The Bazaar by José Andrés

IMG_7924Nothing you have ever imagined in your wildest imaginings or your most sophisticated of pondering will ever prepare you for the very real culinary experience of eating at José Andrés’s “The Bazaar”. The Bazaar is a Spanish Tapas (both traditional and molecular) restaurant based in both Beverly Hills, California; Miami, Florida and opening soon in Las Vegas.

Molecular is by now, very familiar to most but to me it was a new experience. We ate at the Beverly Hills location and I must admit, being out-of-towners, the drive along the looping, wandering traffic circles and winding roads around the restaurant did much to prepare us for the disorienting, unfamiliar shocking gastronomic experience that we had. I wonder if he moonlights as a civil engineer as well?

IMG_7920 IMG_7919 IMG_7918 IMG_7917 IMG_7911 IMG_7910 IMG_7908 IMG_7903 IMG_7921

The space, designed by Philippe Starck,  is sexy and mysterious with lots of discombobulating interior features and rooms entering rooms much like the Russian Matryoshka dolls. But unlike the Matryoshka dolls, symmetry and coherence is not part of the design, at least not at first glance. Dining rooms are cut at bizarre angles, each with its own lighting philosophy and design sensibility. The foyer is dressed with vintage memorabilia, whilst others are designed like dance floors of the true era of disco.

We were seated at a line of tables which extended from the foyer in a single, white, diagonal line, flanking other more expansive dining areas shielded behind pillars and thick velvet curtains, some reflected by the ever present mirrors scattered around the place. Aimed at the “slightly” narcissistic, the wildly imaginative and the seasoned adventurer, The Bazaar places itself well within the realm of the three.  The crowd resembled the space. Families, couples, large bodies of business people, some folk looked like circus entourage, the people were as fascinating as the food.

We ordered 7 or 8 dishes but did photograph them all because they were not all distinctive but those that were, made me cry. I kid you not.

Here are some of the dishes we tried:

IMG_7895

Traditional tapas: scallops on tomato sauce – beautiful combination with a rich and nutty sauce

IMG_7894

Modernist: Listed on the menu under the heading “A Few Sandwiches” the Philly Cheese Steak is probably the one menu item they are serving the largest quantity of each day and indeed it is one of the reasons we even came.

The bread is called “air bread” and the method of making this bread is to put pita dough through a pasta machine so it gets really thin but puffs up when you cook it. A Vermont and Wisconsin cheese mousse is piped into the air bread. Flame-seared Kobe is layered on top of the bread and a puree of caramelized onion placed on top. Finally truffles, and you have food experience that is indescribably erotic and ecstatic as the complex mass of flavour and texture literally explodes into your mouth, creating a heavenly chamber within.

But…that did not make me cry. The olives did.

IMG_7896

The traditionally-prepared olives on the right, placed next to the molecular on the silver spoons on the left, celebrate the journey the olives have made.

If you’ve ever eaten an oyster so raw and delectably alive that you squirmed around in your seat, then the experience of eating molecular olives will draw the same reaction out of you. Made by juicing olives, mixing with xantham, resting the mass, then dropping into a sodium alginate bath the mixture forms into perfect spheres of olives. When placed in the mouth, they pop at the slightest coercion and explode a briny, salty, aromatic, acidic liquid in all parts of your mouth, exciting all the taste buds and causing mild concern at neighbouring tables as you gasp, giggle and cry.

IMG_7898

Beef cheek and potatoes

The beef cheek was pleasant.

IMG_7914

Red Velvet cake

I am an absolute snob when it comes to dessert and always find baked goods to be inferior to raw ones. We tried this because my final presentation at school involved creating a red velvet raw ice-cream so any opportunity to test was a good one. I am sure that it is a marvelous cake to people who have never tried raw desserts.

IMG_7915

A chocolate mousse, brittle shortcake and olive oil, berry coulis

I was still crying over the olives so barely ate this.

The price point on the menu is above average but not high enough to warrant you selling your house to eat there. If you’re in California and have been hmming and aaahing about going there for a while, I highly recommend it.

In my next blog posts, look forward to “Red Medicine” and “Sadtha”.

My Time at the Matthew Kenney Raw Cuisine Academy

Dearly Beloved, We are gathered here today to mourn the absence of the strange, hippy-dippy farmers’ markets, so frequent in Santa Monica that Taipei has not.

Full of flourescent cruciferous creatures inviting hallucinatory inspection, raw honey as varied in flavours as the very flowers that exist, roses, freshly-plucked and of raucous colour, dripping dewy sweetness, dates, soft, nutty, thick, pasty, sweet, delicious and best of all; people: multi-coloured, squat, fat, thin, tall, short, petite, brusque, eye contact, eye contact, eye contact. I was quenched.

My favourite memory of the early morning market in Santa Monica was the sight of a beautiful, large Rastafarian vendor who would accuse me of being scared and shy when I did not want to enter his stall. Burning incense of strange form and colour, draped in African kaftans, his determined eyes finally begged my entry. Good thing too, since his natural creams solved a skin problem for my boyfriend.

Aside from the lovely Rastafarian and strange young foot fetishist who courted my boyfriend’s feet a few times on the beach, Santa Monica was a life-changing experience. I attended “Food and Wine”‘s best-rated plant-based cuisine academy in the world and honestly loved every moment of it.  Matthew Kenney Cuisine Academy is a student’s dream and the restaurant attached to the academy, a healthy eater’s necessity. The course was a month-long, 5 days a week, 6 hours a day. We were gifted beautiful Japanese chef’s knives on the first day, handed to us in what looked to be rifle bags which we had to sling across our backs, making us feel like chef ninjas. Ok. Maybe it was just me, but I felt fierce. I met the most down to earth, friendly, knowledgeable people whom I now consider to be new friends.

The month flew by and I learned a lot of how to set up mise en place and to communicate with people in a kitchen. The recipes were pretty basic but it was great to learn different ways of doing what I already have learned. Even though I had prior knowledge, it was still beneficial.

All the teachers were great, each giving every student individual attention and pushing us where we needed to be pushed, very encouraging, whacky and fun! I am definitely going back for the advanced course and look forwrad to sharing what I learn, too.