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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Saam @ The Bazaar by Jose Andres


The Bazaar
465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 246-5567

i had the extreme honor of joining my friend jack and his esteemed wine friends for dinner at Saam @ The Bazaar. it was such a priviledge to be dining with such seasoned world travellers and wine connoisseurs; whose palettes have tasted many a fine wine and delectable morsels from around the world. i felt as if my palette was just a "baby" in comparison to my fellow diners...but i knew i could hang! jack's wine friends all brought wines from their personal collections for us to enjoy with our 23 course meal...i was eagerly anticipating this fantastical meal accompanied with what i expected to be some amazing libations! since there are 23 courses...i will just give a brief description of each dish, if i went into detail about every dish i'll be here all night and it's already 11:10 pm as i'm typing this. but i will embellish on the dishes i really enjoyed.course one...

i also want to preface this by saying that i rarely drink nowadays, so i was a bit nervous about trying eight different wines...thank God jack had the good sense to arrange for us to all ride in a cab!! you all know...drinking and driving do not mix! ok...let's get to this bad boy...

first course...

the golden boy


cava and sherry...in the light you can see the flecks of gold floating up in the bubbles from the cava. i was super hungry when we got there...and since this was the first thing to hit my stomach...you KNOW i started feeling the effects of the liquor immediately!! seriously, i thought, oh God...please don't let me get drunk and not be able to properly taste and enjoy this meal!

course two...

beet "tumbleweed"


hard to see this, but it was pretty cool...


i love the name...tumbleweed. it had a nice crunchy texture, kind of funny to put the whole thing in your mouth and chomp down on it, as your tongue is trying to wrangle it in your mouth so you can chew it up properly. on a side note since we are talking about "tumbleweeds"...i remember one time i was driving onto the 10 fwy connector from the 15, and it was super windy and all those big ass dried tumbleweeds were flying across the freeway and i was thinking...oh please don't fly up onto the ramp as i'm about to merge onto the freeway and hit my car! plus! there was nowhere to change lanes because i'm trying to merge onto the freeway and someone is next to me on the ramp! so you know, that you if it’s coming at you, you cannot swerve out of the way to avoid it...and i swear, it always feels like my car is a magnet for tumbleweeds...and you know how when that thing hits your car, it’s so dry and sharp its scratches up your car! well, sure enough, it flies right into my front end! oh well...such is life.

course three...

tuna handroll 2009


i don't want to compare, but i must...i would pick thomas keller's over this one...why?  because the overall textures of the whole thing and crispiness of the "cone" was more balanced at french laundry.  the flavors were good here...but i think that there was a bit too much soft textures in this handroll and the "cone" was a bit soggy.  several of us felt the same way about this dish.  please note, it wasn't bad...the dish was still good, it's just that when you've had it from other places and the dishes are so similar, it's hard not to compare the two.

course four...

olive oil bonbon


this was an interesting and fun little dish...it was like crunching into a piece of candy and then suddenly there is this gush of olive oil filling your mouth and coating your tongue. i wouldn't on a normal day pop an olive oil bonbon in my mouth...but this was fun. and as you're chewing it, the bits of candy get stuck in your teeth and you feel like you have to pick it out...or you have to suck on the molars it's stuck on, hoping to quickly dissolve the candy before the next course appears...or the possibility that you are feeding a new cavity you feel coming!!! (which in fact i think i do! so i have an appointment to see my dentist on thursday. and i just have to say...Glide is my all time favorite floss to use...if you don't use it already, you should switch...i highly recommend it!) (p.s. just to be very clear...i am not a spokesperson for them and they did not pay or give me any gifts to say that. i just love their product so much i had to say it.)

course five...

black olives ferran adria


ferran adria is like THE god of molecular gastronomy...and i believe he was the one who "invented" this encapsulated "olive". yes...it looks like a black olive, but your eyes deceive you...many of you may have already had the opportunity to try this, but this was my first time. eating this olive must be done swiftly and smoothly. lift the spoon, open your mouth and let it slide right in...don't bite in mid slide or you'll have liquid dribbling down your face. (that would totally suck! especially if you're on a date and you get embarrassed easily!) as soon as it's safely in your mouth, close it and bite down...its a mini explosion in your mouth.

