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
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"
Tortilla de Patatas ‘New Way’
Warm potato foam with a slow cooked egg "63" (slow-cooked to 63 degrees) and caramelized onions
Paella-style pasta with shrimp, cooked in seafood broth