No restaurant in years has opened with quite as much fanfare as Bazaar by José Andrés in the new SLS hotel, an opera set of a small-plates restaurant designed by Philippe Starck, incorporating a Moss boutique featuring $1,500 sconces, and led by chef Andrés, whose Spanish restaurant Jaleo is currently considered one of the two or three best restaurants in Washington, D.C.
Andrés is of a card-carrying cadre of the new gastronomy, a terrifically gifted chef in his own right, who seems almost to moonlight as a protégé of Ferran Adrià, and whose repertoire has expanded from the tomato-seed “sushi” and Coca-Cola-glazed foie gras that first brought him national attention to the full array of foams and gels and airs and improbable emulsions that form the core of Adrià’s cuisine. At Bazaar, whether you end up sitting in the modern “white” side, the traditional “red” side or the central bar, you will still wind up with a margarita topped with a frieze of salty “air,” a mojito poured over a puff of cotton candy, or a martini garnished with a squishy globule of olive juice, whose surface has been thickened with an industrial gel.
Would the riff on a caprese salad — cherry tomatoes impaled with pipettes full of liquid mozzarella that you are supposed to squirt into your mouth the moment you bite into the fruit — be more effective if it weren’t reliant on microbasil and tasteless winter tomatoes? Might the miso spaghetti with salmon roe be more pleasant if it were made with actual pasta instead of strands of gelatinized broth? Is there any reason for the existence of Philly cheese steak reconceptualized as an airy, inverted Hot Pocket? Is foie gras really improved by a blanket of cotton candy?
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Don’t get me wrong — dinner at Bazaar is fun and probably slightly less expensive than you’d fear. I am looking forward to returning, and to checking out the more formal restaurant Andrés is scheduled to open fairly soon. But at the end of the evening, the dish you’ll remember best will probably be the hand-shaved wisps of priceless bellota ham, a foodstuff whose basic technology hasn’t changed in 3,000 years. 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 246-5555.