why must you close your mouth? well...i'm sure almost everyone has experienced some type of cherry tomato tragedy. where you pop it in your mouth, bite down, without closing your mouth and the juice and seeds of the tomato come shooting out of your mouth! and if your lucky and you're not oh say, my friend jack...you would never experience the agony of squirting tomato juice, seeds and all on some young girl's white linen dress (a celeb no less). sorry jack, i had to say it. lucky for jack, she was totally cool and did not throw a fit or slap him in the face for defacing her virginal white dress.
omg...i got so caught up with my cherry tomato story i forget to finish telling you about it! it was super salty...whoa! i felt like a deer in utah licking those salt licks. (wait, does any one else remember hearing about that?) anyhow...it was interesting...another flood of liquid enveloping your tongue, it was really overwhelming and like i said, extremely salty.
course six...

bagel & lox steam bun


it was like eating ikura at a sushi restaurant, except it was on a little steamed bun. 
course seven...

jose's combination
jamon iberico & caviar


this was one of the crowd favorites...salty(but not overly), meaty and loved the popping of the caviar in the mouth. in one word, delicious.

course eight...

boneless coconut thai chicken wing


this was ok...i was hoping for more flavor...and it just lacked that punch you think of when you read the word thai on a menu or in this case heard the word. knowing you are going to have a thai dish immediately invokes the idea that you're palette is about to be hit with some serious flavor and/or heat!  

course nine...

crispy nigiri


the back side of the crispy nigiri


a couple of the other guests really enjoyed this dish. the cracker reminded of shrimp chips. when we were kids our family would go to chinese restaurants, we'd always order the whole chicken that you dip in the salt and it would come with tons of colored shrimp chips. of course our parents were always so nice and let us eat all the shrimp chips. it only sucked when you got a chewy chip that was either kind of stale or not fully cooked. (kind of like getting a bad nut in your peanut m&m's) and you know that when you get a bad chip its such a downer because you totally expect to bite down onto this light airy chip that kind of melts on your tongue.

have you ever noticed that when you just put the chip on your tongue it kind of shrinks up and makes your tongue tingle? try it next time you get shrimp chips at the restaurant! really!!! and don't worry about looking weird with your mouth open, tongue hanging out with a shrimp chip clinging to it! oh yeah...back to the dish...their chips looked like a butterfly. pretty. =)
course ten...

chiperones en su tinta
(stuffed Baby Squid in its own ink)


not crazy about this dish...the flavor was just so so to me, others didn't even bother finishing it.

course ten for jack...

jack's special
roasted beets


jack is allergic to shellfish and certain seafood, so he got a substitute dish...oh how i wish this was my dish instead! i know i've mentioned before how much i love beets. jack was so generous and shared his beets with us and the red beets were DEEEEE-VINE!! perfectly roasted and seasoned...it was so good. the yellow beets didn't have has much flavor, but overall, i wish i could've had the option to pick this over the squid. they really should consider putting this dish on their tasting menu. it was excellent. if you should go, and i don't care if you're not really allergic to squid...ok...well, i don't want to encourage any form of lying, but just say you'd like to get the beets instead of the squid. (well, that's only if you don't hate beets!!) it's so worth it!


the cool bathroom


i just wanted to share what the women's bathroom looked like! 

course eleven...

linguine and clams


they used miso soup and gelatinized it, then cut it...add clams and voila!  linguine and clams!

course eleven for jack...

"feta"ccini


again, jack got a sub...his noodles were made from gelatinized feta water. i liked his dish better than mine...nice flavor. i think the concept and execution of both of these last two dishes was really cool.

course twelve...

japanese baby peaches


this could've been such a great dish, but the yogurt, oil and balsamic just didn't feel necessary. it was heavy and cloying on the tongue and really took away from the bright flavor of the baby peaches and apple. this was a consensus amongst all of us i believe.

course thirteen...

hot & cold foie soup with corn


this was one of my favorite dishes of the evening...it was so simply foie and corn with bits of corn nuts and chives. the flavors were both individual and clean...it was a lovely combination...with the surprise crunch from the corn nuts. this was a crowd favorite. 

course fourteen...

