The Bazaar by Jose Andres: Do Play With Your Food

Foie gras cotton candy

Foie gras in cotton candy

The Bazaar by Jose Andres takes playing with your food to a whole new level. Here, you’ve got cotton candy, Wonka-esque taste sensations and ample squeals and giggles. I was lucky enough to be invited to check out the year-old funhouse of food at the uber-slick SLS Hotel on La Cienega Boulevard last night.

Rojo dining room

Rojo dining room

I had stayed away from this much-talked about restaurant all this time because it was much-talked about. All that hype, it looked too clubby for my tastes and didn’t The Hills film a couple of episodes here? Any venue that makes me stress out about my wardrobe is not for me. But the allure of a hosted dinner overrode any fears I had about getting looked up and down.

The restaurant’s entrance is guarded by a pig statue and separate from SLS’s lobby. And since it’s so dim in the venue, you can barely make out Bar Centro in the space past the hostess stand. I instinctively flinched at the clubby darkness of it all but fortunately there was no booming bass blasting out over speakers, no gaggles of long-tressed haute girls in clubwear. Rather, there were businessmen, casually dressed tourists and the after-work set. I was safe.

Now, the restaurant is sectioned into two rooms that are more like themes in their divergent atmospheres of casual festive (Rojo) versus formal Zen (Blanco), or really, fun date versus “I really want to impress this girl” date. We were seated in Rojo which is next to the kitchens whose sounds were muted by the din of the diners.

Philly cheesesteak sandwich

My PR hosts proceeded to order a slew of tapas for us to share in addition to cocktails. Yes, I was in Candyland heaven. Standout dishes included the fun foie gras enshrouded in cotton candy, the explosive liquid olives (keep a napkin handy), the mini Philly cheesesteak and the chicken fritters which were like bite-size chicken pot pies.

But the tapas that actually turned me to tears — you know how I cry when something is so unbelievably good — were the delightful jicama-wrapped guacamole (so fresh and creamy, drool!) and the caprese salad in a spoon. This latter dish, called “Not Your Everyday Caprese Salad,” required that you pile a ball of the liquid mozzarella, a cherry tomato slathered with pesto and the little cracker on your spoon and eat it in one bite. So you experience all the elements of a fresh caprese salad in one instance!

Liquid Cherry Manhattan

Now the cocktails here are unfortunately so pricey as is the usual case for hotels. We’re talking $16 for the specialty cocktails, $20 if you want a liquid nitrogen drink and $45 if you upgrade your Golden Boy cocktail’s cava ingredient to Dom Perignon. Yikes, indeed.

But here, you actually get an experience with your drink when you order from the “New Classics” menu which offers unique takes on old favorites. The Liquid Cherry Manhattan — made with your choice of rye, bourbon or whiskey (I chose Michter’s which is the only rye they carry here) — was the perfect mix of ingredients. So tasty. And in the end, instead of the dreaded neon maraschino cherry, I looked forward to “cherry spherification” aka cherry in a ball, like the liquid olives. I squealed as the cherry popped in my mouth. Yum!

The Salt Air Margarita was an interesting reinterpretation of the classic drink. Instead of salt on the rim, it showed up here as a foam sitting atop the drink’s surface. And unlike salty rims, the foam is present throughout your drink’s existence. So you get a bit of salt with every sip.

Magic Mojito before the big melt

Magic Mojito before the big melt

Now, the famous Magic Mojito which I listed as #25 on my 100 list of things to do in L.A. even though I hadn’t tried it yet, was admittedly not my favorite. I love the reinterpretation of simple syrup in the form of cotton candy here but the drink ended up too syrupy, too sugary, and where was the mint? I still do stand by it as the cocktail to do, especially when you have out-of-town visitors. It’s an experience not to be missed as the waiter pours the cocktail over the puff of cotton candy. Your guests will be dazzled. Just make sure that they like sweet drinks first.

For dessert, the restaurant gives you the option of enjoying it at your table or in the Patisserie on the other side of Bar Centro. We opted for the Patisserie. It’s so cool. They actually walk you over to your table there; the hostess carries your unfinished drinks in a tray for you.

It’s not so much a patisserie than it is a candy shop as I saw more bon bons and candy bars than pastries and cakes. But whatev. It’s a cute space. So girly. Here, you can order tea and coffee as well as lollipops, cookies and cakes. We opted for the interesting-sounding Hot Chocolate Mousse and the Nitro Coconut Floating Island ($12) each.

Nitro coconut floating island

Nitro Coconut Floating Island

Both were delicious but I’d suggest the rich mousse for when you still have room in your belly after dinner and the fun coconut floating island, which surprisingly wasn’t over-the-top fruity, for when you think you can’t eat another bite but want to finish the evening with something sweet. I love this nitrogen stuff. The mushroom of a coconut ball looked and felt like a meringue on the outside but was all creamy on the inside.

Anyway, I’m so glad that I got to try The Bazaar by Jose Andres on, frankly, someone else’s dime. Tapas have a way of adding up fast on your bill and here they range in price from $7 Ottoman carrot fritters to $38 for 2 ounces of Jamon Iberico de bellota Fermin.

Party at the Patisserie

This would be fun to do with a bunch of best girlfriends who love to share. Not so much with guys who want to wrap their meaty hands around a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, not pick it up one-handed with their pinky in the air. I wouldn’t come here if I were starving but definitely if I wanted a fancy snack for linner.

I’d opt for splitting a couple of tapas with a friend either in Rojo or at the bar and sipping a cocktail and then grabbing dessert at the patisserie. And I definitely want to give the Patisserie’s high tea service on the weekends (3-5pm) a try. For $25 you get a pot of your choice of tea as well as a selection of savory snacks like foie gras sandwich on toasted brioche bun and sweets like a hazelnut volcano cookie.

FYI, for Valentine’s Day from 6pm-10:30pm, the restaurant will be offering a seven-course prix fixe menu for $60 ; wine pairings as well as an a la carte menu will be available. Dishes include stuff like Not Your Everyday Caprese Salad, Liquid Olives, Tuna Ceviche, Boneless Chicken Wings and Foie Gras Cotton Candy.

The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel
465 S. La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90048 (map)
(310) 246-5555

3 Responses to The Bazaar by Jose Andres: Do Play With Your Food
  1. johnny
    January 20, 2010 | 1:21 pm

    went saams as for my birthday this past june with my s.o.
    he had never experienced food like this and was totally thrilled.
    I had been a fan of Mr Andre just through my t.v. and it was the most awesome thing to meet him.
    sitting at the bar doug goes is that not the guy ( not much of a foodie) felt like I met Mick Jagger or something awesomest b-day ever.
    Pricey but hey it was b-day

  2. Amy
    January 23, 2010 | 12:46 pm

    OMG! i am so coming here for vday! gonna throw some hints to the bf. hehe

    great review! the cotton candy looks divine!

  3. […] The Bazaar’s Salt Air Margarita ($16): Classic margarita topped with salt […]

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