3 Words: Believe the hype.
I’ve been disappointed before with restaurants that have had rave reviews from culinary experts and foodies before (see: umami burger), but The Bazaar by Jose Andres at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills lives up to every award and positive review written about it.
After having tasted the food there, my friends and I couldn’t stop talking about how amazing the entire experience was. From the Philippe Starck designs to the surprising dishes, Jose Andres took us on a magical journey known as The Bazaar.
When you first walk into the Bazaar, you’ll think it is a typical hotel bar and restaurant. As you proceed through your evening, however, you realize that it is divided into 5 unique areas each fulfilling a specific purpose.
The evening starts at Bar Centro, where you can order your regular or specialty drinks, such as their modern take on the dirty martini. Once it is time to take your dinner reservation, you go to Rojo y Blanca to have some amazing tapas. Finally, your last stop will be to the Patisserie for deserts.
In the event you want to have a full tasting menu, you can also check out Saam. They have also ingeniously added a gift shop called “Regalo” into the mix of things.
Here is a little excerpt about José Andrés from the official Bazaar website:
Internationally recognized as a culinary innovator, José Andrés is a James Beard Award winning chef and owner of ThinkFoodGroup. TFG is the team responsible for Washington D.C.’s award-winning dining concepts Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, Café Atlantico and minibar by José Andrés, as well as Los Angeles’ celebrated destination, The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel at BEverly Hills. José serves as culinary director for the SLS luxury hotel brand, a collaboration with sbe and Philippe Starck, overseeing all food and beverage including catering and in-room dining.
And yes, he has won multiple awards for his work (taken from his Wikipedia entry):
- In 2003, Andrés won the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic Region.
- Bon Appetit magazine named Andrés its Chef of the Year in 2004 and Food & Wine magazine included Andrés in their “35 Under 35″ Tastemakers list for 2004. Saveur magazine included Andrés on their 2004 Saveur Top 100 list, stating that he “represents the broad spectrum of Hispanic cooking from ancient traditions to the fantasies reminiscent of El Bulli, where he once worked, better than anyone else in America today.”
- In 2005, Food Arts magazine awarded him their prestigious Silver Spoon award, referring to him as “the irrepressibly energetic chef José Andrés, the best thing to happen to Spain in North America since 1492.”
- In 2006, Andrés was named Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.
- In 2007, Andrés was inducted into the Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America list.
- In 2008, the Bravo Network awarded Andrés the prize for A-List Chef at the first Bravo A-List Awards. The James Beard Foundation nominated Andrés as Outstanding Chef for his work at minibar by josé andrés.
- In 2010, his Beverly Hills restaurant, The Bazaar by José Andrés, at the SLS hotel was recognized as one of GAYOT.com’s Top 10 New Restaurants in the U.S.
- In 2010, the Cabinet of Spain voted to award Andrés the Order of Arts and Letters (Orden de las Artes y las Letras de España).
The Highlights of the Evening
Since the restaurant is based on a tapas menu, there were plenty of choices to be made. Lucky for us, we were a party of 6 and we all liked to eat.
Some of our favorites from the evening were:
- The ceasar salad (they looked like a cut up sushi roll but had all the flavor of a ceasar salad)
- The “Philly Cheesesteak”
- The wild mushroom rice with black truffles (something that was a special for that night – you can order the rice on any given day however)
- The “Not your everyday caprese”
- Anything with foie gras in it
Anything with foie gras?
Yes ladies and gentlemen, anything with foie gras in it was a real hit, namely:
- The foie gras floating soup (which you drank like a cappuccino, but tasted like the best beef soup and cream you will ever have in your lifetime)
- The foie gras sandwiches (they looked like little burgers but when you ate them, you wished they would last forever)
- Cotton candy foie gras (don’t believe me? The machine was a table away from us)
I normally don’t eat a lot of foie gras and usually like it seared, but the dishes listed above were topics of discussion the entire evening – even during the drive home.
Let me put it to you this way – one person wanted to stick his man parts in the soup because of how good it tasted and the vegetarian at the table was willing to throw out her 9 year commitment to vegetarian eating because of how we were describing the experience eating the sandwiches.
The caipirinha is a traditional Brazilian drink that most of you are familiar with. At the Bazaar, they have taken it to another level by introducing liquid nitrogen into the mix.
When they prepare your drinks tableside, you’ll feel like you are at Hogwort’s because of the steam coming out of the mixing bowl (yeah the mixing bowl) as the server flash freezes the caipirinha mix and scoops it out into your glass.
What you get is essentially a killer margarita without the mess of a blender nor the watered down qualities of adding ice to your drink. A must have when you get a chance to eat at the Bazaar.
The desserts were an entire experience all together. We were moved to another area that was close to the bar and beside the gift shop so you were close to the action but a little bit off to the side.
We had the flan, the tres leches and the floating island. As you could probably guess, they were all amazing.
Some Advice Before You Go
My dinner companions and I even had a long conversation about some things that made our evening even more special:
- Make reservations early (a month in advance for weekend dining or try something during the week)
- Make sure you are with a bigger group so you can try more things
- Make sure the group you are with has an appreciation for fine dining
- Don’t be afraid to spend some money for some good food
In the end, we each spent a little over $100, but that included drinks and gratuity. In the grand scheme of things, not bad for having one of the best dining evenings in my lifetime.
Some Additional Thoughts
The Bazaar and the SLS Beverly Hills are the hot new places to be right now (given the swanky clientele and the cars parked out front). But if you were to strip away the crowd, the Philippe Starck designs and the Hollywood mystique – and you were to just have dinner in a kitchen with the food, The Bazaar by José Andrés would still be an amazing, imaginative and pioneering restaurant that has really, really, really (really) good food.
For more information about The Bazaar by José Andrés, you can visit their official website online.