The Bazaar - Beverly Hills, CA

Dinner - Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday night at The Bazaar is always a bit of a circus, especially later in the evening when we typically prefer to dine. Fortunately, this night we were seated on their covered outdoor terrace, which is isolated from the incredible indoor din - it was a pleasant night for semi-outdoor dining. Of course, in true LA style, we had to contend with a drunken guest who knocked a large floor lamp over in our direction, shattering the bulbs and strewing broken glass everywhere.

Aside from that alarming hiccup, our experience was smooth throughout the night, lubricated by the friendly and competent service characteristic of Jose Andrés' restaurants. Still quite sated from a large (and very passable) Malaysian lunch at Belacan Grill in Tustin, we ordered relatively few items. I do not mention the cocktails we drank here because they weren't particularly memorable, and are quite frankly grossly overpriced at $16 each - consider us permanently spoiled by the immeasurably better (and cheaper) cocktails at the Violet Hour.

Chorizo, lomo, salchichon
Catalan-style toasted bread, tomato
Excellent - the chorizo had an atypical funk that combined with the smoked paprika and fattiness to really make it stand out. The lean lomo was a nice contrast with a subtle sweetness from the loin flesh. The aromatic olive oil on the tomato bread made it shine, and it synergized with the cured meats, working well to support their saltiness.

Bunuelos - Codfish fritters with honey aioli
Barramundi, black garlic, scallions
To me, the least successful dish of the night. While the fish itself was very well cooked (down to the perfectly crisp skin), the other ingredients didn't come through enough, and seemed mostly superfluous. A classic case of one excellent component completely overshadowing everything else on the plate.

Tortilla de patatas - Potato espuma, 63°C egg, caramelized onions
In Spain, tortilla de patatas is essentially a frittata containing fried potatoes and onions. It would be nigh impossible to produce something bad with these ingredients, and this interpretation of the traditional dish stands on equal ground with the original. The soft-cooked egg combined seamlessly with the buttery potato and caramelized onions. I would have preferred somewhat less of the onions, as I found their sweetness a bit too strong, but this slight oversight certainly won't prevent me from ordering this over and over again.

"Not your everyday caprese"
Cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella, pesto
The key to this dish is ensuring that you get one of every component in a single bite: one tomato, one mozzarella sphere, one basil leaf, one puffed cracker, some pesto and a dot of reduced balsamico. Done correctly, you get an explosion of flavours and textures in your mouth - soft, crunchy, creamy, grainy, sweet, salty, tangy, peppery goodness.

Japanese tacos
Eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi, chicharron
Really just a deconstructed unagi maki, the Japanese tacos featured a tried-and-true flavour profile that never fails to disappoint. I liked how sizable each piece of grilled unagi was, allowing me to fully enjoy the texture of the eel.

Wild mushroom soup
Idiazabal cheese, egg yolk
Oven-roasted cippolini onions
Clementines, passionfruit, pumpkin seed oil
A deceptively simple dish, but carefully calibrated so that the combined sweetness of the onions, clementine segments and passionfruit liquid don't overwhelm the tastebuds. The nutty/earthy qualities of the pumpkin seed oil were absolutely essential for grounding the other components.

By the time we concluded the savory portion of our meal, the ambient temperature had dropped considerably, and we moved inside to enjoy our desserts in the patisserie.

Traditional Spanish flán
Hot chocolate mousse
Pear sorbet, salty hazelnut praline
Both desserts were strong and well-executed, with the hot chocolate mousse standing out more. In particular, the pear sorbet and braised pear chunks in that dish really succeeded at cutting the decadent richness of the other components. The pear's fruitiness also helped elevate the dish beyond an otherwise ordinary combination of chocolate and hazelnuts.

All in all, quite an enjoyable evening. Mostly highs, only one low, but nothing hit the ball out of the park - I suspect this is because everything on the menu tends to be fairly safe (even the supposedly "out there" dishes), with no truly striking flavour combinations (or perhaps this is a reflection of our jaded palate). My one issue with Jose Andrés' restaurants is that I always come away feeling slightly fleeced, and The Bazaar is no exception - I just can't justify working a place like this into a regular dining rotation. Still, a good place to bring out-of-town visitors seeking some Hollywood flash and glam.

The Bazaar
465 S. La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Phone: (310) 246-5555