When it comes to special occasion dining in Los Angeles, there’s no better place to bring a big group than The Bazaar, José Andrés’ multi-faceted gastronomic pleasure palace at the SLS Hotel. My friends celebrated their birthdays to a repeated chorus of oohs and ahs, not only due to the restaurant’s dramatic tableside preparations, but also for the stunning cocktails, Philippe Starck’s over-the-top décor and most importantly, the food. The Bazaar packs plenty of glitz, but they have more than enough substance to justify a splurge.
Jonathan Gold recently took a thinly veiled swing at The Bazaar in his 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants for “slinging the more reproducible artifacts of molecular cuisine without respect to season or place.” While it’s true that The Bazaar should probably change its menu more often to capitalize on SoCal seasonality, it’s hard to knock them too much on that front. After all, their massive menu features dozens of traditional and modern tapas. It’s nearly impossible to deliver both seasonality and selection. The Bazaar chose the latter, and it’s a tradeoff that I can more than live with.
My experiences have generally been very positive at The Bazaar, including Brunch at The Bazaar, Sherry Tasting with SLS Beverage Director Lucas Paya, dineLA Restaurant Week Event and The Tasting Panel Magazine‘s recent Albariño tasting. This was my first blowout dinner at The Bazaar, and most of the dishes were good to great.
The Roja y Blanco space isn’t my style, but it was visually arresting, with an open kitchen that offered views of the army of cooks that The Bazaar requires to prepare their mammoth menu. My favorite aspect was probably the “graffiti” that covered the chalkboard columns and walls. Behind the bar opposite the kitchen, they keep Spanish hams that are shaved to order with millimeter precision.
We went all-in and then some, ordering the tasting menu ($65 per person) and springing for several add-ons. Here’s a dish-by-dish rundown of the experience, including prices for individual dishes, in case you decide to forego the tasting menu.
We each started with Bar Centro’s cocktails, which are some of the best in L.A.
Most people chose New Classics ($16 each), which were primarily re-imagined classics like The “Liquid Cherry” Manhattan. We were given a choice of Rye, Bourbon or Canadian Whiskey. Our waitress suggested Michter’s Rye, which added some spice when shaken and poured into a martini glass with a spherified cherry.
The “cherry” at the bottom of the glass was the night’s first encounter with spherification. To spherify something, mix a liquefied or pureed ingredient with sodium alginate and dip in a bath of calcium chloride. At The Bazaar, this technology was also applied to an “olive.” Unfortunately, the cherry didn’t have the explosive sweetness that even a Maraschino delivers, but it was interesting.
Our waitress poured a “Magic” Mojito from a shaker and strained it over cotton candy. This was a missed photo op, since the cotton candy melted into the martini glass as soon as the citrusy yellow liquid made contact. Presentation aside, this was still a well-balanced mojito and wasn’t overly sweet despite the “candy.”