norweigan cigalas
norwegian lobster with brioche and lobster essence


*sigh* this was ok...the essence tasted a bit like the shells were burnt, so it wasn't something some of us enjoyed drinking. not my favorite dish...but if i had had a substitute dish like jack, i would be singing another tune all together...so let's just get to his.

jack's fourteenth...

another jack special
63 degree egg, potato puree, bacon bits


OMG!!!! this clearly had to be my FAVORITE dish of the night!! holy crap!!! i swear...i would petition for this to be on their tasting menu. so simple but so beautifully prepared, and the taste...it reminded me of home. what do i mean? it was comforting...the perfect egg, mixed with potato puree and bits of bacon...who doesn't love that combination? like breakfast perhaps? now you get what i'm saying? but using just the tiniest little spoon...so it not only fits in the hole at the top of the egg, but it kind of forces you to savor each little bite. genius and incredible. "the incredible edible egg!" remember that commercial?!

course fifteen...

smoked artic char with tzatziki


i'm not a big fan of smoked foods, but this artic char was not bad but what i really liked about this dish was the compressed cucumber and the tzatziki! now THAT (tzatziki) was the star of the plate...it was so flavorful and really just made the dish.

bread with olive oil


course sixteen...

not your everyday caprese


encapsulated mozzarella with tomato "hearts" and cherry tomato with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, this was fresh and light.

course seventeen...

wagyu beef cheeks


this had a tangerine reduction, toasted pumpkin seed sauce, and roasted cippolini onions. the meat itself was tender, but not necessarily super moist; it needed the other sauces to make it pop. the toasted pumpkin seed sauce seemed like they over toasted the seeds...but i think the best thing on this plate that really made it better was the cippolini onions. after i finished the onions and i could no longer make that perfect bite, it just felt like it was a bit lacking.

course eighteen... 

special of the day
spanish risotto with mushrooms and spring truffles


we were all so excited about this dish...i believe all of us have a deep love for truffles and really anticipated eating this. we could smell the intoxicating aroma of truffles coming from the other diner's tables. when it came out...you could just smell truffle, but when you ate the shavings it didn't have any flavor, this was notable to all of the seasoned diners. where is all of this truffle aroma and flavor coming from if it's not the actual truffle? truffle oil. one of our companions who is also a chef and has eaten in the finest restaurants around the world made a great point. when they were telling us about the special, it would have been appreciated if they told us that the risotto was also drizzled with truffle oil along with the fresh truffle shavings. a little disclosure would’ve been great.

course nineteen...

philly cheesesteak


light and airy...filled with melted cheese


this is one of his signature dishes. raw slices of wagyu beef on their air bread filled with melted cheddar cheese. the beef was extremely tender...i know what you're thinking...it's raw! of course it’s tender! but sometimes raw beef can be chewy! come on...i'm sure some of you have had not so high quality raw meat! steak tartar?? anyhow...the cheese was incredibly rich. i think the interpretation was cool and i loved the monkey statue that they used to present the dish. quirky, innovative and fun.

course twenty...

dragon's breath popcorn


this was more of a novelty than anything...the popcorn squares are dipped in liquid nitrogen and you have to eat it right away and breathe out of your nose to create the "dragon's breath" effect...as demonstrated in the picture above. though it was fun, our only complaint was that it was so cold it burned our tongues and left it kind of numb and tingly. actually somewhat painful!! haha the popocorn itself was ok...it was like i said, just a novelty.

course twenty-one...

rose clementine


rose scented sabayon...i think we all agreed that this was more of a mousse than a sabayon. it was interesting...normally i would cringe at the idea of rose scented anything because it reminds me of when i was a kid, everyone and their mother made rose scented things from perfumes to bathroom sprays! *gag* but this was alright with the clementine sorbet. 

course twenty-two...

lychee and coffee


the lychee sorbet was light and flavorful, the coffee was an interesting combinations. i ate it all, but i think that my brain and my palette were in conflict about how they truly went together. again, i think this combination somewhat baffled most of us.  

course twenty-three...

sexy little sweets


everything you see was made from chocolate except for the skewers. but we were fore warned NOT to eat the big giant gold ball or the stand the chocolates were presented on.

our amazing wine selection for the evening
all brought by each of the guests


2005 Aubert - Rueling Vineyard
Sonoma Coast Chardonnay


THE most incredible chardonnay i've ever had...


