Best Tapastronomy: The Bazaar

The Vanishing Bar

The Vanishing Bar

It got off to a bad start. I entered The Bazaar with a hangover, bumped straight into an ex that makes my skin crawl, the table wasn’t ready, and we were shuffled off to a bar with a 10-foot barricade of surgically enhanced Hollywood monstrosities. I didn’t have the energy to push my way through the crowd so I just hovered while two of my friends went out for a cigarette to kill time. Granted, the chaotic, Philippe Stark-designed bazaar provided the ultimate distraction while we waited to be seated. The juxtaposition of the bar, patisserie, two dining areas, and a Moss’ retail counter – where you can purchase any of the random, protruding monuments in the SLS Hotel lobby (if you have a gazillion dollars to spare) – are catered to the restaurant’s ADD crowd. I prided myself on being the first to discover the portable liquid nitrogen-prepared caiphirinia bar, but, by the time my friends had all congregated and agreed to try a cocktail, it had vanished.

The compartmentalized chaos reminded me of a train station during rush hour – where you have to relentlessly fight through the mayhem to catch your train. There was an underlying sense of organization – albeit a vague one. The delay felt like it was intended to force guests to explore the museum-like premises – which it did – and the bill somehow follows customers as they wonder through the hustle and bustle.

Things didn’t get any better when we were seated on a rock-hard bench that immediately transported me back to the dreaded days of British boarding school meals. Our chirpy waitress came over and politely asked if this was our first time at the restaurant, to which the guy placed next to me flippantly responded: “No, it’s my last.” Once she had walked away with our drink orders, he murmured, “After this I’m going across the street to get Korean barbeque [at Woo Lae Oak].”

“Why?”

“So I can get a proper meal.”

Great!

IMG_0273

Caiphirinia Sorbet

My anxiety was not alleviated when the menu arrived and I was confronted with more kinds of tapas than I’ve ever seen in my life. One side is listed under Rojo (traditional tapas) and the other under Blanca (modern tapas). Seeing as I am the ultimate victim of both food envy and indecision, my poor hungover brain had a mental breakdown. I could have ordered the set menu – but I’m way too much of a masochist to choose the easy option.

The portable nitrogen bar came to the rescue and we were whisked up frozen caiphirinias at the table. They are prepared using pre-made cachaça-based mix, which is stirred in a bowl of liquid nitrogen and served frozen, much like a margarita but even more potent as there’s no ice involved. The sorbet is then garnished with edible flowers and a spoon to devour it with. One mouthful went straight to my head but I immediately had to have another. Yummee!

Olive Bombs

Olive Bombs

The Spanish chef, José Andrés, is a molecular gastronomy wizard who trained under some of the best chefs in Barcelona before venturing across the pond to conquer the culinary scene in Washington D.C. and, now, L.A. He has found imaginative ways to transform banal ingredients into culinary masterpieces and, conversely, gourmet delights into conventional dishes – with a twist. I mean, how extraordinary can a “Philly cheesesteak” and jamón plate possibly be? You’d be surprised.

Back to the food…. The waiter produced a jar of olives and proceeded to place four of them on a row of spoons so meticulously he reduced a middle-aged man into a fit of giggles. I popped one in my mouth to see what all the fuss over a green olive was about – and my eyes nearly popped out when it exploded with liquid. The olive was actually a gelatinous skin filled with olive essence and olive oil: an invention by Andrés’ former trainer, Ferran Andrià of El Bulli, one of the world’s most famous and influential restaurants. This explained the waiter’s ridiculous precision and made my hysterical friend laugh even harder as it burst in his mouth. In spite of the hoo-ha, the olive bomb actually tasted amazing, exactly how a perfect olive should taste but in liquid form. The dish was served alongside a plate of real olives stuffed with anchovies to emphasize the contrast.

Candy Floss Foie Gras

Candy Floss Foie Gras Lollypop

I had a mini air bread sandwich with mildly salty sea urchin and avocado, combining two of the most buttery non-dairy foods. It was to-die-for but a bit too adventurous for anyone else at my table, and too rich for me to attempt the last of the three bites. My friend ordered a “lollypop” stick of candy floss- (a.k.a cotton candy) and corn nut-coated fois gras, which she raved about but I only appreciated from a distance.

Guacamole-Filled Jicama Pouches

Guacamole-Filled Jicama Pouches

My favorite dish was the guacamole-filled pouches made of paper-thin jicama adorned with micro cilantro and Fritos. I love fresh guacamole any day but the avocados they used were perfect: there was a hint of spice and the jicama and corn-chip strip provided just the right diversity of flavor and texture, even though I would never have thought of combining them like this. I also loved the avocado-wrapped, melt-in-your-mouth tuna ceviche roll; sea scallops in thick, smokey Romesco sauce; the tastiest sautéed wild mushrooms I’ve ever had; and giant garlic shrimp, lightly cooked to perfection. The only disappointment was their brussels sprouts which were too undercooked for my liking and lacked flavor, despite the cloud of lemon-scented foam (which resembled bubbly washing up liquid).

Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Washing Up Liquid

Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Washing-Up Liquid Bubbles

For dessert, I skeptically ordered the waitress’ recommendation: hot chocolate mousse with pear sorbet and salty hazlenut praline. I was craving chocolate but usually don’t like mousse. This was different. It was hot, rich and salty like the molten center of chocolate lava cake. Small pear cubes, salty caramel, and crunchy, mini, dark chocolate balls were mixed into the orgasmic goo. All my favorite flavors and textures in one mouthful. Heaven.

The dishes averaged $10 each and we ordered a couple of bottles of Malbec for $35 each – insanely good value.

Despite the challenging start and unfortunate clientelle, once again food (and alcohol) saved the day!

Advertisements

One Response

  1. You are quite a story teller. Reads like a movie. I like your style. Best of the best.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: