The Bazaar

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like food is like the new “it” thing.  By that, I mean food seems to be on everyone’s minds.  Whether it’s talking about favorite foods, eating at the best new restaurants, or checking out foodie events.  Food is everywhere!  Dumpling Man voiced a similar sentiment.   Maybe food has always been “in” and I’m just coming late to the party.   Maybe this is just a natural process of getting older, appreciating fine dining and having a bit more cash to spend on it.

In any case, you’ll need a lot of all of that (especially the cash) to dine at The Bazaar.   It’s one of those places that has been the talk of the LA foodie scene since its opening in 2008.  Most people rave about it, but I have run into a few non believers.  One thing, that I think most people would agree on is that the restaurant itself is beautiful.  It is in the SLS hotel, which is about as trendy, hipster, and “LA” as it gets.   The crowd ranges from Hollywood beauties to wannabe hipsters to flaming douchebags.   Unlike most other trendy LA eateries, The Bazaar actually has some credibility rooted in its famous executive chef, Jose Andres.

The H.o.P. descended upon The Bazaar for Smooth Obturator’s birthday.   To make sure no member of the H.o.P. went hungry, we made sure to order multiples of many of the dishes since the restaurant offers tapas style dining.

Sweet Potato Chips yogurt, tamarind, star anise

A real snooze this one.  The chips were pretty standard.  Something you could buy at your local grocery store.  I suppose they were trying to get interesting with the dip, which was no regular dip texture-wise.  They whipped up the yogurt so it had this airy fluffy texture.   I don’t think any of the bites I got had much tamarind, but rather plenty of star anise.  I was not a fan.   Not the best way to start off the meal.

Jamón Ibérico Fermin dry cured, free-range ibérico ham, catalan style toasted bread, tomato 

One of my favorite dishes of the night, but probably because I love prosciutto or as the waiter emphasized to us, jamón.  Again, I wished I could have eaten the whole thing, but I controlled my inner selfishness.  I will say, that there was some odd buttery flavor to the jamón which I did not like, but it was quite subtle so not too bothersome.  The jamón was to be eaten with toasted bread topped with a luscious perfectly ripened tomato concoction.  The bread probably could have been a bit toastier, but all was forgiven after one bite.

Tortilla de Patatas “New Way” potato foam, egg 63, caramelized onions 

By the name, I was expecting a potato, but what came to the table was something else.   It was an egg 63 which is a soft boiled egg cooked at 63 degrees C for 1 hour, served with the most brilliant flavors of potato and caramelized onions, all packed into a very cute little egg.  We only had a few to share for the table but just a few scoops of this packed a punch.  I loved it!

Bagel and Lox Cone         

A clever play on bagel and lox using cream cheese and roe scooped into a thin cone.   People raved about this one, but I just nibbled a bit since it was a small item and we didn’t order one for every one.  It was hard to tell if it really tasted like a true bagel and lox since I didn’t eat the whole thing, but Smooth Obturator thought so.

Cotton Candy Foie Gras    

I had high hopes for this dish.  All it was, was a hunk of foie gras on a stick, covered in cotton candy.  Aside from the interesting concept, it tasted very simple and straightforward.  Nothing crazy or interesting flavor wise.  I will admit the foie gras was delicious, and subtle creamy notes seemed enhanced by the light airy sugar surrounding it.

Olives modern and traditional  

I’m not very picky about food.  There are few things I don’t like very much, and olives is one of them.  Despite this, I can still eat them if I have to.  Smooth Obturator really wanted this dish, and not many others seemed a fan of olives so I stepped up to try them.  First you eat the traditional olive.  There was a strong brininess to the very meaty olives.  I don’t know much about olives, but I’d say this was a good one, although I was not used to the level of saltiness.

Afterwards, you eat the modern olive.  It was all the same olive flavor encased in a thin sack.  Once in your mouth, it bursts to reveal what your taste buds would believe was another olive!  All in all, it was a gimmick, a cheap trick that actually was not cheap.

Japanese Taco grilled eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi, chicharron 

This was probably one of the best dishes of the night.  It was such an innovative reinvention of a taco.  The “taco shell” was a thinly sliced sheet of cucumber, served cool.  The filling was a  tender well flavored piece of grilled eel.  The added flavors from the shiso, wasabi, and chicarron were all very light and subtle but served to enhance the Asian inspired flavors of the dish.  Everyone was very pleased with this one.

Tuna ceviche and avocado roll 

Another winner!  Tasted like a good sushi roll without the rice.  Seaweed was replaced by avocados.   Wrapped within was fresh tuna ceviche.  The citrus taste from the ceviche was well balanced from the creaminess of the avocados.

Not Your Everyday Caprésé cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella 

Another attempt at reinvention.  I would say the reinventions are pretty clever, but somehow detract from true great flavor.  The dish tasted pretty standard.  Lovely ripe tomatoes with liquid mozarella encased in little sacks.  I guess it was interesting having the test of mozarella explode into your mouth instead of melt like normal mozarella.

Wild Mushroom Rice idiazábal cheese

This was just the start of a series of salty dishes.   The mushroom flavor was earthy and fragrant, but we were just overwhelmed by the salt.  I’m not sure if it came from the cheese or what, but aside from that the dish was fine.  The texture was probably softer than a normal risotto but I’m sure they were aiming for something else.

