At the strike of midnight on Saturday night it was not only Easter but also my half birthday. Josie was tired from a long day at work so I made the trek to Venice to see my friend at The Otheroom for her boyfriend’s birthday. I took his crown from him and bestowed it on myself. As you know, if you are counting fractions in your age you are still very young. It was a cool place and worth enduring the line outside.
The next morning we were excited for Easter brunch and my Half Birthday celebration and there was only one place we wanted to go Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS. We made reservations that morning and got on our Easter dresses and downed some glasses of pink champagne before taking off to brunch.
The Bazaar defies easy classification. One step in the door and you are immediately transported into a morbidly alluring world that rolls full force with a tendency towards the dramatic. However, despite the rough motifs and the postured (and sometimes robotic) wait staff, few disappointments came our way. Perhaps it was the alcohol that danced within us, but after we warmed up to the wait staff (or they warmed up to us) everything was un-offensive and dare I say, enjoyable.
The food was palatable and frail. All the dishes were delicately and meticulously crafted little novelties. The food did NOT detract from the space-which I’m not sure was a good thing. The food and the environment also played on strong overtones of excess which I’m not sure was good either (esp, given our current economic state). Despite being a tapas place, I could see how paying $3 for a literal bite may not be an option for most people. So in that respect, some dishes were hard to justify. However, unctuous and stellar could be the only words to describe the foie gras brioche. Additionally, I definitely fell into a whirlwind with the pork sausage that captured me like a formidable foe. Thankfully, that was the one dish Carina couldn’t stand so I got to have it all to myself. Exciting and different than what we’ve seen here in LA in the past? Yes. Mind-expanding on a global culinary scale? Most definitely not. A step in the right direction? Absolutely.
The Space: At first, I writhed at the over-designed space that is supposed to be set up like a bazaar where you can move from area to area and the check will follow you. Let’s put it this way, the waitress so aptly characterized the patisserie area as “Willy Wonka meets Marie Antoinette”. Stark’s synthetic and almost commercial feeling did not create any new contextual experiences for me, and trust me… I was trying hard to create some….Additionally, I saw no logical bridge between the food and the environment.
The Service: Marcel was portrayed on Top Chef as a glib, self-absorbed “know it all”, however, we found him to be well-mannered, conscientious and even friendly! But perhaps, I may’ve been influenced by the sound of my heart, which was beating like a drum:)
Additionally, the manager, William (also very cute), came over to our table and gave us a full explanation of the restaurant’s concept and design. I recommend a full explantation before eating-it makes the experience more enjoyable. He then graciously gave us a full private tour of the facilities before eating. I enjoyed myself to a greater extent after that touchpoint. Lastly, William ended the tour by inviting us back to Sam, the dining room that houses the 23-course tasting menu. I can’t wait to return! I left asking myself one thing about the staff, do they only hire good looking people at this place? 🙂
Price: Perhaps I have been heavily influenced by the great deal of articles I’ve been reading, but for me, The Bazaar represents all aspects of excess. Those overtones of excess seems to be in conflict with the current economic state, being that the country is slowly instilling a culture of frugality and modesty. Don’t get us wrong, we didn’t flinch at the $230 bill for brunch, but The Bazaar will remain a relatively infrequent purchase.
The experience as a whole left me lusty with an un-satiated desire for some physical, human stimulation. It’s reassuring to know that a marriage of service, food, and space can conjure up so many sexual desires. It’s not surprising however that food can elicit these feelings. After all, food has often been a metaphor for sex. Words like crave and desire all come to mind. Perhaps, Carina and I are both in a dating desert, but we both left needing some “warmth”. That is why The Bazaar defies easy classification-it was both gross and impressive. The Bazaar accomplishes to distract, confuse, and charm. I’m still at opposing odds….
There it is! An ambivalent review from Josie. In all honesty, by the end of the meal and five beers later (so I may be somewhat of an unreliable narrator) we both had fun. Thank you for bringing this to our world, Mr. Andres. Kudos!
This is a restaurant that in the past would have really intimated me. It was so Hollywood, I had seen the opening party on The Hills (I can’t believe I am admitting that), we saw Kimber from Nip/Tuck trying on zebra gloves in the gift shop area, the bathroom had a sink that took me 5 minutes to figure out how to operate, and most of the food presented required an amount of instruction on how to eat it. I think giving myself the identity of an Uncouth Gourmand has eased my anxiety, whatever mishap happens now I simply utter “uncouth” and laugh it off. I knew prior that the restaurant was famous for molecular gastronomy and while I decided to have a beer instead of a $20 “Nitro” Blood Orange Screwdriver, I was interested in paying whatever for that type of food.
