considered more traditional Spanish tapas, and Blanca is the side where the molecular gastronomy goes nuts. We ordered pretty evenly from both sides.

We started with martinis.

A special on the menu is a dirty martini, with the much ballyhooed spherical olive. This martini is listed with brine air, which would be brined foam. I am sad to have missed the brine air, but too much brine is too much salt for my taste buds. However, I had to have the spherical olive. I needed it.

Dropping the olive into the martini added a little olive oil float to the top, which was surprisingly delicious.

At the bottom of my martini lay this beautiful semi-precious gem of a culinary treat. In essence, what is a spherical olive? The baby of Ferran Adria of elBulli. The chef takes the best olives, purees and strains to separate the essence of the olive. The juice is then laid carefully into a bath of water and calcium salt-algonade. I have no clue what this compound is, and cannot find reference of it anywhere on the internet. Nevertheless, the calcium compound reacts to the calcium in the olive fluid and creates a gentle shell around the outside which then contains the essence. These soft little balls are then marinated overnight in olive oil. This link contains a video of Adria showing how the process is done.

For size perspective. After my martini was empty, I carefully lifted this precious ball out of the glass and into my mouth. It tastes like an olive, but more intense. The liquid is not too thick and very very smooth. Satiny.

Onto the food. The food. The food.

The waiter suggested 3-4 dishes apiece. My first choice was a Brussels sprout salad. This might have been my favorite dish of the evening. The sprout leaves were separated but not too torn, and served warm with warm olive oil.

There were also small pieces of what tasted to me like reconstituted dried apricots, peeled grape halves and very small pieces of what I believe was yuzu, a Japanese citrus.

Just delicious. My mouth is watering as I write.

Next out was a miso fettucine. This was served cold, with glass style noodles. I know it looks strange, almost alien. The red balls are not caviar. They are small balls of miso sauce and amazingly gratifying in both flavor, texture and *pop*.

I don't even feel like words can describe the wonder of this dish. It might have been my favorite.

This was the only fail of the night. Our third dish, and one that Jose just put on the menu this weekend, was Taylor Bay scallops. They were served cold and raw, with peach gelato and a large thin slice of ginger. The ginger must have been cut using a mandolin, because it was in a wide thin sheet.

The ginger and gelato were nice together, and I didn't mind the taste of the scallops, even raw (not my fave raw sea creature) however I felt that these flavors did not belong together. Interestingly, our wonderful waiter was happy to get the feedback. He said Jose wants to hear all the feedback from customers so he can change and continually modify the menu. I love this attitude in a restaurant purposefully so experimental. It speaks to me about the commitment to the customers' experience.

Next out was one of the least appealing dishes to look at, but one of the most delightful to put in your mouth.

This is lamb shank, cooked rather rare served with wild mushrooms (yes, they are under that mess), mushroom gelee and potato foam.

It was wonderful. Definitely a comfort dish. The foam has substance to it, it was heavy and thick. Lighter than a mashed potato but more like a mousse than a souffle. Even D liked it, and he typically hates creamy anything. This was definitely at the top of my list in terms of favorites.
At about this point our martinis were dry and we were not done eating. Being that it was Sunday we naturally went for an entire bottle. We wanted something Spanish, but don;t know how to order Spanish wine. Sommelier to the rescue. We mentioned that we love pinots (who doesn't?) so he brought out three bottles of Cal pinot. Even though we wanted Spanish we took his rec. He was so charming and the service so sublime, we were just enjoying his clear pleasure in assisting us. He rec'd the Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, 2005. Once it opened up a little, it was ass-kickingly good. A little while later he swing by with a generous taste of a 1994 Spanish tempranillo. The flavor made my jaw drop. Cherries, licorice, tart, sweet, soft finish...

Because the plates at Bazaar are so small (D calls this Big Mac food, as in he will want a Big Mac after dinner), he ordered bread. I personally didn't find the plates to be that small. Good for sharing with two people. Each person should order 3-4 dishes, and each one was between $10 and $14. Not outrageously priced at all. No more expensive than, say, Tantra or Tasca. The fact that you might not be able to stop ordering and eating might be your downfall, however.