Sea Scallops romesco sauce 

The scallops were faaaaar too salty for this caliber of a restaurant.  I’ve never cooked scallops myself, but I wonder if they are just inherently salty because this is not the first time I’ve had a generously seasoned scallop.  There was a nice sear and caramelization to the shellfish as well as a meaty tenderness to the salty flesh.  I’m not sure what a romesco sauce is either, but I don’t think it added anything interesting or even flavorful to the dish.

Baby Beets citrus, pistachio, sherry dressing 

I’ve really been on a beet craze these days, and very rarely have things ever gone wrong.  This was probably the least impressive beet dish I have ever had.  It was a geometrical stack of, albeit beautiful and colorful,  beets with very little else.  The beets were sweet, but it lacked any other contrasting flavors, like acid or salt.  I will note that the beets did serve a purpose, if not to excite the palate and satisfy the stomach.  I used it as a much needed palate cleanser to wash away some of the excess salt from the other less successful dishes.

Norwegian Lobster seaweed salad, lobster essence 

I’m not someone that necessarily goes gaga for lobster, but this dish was another spectacular winner.  The lobster alone was perfectly cooked, with the right amount of bite merried with succulent juices and flavor.  The seaweed salad was a light vegetal touch.  These two components alone were solid but not amazing.  The lobster essence, on the other hand, was so deeply flavorful with the true oceanic notes of the fresh crustacean.  It was like a rich lobster broth, that not only enhanced the flavors of the meat, but also served as a sort of palate cleanser.  I highly recommend this dish.

Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks california citrus

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been impressed with a cut of Wagyu.  The fattiness usually detracts from any great beef flavor.  This dish on the other hand wasn’t particularly fatty, yet it was still tender.  Despite that, it was pretty one note.  The small segments of citrus were not enough to elevate the flavor profile beyond tender cuts of beef, be them cheek or Wagyu or whatever.

“Philly Cheesesteak” air bread, cheddar, wagyu beef 

This was a dish all the Yelpers were raving about, a reinterpretation of the classic Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.  Thin slices of medium rare Wagyu beef sat atop an airy bread pocket filled with oozing liquidy cheese.  The beef was sorta tasteless.  The bread pocket was either too light or just stale, but in the end nothing of any palatable substance.  And maybe by the time I got to the dish it had cooled down quite a bit so the oozy cheese filling just tasted grainy and not very refined.  Overall the dish was overrated and not very tasty unless you’re a die hard cheese fan because no other aspect of the dish was impressive. 

Foie Gras quince, toasted brioche sandwiches  

We heard many great things about the little sandwiches.  The foie gras sandwich was rich with fatty foie flavor, which was elevated with a light smattering of quince jam.  Quince is a fruit related to apples and pears.  There wasn’t anything particularly distinct about the quince; it just tasted sweet.  The little buns were lightly toasted and sprinkled with some sea salt (a tad too much maybe?).  It was a good bite!

Sea urchin avocado, steamed bun

I’m not the biggest fan of uni.  I don’t know why.  I suppose its just the slimey texture I can’t get over.  Plus it has a real ocean taste to it that I can’t really appreciate.   Overall, this bun was just ok, but that’s just my bias.  The uni tasted fresh if anything and the avocado added another layer of soft texture and creamy flavor.  The bun was pretty standard, but probably a bit chewier than a normal Chinese bao.

King Crab Steamed Buns pickled cucumbers 

I was expecting just fresh crab, but this version was slathered in some mayo which I thought masked the flavor of truly fresh quality crab.  Overall the flavor was mild and accentuated by the pickled cucumber which had a very mild flavor.

Nitro Coconut Floating Island passion fruit, vanilla

This was such an interesting and unique dessert.  There were many differing tropical components that merried together very well.   The nitro island was a slightly tart coconut ice cream that was frozen over with nitro.  Running Man was taking time to the snap the photo, and in that time the floating island began to crack.   It tasted perfectly balanced with the passion fruit puree and caramelized bananas.  It was a tropical paradise on a plate.    

Hot Chocolate Mousse pear sorbet, salty hazelnut praline

The fruit dessert was balanced with a chocolatey concontion of a melting hot chocolate mousse.  The flavor profile was spot on, even though I tasted a hint of graininess in the mousse.  The salty hazelnut prailines were roasted and toasted to savory perfection.     I have no idea what the pear sorbet was doing on the plate.  It was unnecessary and distracting.   Two thumbs up for this one though!

 

Traditional Spanish Flan vanilla, fruit

Running Man likes flan so we rounded out the dessert with something more traditional.  It was a solid bite that was creamy and smooth, highlighted by a deep caramel flavor from the sugar. 

Overall, I felt like the night had many winners, but also just as many losers.  The jamon, tortilla de patatas, eel taco, tuna ceviche roll, Norwegian lobster, foie gras sandwich,  and nitro coconut island are dishes I would certainly order again.   Everything else was either too salty, too gimmicky, or poorly executed.  Given the exorbitant price of the food, I would say “value” is not a word known to the proprieters.  I’m not ever one to really harp on value (Dairy Queen and I having some debate over this topic once upon a time, before his current tree hugging state of mind), but even I have to draw the line somwhere.   The prices are crazy considering the the tiny ass portions.  I just think the place gets away with it because its located in such a trendy hotel surrounded by people with money to burn.  I’d be anxious to try some of Jose Andres’ other establishments to see if his food is any good.  Just from my experience at The Bazaar, I’m highly doubtful.

The Bazaar

SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills
465 S La Cienega Blvd

Los AngelesCA 90048

 

*SLR quality photos courtesy of Running Man

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