SAAM

Zhu Zhu Hamster told me long ago that SAAM was amazing.  I was a little surprised because The Bazaar was just good but overpriced.  She said “No, its different.  It’s the special chef’s dining room so the food is way better.”  Zhu Zhu Hamster piqued my intrigue to say the least.  So SAAM has been floating in the back of my mind for all these years now.  We finally chose Mama H.o.P.’s birthday as the occasion to celebrate at SAAM.  The place ain’t cheap so it’s not like you’re going to eat here on any random Tuesday.We started the meal with a hot wet towel scented with lavender.  It was refreshing and aromatic.  This wasn’t to eat, just to clean up!

Snowball st. germaine, mezcal, lime, cocoa bitters

We started off with the most interesting aperitif in the form of these little white puffs.  They looked like scoops of ice cream, but they were these foamy maybe spongey balls of alcohol.  There was citrus, tartness, and definitely some smokiness going on here.  A for originality, but what an odd texture.

 

Beet Meringue

Smooth Obturator really likee this simple creation.  Beet jus was made into light, airy, but crunchy meringue filled with a delicately tangy and creamy center.

 

Uni Mango 

Instead of the uni sitting on a little nubbin of rice, it was served atop a sphere filled with mango juice.  The burst of tropical flavor in your mouth was fun, but it unfortunately overpowered the delicate ocean sweetness of the uni.
Jose’s Combo jamon iberico, caviar

Jamon iberico has to be the pinnacle achievement in cured meat history.  If you’ve never had it, you HAVE to try it.  Jamon iberico comes from black Iberican pigs that are allowed to roam free in western and southwestern Spain to feed on a diet of mostly acorns.  It’s really hard to describe the flavor of the ham. I would use words like strong, nutty, umami, distinct.  Triple T doesn’t like the flavor, but she’s not a very adventurous eater.  I thought this was one of the best bites of the night.  Surprisingly the caviar was not excessively salty so overall the combination was delicious.

White Cheddar Popcorn pureed truffle butter, popcorn chip, white cheddar espuma, espelete

The popcorn chip was kinda meh, but daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang that espuma was like crack!  I essentially used the cracker as a vehicle to get the espuma in my mouth.  It was sooo tasty.

Leeks sliced charred leeks, black garlic paste, caramelized onion puree, leek jus, grilled tomato honey vinaigrette

I like onions, probably a lot more than most.  Smooth Obturator is the anti-onion man.  Mama H.o.P. actually doesn’t like onions a whole lot either.  The leeks were a tad too raw for my liking.  The oniony taste lingered longer than I would have liked it to.  Was this a more interesting interpretation of the salad course?  Yes, of course.  But the puree and jus just added more onion flavor that was too much already.

Spring porcini mushroom espuma, potato crisps, caramelized onion, fennel hedge wheel, carrot crisps 

More espuma!  Soo good!!!  This dish was oozing with umami-ness.  Similarly with the popcorn chip, the potato and carrot crisps were a great vehicle to get as much porcini espuma into ma pie hole!  We all thought the fennel hedge wheel was a little weird.

Dungeness & Daikon seared, shitake dashi broth, miso tofu dressing, chili threads, lime zest

The components were nice, but in it’s entirety the dish fell a little flat.  The broth and dressing kind of muddled together and the flavors felt unfocused.

Cod & Coconut steamed cod, coconut milk reduction, lemongrass, ginger, thai basil, caviar lime, coconut air, cilantro flower, basil

I very much enjoyed the presentation of the dish.  A real live coconut with steamed cod and a lovely reduction of flavors channeling Southeast Asia.  I enjoyed eating the meat of the coconut.  Overall, nothing really knocked my socks off.

Sea Urchin tagliatelle, uni sauce, sea grapes, black pepper air

The uni flavor was very subtle, almost too subtle.  The pasta was not the right texture.  The black pepper air was just air.  Meh.

Foie Gras Floating Island foie soup, corn espuma, chives, corn nuts

The loveliness of the previous espumas resurfaced in this dish.  Luscious tastiness.  The corn flavor was more predominant than anything foie.

