Mugaritz @ SAAM at The Bazaar (Los Angeles, CA)

Mugaritz + Saam
SAAM at The Bazaar
SLS Hotel
465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 7/21/17

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It’s been over 4 years since I dined at the Saam Room, the tasting menu-only private room in the back of The Bazaar by Jose Andres. I’ve appreciated the experimental nature of the restaurant – it never fails to provide something new, exciting, and different with a flair for the whimsical. Andres’ organization recently announced that the Saam Room was closing to re-conceptualize. To mark the occasion and provide a sort of farewell, the restaurant hosted a two-night dinner with chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz. Mugaritz, a well-known restaurant in Spain, currently holds two Michelin stars and is ranked the ninth best restaurant in the world. Aitor Zabala, who will be chef of Somni when it takes the place of the Saam Room, teamed up on the collaboration. The menu was about 20 courses ($250), with Aduriz and Zabala more of less alternating on each course.
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Bazaar Meat (Las Vegas, NV) [2]

Bazaar Meat by José Andrés
SLS Las Vegas
2535 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/7/15

exterior

My first visit to Bazaar Meats was just a few weeks prior, but my family and I returned two weeks later primarily to try the suckling pig. On our previous visit, it was highly recommended by our server, but the dish ran out just before we could order it. While in town for Vegas Uncork’d, we stopped in again to try this suckling pig along with a couple of new dishes.

grill display

pigs

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Bazaar Meat (Las Vegas, NV)

Bazaar Meat by José Andrés
SLS Las Vegas
2535 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 4/23/15

exterior

Bazaar Meat is Jose Andres’ latest concept, opened as part of the new SLS Hotel in Las Vegas. The restaurant draws inspiration from the classic American steakhouse, married with Andres’ Spanish flair. The menu offers something for everyone from a vast raw seafood bar (including a caviar bar), meats in raw carpaccio/tartare form, cured meats, Spanish small plates, and an impressively long list of meats cooked to order. Just for beef ribeyes alone, Bazaar Meats offered them from five different ranches, all of different breeds and sold by the pound. Other cuts of beef, suckling pig, lamb, veal and various fish were all available as well.

interior

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smoke.oil.salt (Los Angeles, CA)

smoke.oil.salt
7274 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Dining date: 4/27/14

exterior

Spanish cuisine has gotten a lot of attention on the global scene in recent years; as diverse as Los Angeles is, we haven’t seen a lot of new Spanish eateries open up. Except for, of course, the megahit Bazaar; opened almost six years ago, it’s still one of the go-to spots for tapas in the city. smoke.oil.salt aims be another premiere Spanish option in LA.

Opened by Adam Fleischman/AdVantage Partners in the old Angeli Caffe location, the food is tapas-style focused on a lot of traditional flavors. Perfecto Rocher is the chef here, who most recently brought his Spanish influences (and resume including stops at El Bulli and Martin Berasategui) to Lazy Ox Canteen. I visited Lazy Ox a couple of years ago when Rocher was cooking and enjoyed it, so was excited to check out his next stop.

interior

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Jaleo (Las Vegas, NV)

Jaleo
The Cosmopolitan
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/9/13

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Jose Andres is probably known best for his whimsical, molecular gastronomy creations at The Bazaar (including Saam Room) and Minibar, but he does cook a lot of more traditional fare as well – Jaleo is his version of the Spanish tapas restaurant of his homeland.

There are four Jaleo restaurants across the country, though this Las Vegas branch is the only one not in the Washington D.C. area. Located in The Cosmopolitan Hotel, it sits on the same floor as Scarpetta, STK, Estiatorio Milos, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Comme Ca, and the “secret” pizza place.

jaleo3

jaleo2

The menu is vast, covering over 75 items across meat and cheese plates, land, sea, fried items and paella. Paella are made in a separate paella pit within the main dining room, allowing all diners to watch an impressive display while the paellas cook. Apparently the ventilation system alone cost $1 million, preventing all of the smoke from suffocating diners. Clearly, paella is serious business.

paella area

cooking paella

I’ve dined at restauarant-within-the-restaurant é by Jose Andres and left impressed. This would be my first visit to Jaleo proper.