We began with the foie gras brioche, organized caesar salad which was rolled in thinly sliced jicama slices that resembled rice paper and with a quail egg on top, and my favorite of the afternoon the Not Your Everyday Caprese. It had liquid mozzarella that popped in your mouth and without question the best tomatoes I have ever had in my life. I had to ask about these delicious fruits and the very knowledgeable waitress said that the tomatoes are each impregnated with vinegar. I love vinegar and was in heaven, someone on the staff let it slip that the tool that did this was a $12,000 machine that was used only for the tomatoes in the salad, and I think it is totally worth it!
We are smart girls and asked the Maitre d’ if we could see the kitchen, he happily obliged, and we met Marcel of Top Chef fame, and, my personal favorite, the gorgeous French pastry chef Michael. We saw the Rojo room and the new private room that provides a 23-course tasting menu, Sam’s. I would love to go back for that and just hope my wallet and waistline can support it.We were told that there is a much different crowd at night and I hope so because for such a quirky place Josie and I seemed to be the only ones enjoying it. We were the only ones laughing in the dining room and sure we may have been slightly more buzzed then most but the patrons didn’t seem to match the aesthetic. Although the man behind us with the purple hair and colorful paint splattered suit fit in just perfectly.
Oh yes back to the food, Josie, a lover of eggs ordered the 12 Tiny Eggs Sunny Side Up, The Tortilla de Patatas”New Way”, and the Pisto (which was kind of like a ratatouille with an egg on top). The 12 eggs were definitely my favorite and although Josie said she couldn’t really taste it I loved the banana puree included in it. I just realized that perhaps she couldn’t taste it because I picked it all out. I am a stern believer that fruit should be included in every dish. Oh and the bottom of these eggs was a crispy rice fritter which added an excellent element/crunch to the dish.
I ordered the “Philly Cheesesteak” sandwich, the shrimp cocktail, the Cippolini onions, and the cauliflower “couscous”. The only real memorable dishes from that batch were the onions in a very strong passion-fruit sauce and the shrimp. I ordered the shrimp because that pork sausage left a very bad taste in my mouth. I am very sensitive to salt and am not surprised that Josie loved it since she can add 4 tablespoons of salt to her plate and still thinks it needs more. My shrimp came when Josie was in the bathroom and I was waiting for her return before l I ate it because you had to inject each one with cocktail sauce while in your mouth, as not to splatter on yourself or neighbors. I had a feeling I would screw it up so I asked the waitress to repeat the instruction and successfully ate all my shrimp plumped with sauce.
After this strange and wonderful meal the UG ladies were looking for something to finish it off, the cigarette after the shag, if you will. Josie made the brilliant suggestion that we invite Michael, the pastry chef, over to recommend dessert. He came and we know he talked but couldn’t focus on anything but his eyes and his accent. As I mentioned in a gchat with a friend yesterday:
2:00 PM me: I was drunk and have been kind of …..I don’t what the word is…lately
2:01 PM let’s put it this way, Josie asked for Marcel to go at the restaurant and I was in desperate need of the french pastry chef.
2:02 PM friend: ah. i don’t know if i’ve ever had a need like that.
me: the uncouth gourmands have great hunger
2:07 PM friend: ah.
I know that it sounds trivial but this meal did elicit this intense desire and the dessert was just not cutting it. I had this Nitro coconut island thing, which was light but also tasteless, and Josie had a pineapple soup thing which wasn’t really working for her either.
I have no other word for the Bazaar except bizarre. It is definitely a special occasion place and I am very glad I went but the whole time it was like Alice in Wonderland. And to quote Alice, ” I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir, because I’m not myself you see.”. If that is what they are looking for then that is what they got. The Maitre d’ told us that they received a letter from a person who said they would never go back to the establishment because they like to go to dinner and a show and that the dinner was a show. The Maitre d’ concluded that was the best compliment they could have received. So job well done!
After this strange dining experience what do you think the UG ladies did? Dinner, of course. We headed to Highland Park where our friend was kind enough to invite us to an Easter dinner with her family. We had champagne in plastic cups, paper plates, homemade pies, and a family that was yelling at the sister for taking the picture incorrectly. The Uncouth Gourmands are people that are just as happy with a pricey brunch at a trendy place as they are sitting around a table with a family.