“5” Star Breakfast bacon cream sauce, dehydrated piquillo peppers, chanterelles

Oh man, the tastiness carried over and was magnified in this dish.  What looked like a perfect sunny side up egg was actually an egg yolk surrounded by a luscious bacon rich cream to mimic the egg white.  The pepper chips and bit of bread served as vehicles to sop up all the deliciousness.

Rabbit & Sunchokes seared rabbit loin, sunchoke puree, sunchoke chips, chicken escabeche, chive oil

So by this course, I was reaching volume overload.  There was nothing particular impressive or delicious here.

Papoillote foie gras, morel mushrooms

I really had very little space to appreciate the ingredients just as they started getting richer and more luxurious.  I think LoMa Linda would have died had she seen how much foie I wasted.  It was sort of unappetizing to cut into the foie and see oil spewing forth from every bit of it.

 

Iberico Pork Cheeks charred maitake mushrooms, polenta gnocchi, pork jus

Iberico pork has a distinct taste even when cooked.  It was extremely tender and moist.  I did not care for the polenta gnocchi which had an odd texture.  We suspected it was chemically altered to make the polenta retain the shape of gnocchi.

Ferraro pralines rolled in gold sugar

Their version of ferrero rocher.  Nice.

Cotton Candy Foie Gras

We had this before during our experience at The Bazaar.  Solid then.  Solid now.

“Dragon’s Breath”caramelized compressed popcorn, liquid nitrogen

Popcorn was mixed with liquid nitrogen at tableside to make these frozen bites.  The intention was to eat these as quickly as possible to maximize the gimmicky “dragon’s breath” like effect.

They even provided a mirror for you to watch yourself breathing out the cool wisps of gaseous nitrogen.  Luckily I snapped a shot of Mama H.o.P. being “dragon lady-like.”  Honestly, these things tasted kinda stale and my tongue was actually burned by the uber cold bites.
Praline & Yogurt hazelnut praline, blond chocolate pearls, greek yogurt ice cream, lemon peel jap

Who knew chocolate and pinkberry-like ice cream could go together.  I don’t know what a pearl jap is but they were crunchy chocolatey crispy bits that I quite enjoyed.

Warm Baked Chocolate almond crumble, ginger cherry beer sorbet, vanilla creameux

I didn’t quite take to the ginger cherry beer sorbet, but everything else worked nicely.  I was really eating out of obligation by this point.

Guava & Cheese mascarpone guava cone

Cute sweet bites that helped wind down the meal.

Yuzu Jelly

Black Sesame Macaron

Banana Chocolate caramel banana bon bon

I almost never enjoy the mignardises.  Not any different this time.  The macaron was a bit of a twist, with the black sesame flavor.  Not something I commonly see in macarons.

Overall, SAAM was kinda hit and miss.  The high price point and the lackluster service really factor into my lower opinion of the place.  I’m not one to groan about service, but man the wait staff just didn’t seem to care about the food or the experience.  When you’re paying out the nose for food that is considered kinda high browed, you would like the service to foster some enthusiasm for such refinement.  They seriously were probably all out of work actors trying to make it in Hollywood and working at The Bazaar to pay the bills.  I doubt any of them are professionals in the food industry trying to climb the culinary and service hierarchy.  You should have seen the waiter stumble through a mediocre explanation of the regular wine pairing versus the pricier wine pairing.  Abysmal.  I mean I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  The SLS is a mecca for douchebaggery, not Michelin stars.
The food hit some high points, but I feel like they cheated using the same tasty gimmicks in many of the dishes.  The espumas and the bacon cream, which was essentially an espuma without the air, is not how I want to be wowed.  Use it once, but find some other way to zing my tastebuds.  Let’s just say the food could use more substance to back the show of beautiful presentations and techniques.  That or just slash the price please!
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome!

8 – Very good

7 – Good

6 – OK

5 – Average

4 – Not bad (factoring in price and service)

3 – Not good
2 – Terrible

1 – Do NOT go here

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