On Sunday I celebrated the start of dineLA’s Restaurant Week with a prix fixe dinner at The Bazaar by José Andrés. Part swank nightclub, part carnival funhouse – The Bazaar is not your typical fine dining establishment. Perhaps it’s the wave of the future, or perhaps it’s just a fad. But gone are the white linen tablecloths and large plates of food. Enter the tapas. And each dineLA diner gets to choose five from a forty-item $44 prix fixe menu: one starter, three small plates, and one dessert.
“Philly Cheesesteak”. Though Andrés is known for molecular gastronomy and culinary innovation, most of the prix fixe items are of the traditional variety. One of the few exceptions is the “Philly cheesesteak” – my choice among the starters. On the surface, Andrés’s cheesesteak looks nothing like a traditional cheesesteak. While the cheesesteak we know is big and sloppy, Andrés’s cheesesteak is small – almost bite-sized – with thin slices of highly-marbleized Wagyu beef, sprinkled with sea salt and chive, resting on what looks like a miniature French roll. But where’s the cheese? One bite into this tidy little creation suffices to answer that question. The mini-French roll isn’t a French roll at all, but Chef Andrés’s signature “air bread.” Biting into it releases a torrent of molten white cheddar cheese, destroying any notion that this neat little cheesesteak is the simple dish it appears to be. It may come out looking refined, but it goes down the way a cheesesteak should: a salty, beefy, cheesy mess.
Mussels with olive oil, vinegar, and pimentón. This is a traditional Spanish dish – an homage to the Spanish art of canning. But instead of sealing the tin and allowing the dish to age – as would be done in Spain – The Bazaar serves it fresh. As a consequence, the dish lacks some of the nuance and complexity associated with its Spanish cousins, but offers a surprising amount of clean, exciting flavor.
Jamón Serrano Fermin. This small plate is more like a platter. It includes two ounces of thinly sliced jamón and half a loaf of Catalan-style toasted bread with a sweet tomato paste. This is the most filling of all the menu options; if you don’t want to leave hungry, order the jamón serrano.
Endive with goat cheese, oranges, and almonds.Though the ingredients are few and the preparation is simple, this dish is crisp, light, and full of flavor, reminding me somewhat of one of my favorite things to eat as a child: orange creamsicles – with the oranges lending just enough sweetness to offset the endive’s natural bitterness.
Traditional Spanish Flan. This is a quintessential Spanish dessert with little surprise – just wonderful flavors, harmonious textures, and perfect execution.