1996 Araujo Estate - Eisele Vineyard
Syrah


to date, this was THE best syrah i have tasted so far.  incredible.

i still feel conflicted as i write this review...after our dinner, four of us discussed the entire meal and what we thought about it. and i think the struggle was that though the meal itself was lovely and there were some interesting things, it wasn't THE most memorable meal of our lives. i think i was expecting more of a spanish influenced dinner, as did the other chef...but that wasn't quite the case...which is fine. there were definitely a few items that i really enjoyed and hope that they would add to their tasting menu.


again, this might not be fair to compare, but my all time favorite chef is thomas keller and i still remember so clearly one very specific course i had at the french laundry...mind you this is like over 10 years ago when i ate there. the dish was a cauliflower panna cotta with a maquechoux oyster glaze with osetra caviar. omg...the soft, smooth texture of the panna cotta, so tender and velvety on my tongue exploding with cauliflower flavor, and the salty oyster glaze with the salty, crunchy pop of the caviar, it was a symphony of flavors and textures that just sang in my mouth! i cannot tell you or express to you how much i LOVE that dish! and to this day, i can still see it in my mind and taste it on my tongue!
when i eat somewhere, i want to look back and remember how much something completely moved me and burned itself into my memory and tastebuds. THAT is amazing food and thomas keller is such an incredible chef! i really admire his love of ingredients and his ability to combine them together. there is so much more i could say about him, but this review isn't about him or the french laundry.

so i think you understand what i'm getting at about how i have a difficult time writing about the Bazaar...it didn't have that same umph factor...where some dishes impacted me so greatly that i can't seem to forget about it. i know there were some good dishes...but i guess the real test will be years from now and i can go back into time and deep into my mind and bring up those dishes. but honestly, i shouldn't have to go too deep...it should just be there...something that always stands out in my mind.

i think it was a great experience and i'm really happy i had the opportunity to join such a distinguished group of food and wine connoisseurs. to try molecular gastronomy for the first time and the ability to discuss the food at length, knowing that many of us were in complete agreement about what we ate was something i enjoyed. (not that we just all agreed, but that we discussed why it was good or just ok...i don't expect everyone to agree with me...food is way to subjective...and that's what makes it so interesting). i still want very much to eat at alinea in chicago (grant achatz's restaurant) and el bulli (adria ferran's restaurant in spain - but i know that won't happen since it's closing and the wait list was already ridiculous).
thank you again to jack for the invitation! overall it was fabulous evening of food, wine and great conversation, and i know that i will never forget those beautiful, luscious wines!!! they were incredible!! hmmm...do you see??? i get more excited about the wines than the food. i know, i loved the egg, foie and corn soup and beets...but the wines...amazing.  if you should go and check out the Bazaar yourself and are wanting something more quiet and intimate, definitely request to be in Saam.  if not, you'll be out in the open areas where the decibel level is pretty high...so holding a conversation will be much more difficult.  BUT if people watching is your thing...and you don't mind all the noise...then get a table in one of the open areas.

they have a dessert bar area that you can buy all kinds of little treats. there was one in particular that really caught my attention and it was the chocolate pop rocks. i have yet to try them, i will have to defer to jack for his thoughts on them! i think they make great little gifts...so when i'm in the area again, i think i'll stop by and pick some up for myself to try!

3 comments:

  1. in case anyone was worried or wondering, my teeth and gums are doing great! and i have NO cavities!! thank you dr. tom!

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  2. ling, thanks for the review of this restaurant. we've been wanting to try dinner for quite a while now. sounds like its not quite up to par with Alinea (the best meal i've ever had). belinda and i will probably still try it though...doesn't hurt to compare.

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  3. you're welcome kev!

    i still want to try alinea and have heard so many amazing things about the food. i can't wait. i'm glad you and belinda are still going to try the bazaar...it doesn't hurt to compare, i completely agree. i hope you have a great experience like many other people have. i'd love to hear your thoughts after you guys try it. especially in comparison to alinea. thanks for the comment kev!!

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