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Lazy Ox Canteen (Los Angeles, CA)

Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 4/1/12

lazy ox exterior

I’ve been to Lazy Ox Canteen a number of times and have always had a fairly positive experience (except for the time they ran out of fried chicken at 6:30). However, for me it’s been stuck in the “pretty good, not great” category and it’s been a while since I’ve returned even though I live a block away. The restaurant has undergone some dramatic changes in recent months, leading me to this latest visit.

lazy ox interior

Opening chef Josef Centeno has now moved on to focus more on his own concept a few blocks away, Baco Mercat. In his place is Perfecto Rocher, a Spanish-born chef who has spent time in a number of renowned kitchens around the world (Gary Danko, Picasso, Manresa, Martin Berasategui, El Bulli). He’s been remodeling the menu and, given his background, I’m expecting it to be drastically different from what Lazy Ox patrons have been accustomed to. As of tonight, just under half of the dishes were Rocher’s creations (and growing), with the rest being legacy Centeno plates. From Rocher’s resume, what really intrigued me was that he’s a third-generation paella maker – I love the dish and always look forward to having it.

Tuesday (3/27) was National Paella Day (yes, this is the first time I’ve heard of it too), and the the restaurant celebrated by preparing a full week’s worth of paella, presenting a different paella each day. Tonight was the final day; Rocher served up a country style paella with rabbit, escargot, chicken, artichoke and lima beans. Of course we’d order that, but we started with a few small plates.

grilled octopus tomato confit, fennel, olives, white balsamic vinaigrette

octopus

The grilled octopus, with a smoky charred flavor, was slightly chewy with a cool, crunchy asparagus and fennel salad and light acidity from the vinaigrette. A slice of tomato added some juicy sweetness as well.

roasted japanese eggplant bonito flakes, yuzu kosho creme fraiche

eggplant

I really liked these. The eggplant was roasted down to a creamy consistency, while the bonito provided a lot of the depth of flavor. There was a tart yuzu flavor that was almost too acidic, but I thought these were still delicious bites.

huevo ‘arzak’ french fry purée, chorizo oil

arzak egg

arzak egg poked

Given Rocher’s experience, I was very intrigued by this dish inspired by Juan Mari Arzak and his eponymous 3-star restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain. One of Arzak’s signatures is a poached egg resembling a pouch or a flower. This one didn’t have as much of a ‘pouchy’ resemblance as other examples I’ve seen, but it did the trick. A starchy yet creamy potato purée tasted just like French fries (without the texture) and acted as the base for the oozing egg and chorizo oil.  Simple but rich and satisfying.

crispy rabbit livers hearts of palm, anchovy vinaigrette

rabbit liver

The breading was pretty crispy, but I found the liver to be overly dry. The salad of hearts of palm and celery did a nice job of countering the richness of the organ.

country style paella rabbit, escargot, chicken, artichoke, lima beans

paella pan

paella scooping

paella plated

Finally we had the paella. We were told the paella filling was kept pretty shallow in order to maximize the amount of crispy rice on the bottom. Indeed, the charred bits added texture and flavor to the al dente rice which I really enjoyed. I found the chicken legs to be dry though, but the rabbit and escargot were more moist in what amounted to a pretty meaty dish. Shiitake mushrooms, artichokes and lima beans rounded out the fillings. The saffron flavor here was more subtle than other paellas I’ve had, but I didn’t really mind.

rice pudding caramel, pine nut crumb

rice pudding

This might be one of my favorite desserts in the city, and I’m glad it’s still on the menu (for now?). The rice pudding itself was pretty good, with a subtle vanilla flavor and just a little bit of texture in the rice. With the added richness from the whipped cream and sweet depth of flavor from the caramel, I savored each bite.

Lazy Ox Canteen appears headed in a very different direction under Rocher with a lot of interesting Mediterranean (particularly Spanish) based dishes. Overall though I like it – the downtown area doesn’t have anything with such a strong base of Spanish influences, one of the most exciting food regions in the world right now. I found the flavors to be clean and bright and execution to be mostly strong, so I’m curious to see what the restaurant will be like once the transformation is complete.