The Bazaar by Jose Andres

I'm highly anticipating the arrival of my new digital camera – a Canon Powershot – so I've been going through all my old photos on my Casio. I came across these photos from Bryan's and my first dinner at The Bazaar by Jose Andres at West Hollywood's SLS Hotel. It was a few months after the hotel, and subsequently restaurant, opened. Ironically, it was also the week I got laid off and a few days before Bryan was diagnosed, so without knowing it, the meal was kind of our "last hurrah dinner" before the madness set in.

Without being entirely redundant, the atmosphere at The Bazaar is well, bizarre. The decor of the bar area alone –which is where most of the "see and be seen" end up waiting for their tables – is whimsical in an Alice-in-Wonderland-meets-Philippe-Starck way. It's modern, it's flashy, but thankfully just one tablet of acid shy of making you entirely lose your mind.

Once you get into the restaurant itself things calm down a bit, at least from a decor perspective. The dining room is split into two unique sides – Rojo and Blanca – serving traditional and contemporary versions of Spanish tapas, respectively (we prefer the Rojo room, for no other reason than we enjoyed watching the chefs behind the Charchuterie bar). The food is as bold and inspired as the restaurant's decor but with flavors and themes clearly representative of Andres' award-winning passion for bringing traditional Spanish tapas into a new era. And with a hand-picked team of some of the nation's best and brightest culinary minds, that's exactly what The Bazaar does.

Rojo's Dining Room

Rojo's Open Kitchen
The Bazaar's open kitchen is visible from the Rojo dining room, and it's obvious to anyone watching that the chefs are more than simply detail-oriented. Each chef is assigned to an individual station with a task so specific, it's clear The Bazaar is a very well-oiled machine.

I watched one chef do nothing all night but create a pressurized yogurt dip to accompany a sweet potato chip appetizer. One by one, he dispensed whipped yogurt from a pressurized container into a glass dish, then very delicately hand-swirled star anise, olive oil and a dash of tamarind. This was his dedicated task, all night long, all for a $10 appetizer. Ironically, the sweet potato chips were bagged by someone at a different station.

Sweet potato chips with yogurt, tamarind, star anise
(Excuse the bite; we were starving!)
When it came time to order, we had a serious decision ahead of us: traditional or contemporary? The traditional, or Rojo, tapas is like having a comforting, familiar meal made by your Spanish grandma. The menu is segmented by traditional tapas' cooking methods and ingredients. Latas y Conservas, for example, showcases delicacies made by Andres in-house canning team; sea urchin, white asparagus and oysters, just to name a few, are canned using a food preservation technique invented in 1810 in France but later adopted by Spain. Other menu components include Jamones y Embutidos (Spanish ham), Quesos (cheese), Sopas (soup), Verduras (vegetables), Pescado y Marisco (fish & seafood) and Carnes (meat).

The Contemporary, or Blanca, side of the menu is filled with dishes so unique and inventive they reminded me of something Top Chef's Michael Voltaggio might dream up. The Organized Caesar Salad, for example, mimics sushi rolls, each filled with romaine lettuce, and topped with either a quail egg, Parmesan cheese or a mini crouton. The "Not Your Everyday Caprese" mixes blanched cherry tomatoes, basil pesto, mini croutons with liquid mozzarella capsules.
The servers suggest you get a spoonful of everything, take a bite
and the liquid mozzarella "capsule" bursts in your mouth. I could eat about five of these.

You can see the rest of our dishes below, ranging from a seared scallop to a new take on an old favorite: "Philly Cheesesteak," air bread filled with melted cheese and topped with Wagyu beef. After all was said and done, The Bazaar was definitely an experience. We loved the majority of our dishes but would mix it up a bit more next time, adding more of the traditional Tapas to our order. Since the dishes are all basically between $4-$16 each, we managed to get out of The Bazaar with our wallet intact. It's just making your way through that scenester lobby that's the issue...

"Organized Caesar Salad"

"Not Your Everyday Caprese"

‘Philly Cheesesteak

"Romesco" Sea Scallops
Seared sea scallops in a tomato-almond sweet pepper sauce

Cotton Candy Foie Gras
Cubes of foie gras, skewered and delicately wrapped in cotton candy

Tortilla de Patatas ‘New Way’
Warm potato foam with a slow cooked egg "63" (slow-cooked to 63 degrees) and caramelized onions

Pa'amb tomaquet Catalan style
Toasted bread, Manchego cheese and tomato spread

Paella-style pasta with shrimp, cooked in seafood broth


  1. Glad you find those on your camera! We went to Bazaar for my birthday a few months ago and it was an experience! My new claim to fame is that we had dinner with Clint Eastwood -- so what that we were in different dining rooms? 8-)

    I took notes from your wedding trip to Napa and we visited some of your spots (Taylor's was AWESOME, Bottega disappointed slightly)....do you guys get up to Santa Barbara / Los Olivos? Any wine/food recs to share?

  2. Hi Penelope! Taylor's is amazing, right??? What did you get? I love the ahi burger and Bryan loves the Texas burger. The chili cheese fries are outstanding as well... We love Bottega but have had problems with service and attitude as well...it's such a "hot spot" that it can definitely be hit or miss. Luckily, the few times we were there the food was a hit!

    We go to the Santa Ynez and Los Olivios area at least once a year. The Los Olivos cafe is great, although it can be pretty busy at times. And while I've never been there (shame on me), some of our friends and my parents LOVE LOVE LOVE the Hitching Post. My parents just went a few weeks ago when we were up there and my dad said the filet was one of the best he's ever had in his life. Apparently there's an open pit where you can watch everything being grilled, barbecued, etc.

    In Montecito, a fancy but incredible place to go is the restaurant at the San Ysidro Inn. I went with family a few years ago and I still remember how great the meal was. All the ingredients are local, fresh and organic, and if you can afford to stay at the ranch (we can't!), it's been named one of the most romantic and private retreats.

    Hope that helps!

  3. Thanks for the great info!

    We may try to visit the San Ysidro Inn for lunch and perhaps enjoy the grounds - our budget puts us central Santa Barbara at a hotel offering a 'stay 2 nights, get 1 night free' deal, not the fancy resort, but it's always nice to visit. Their online menu looks wonderful!

    We've got Los Olivos Cafe on the list, as well as The Hungry Cat in SB (I hear there's also one in LA, but the person who recommended it said the SB location was great). We visited the area 2 years ago and used our "Sideways" map and had dinner at The Hitching Post. We had a good time there - although the food doesn't stand out to me - but I know we enjoyed it.

    There's another place between SB & the Los Olivos area that I've got on my list - Cold Springs Tavern.

    Ok, so Taylor's -- I just had a burger with blue cheese and I think we split some fries, but it was REALLY good - I'll visit again when in the area. Great break from all the wine tasting. Then went around the corner to visit the Oxbow Market. Ah, love remembering it!

    We also had a really fun dinner at Ad Hoc - our visit landed on Fried Chicken Monday, it was fantastic!

    Thanks again for the recs!


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