This bread was simple but delicious. It was simply a crusty toasted bread with pureed tomatoes, garlic and herbs spread across. The server then doused the entire plate in a thick, green olive oil. Wow.

At this point, I wanted some input from our server. There are so many tempting things on the menu, but because Jose is known for innovation, I wanted someone more experienced to weigh in. He suggested the above "organized Ceasar salad". All the ingredients of a Ceasar salad wrapped in lettuce and served maki style. I ate most of these...they were dressed very lightly, the dressing tasting strongly of garlic and anchovies. Very nice. Then topped with a generous sprinkling of parm. Light and yummy. This would be fun to do at home for a party,

Our sommelier suggested the Philly Cheese Steak, which I did not see on the menu. This is a really cool little dish. The peppered steak lays across a puffed up little pillow of almost crackery bread, filled with a cheese foam. Just divine. Hearty, but small enough not to overwhelm your tummy.

Cheese foam inside the Philly Cheese Steak. Foam good.

By this point, every corner of my body was full of food. However, we had also ordered one of the lobster dishes. The DH loves lobster. This seemed like a twist on a classic Maine lobster dish, simple boiled potatoes, lots of lobster, onions and the twist would be the smoked paprika. Smoked. You could smell the smokiness when they set the dish down. I had some tastes of this, simple and very nice tasting. I was too full to indulge much, and since this was probably the least special dish that came to the table, happily so.

This was definitely a generous portion of lobster for the price.

After the meal, we still had about a half bottle of wine left. We decided to exit Bazaar Blanca and head to the lounge area to soak up more of the atmosphere. We sat in the Bazaar, looked at the goods and actually had them take the beautiful luggage out of the case.

Someone brought us the dessert menu and we had a gander. I love all the attention to detail. The sweetness of the sweets.

The monkeys will find you...

I was so paranoid to take pics of the interior....but I did steal snaps of these cute little chairs that were sitting across from our couch in the lounge area.

Someone loves their mom. Too cute.

The Bazaar on Urbanspoon


Loving Annie said...

The miso fettucini sounds amazing !

Pat said...

So it seems they've given up on trying to prohibit photographs?

Food, she thought. said...

Annie: The miso fettucine was astounding.

Pat: I didn't try to photograph the decor, which is probably for the best. There's no way a photo could do it justice.

kevinEats said...

Sadly, I definitely wasn't given carte blanche with the photos, be it of the decor or the food.

Rather, I was hassled extensively for photographing the food, which soured my whole experience at the restaurant. I had to be sneaky...

Food, she thought. said...

Wow...I am amazed at the photos of the decor you were able to capture. sneaky little devil! The night we were there, while I really only took photos of the food, my camera was out and in plain sight the entire evening and no one said anything. Maybe I should have tried for more.

Foie-ba the Hut said...

I went last night and took plenty of photos, I think Kevin was hassled because he was at a pre-opening event..?

kevinEats said...

It wasn't a pre-opening event, but the first night they opened. I think the policy is much less restrictive now.

Food, she thought. said...

Next time I go in, I am taking a digital SLR, a tripod, and a flash.

sygyzy said...

Is anyone going to help her with how spherification works? Or at least the right chemical names?

Food, she thought. said...


If by "her", you mean me, apparently not. I did discuss this with someone recently and they told me the chemical is compound of calcium, which is why I was having a hard time finding the right name...not something in the Periodic Table at any rate. With regard to how spherification works, I have a pretty decent conceptual idea of that based on the video.
Thank you though!

Dazy said...

We don't go dine-in there regularly since it is not close to our place. I make it a point to come every time I'm in the neighborhood. We get filled up and usually have leftovers to take home.

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It is Special to read That Starwood turned over the project to Phillipe Stark, and he went wild in his typical Starkian fashion. It is SO Stark, that You thought it was owned by the Morgan's Group. That Stark.

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