Saam Room at the Bazaar – 10/22/10
Saam Room at The Bazaar
SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills
465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Since opening in late 2008, The Bazaar has received very positive local and national acclaim. The brainchild of renowned chef Jose Andres, it’s been awarded 4 stars by the LA Times and recognized as one of the best new U.S. restaurants by Esquire and Forbes. Adding even more buzz, the restaurant’s opening Chef de Cuisine, Michael Voltaggio, won Top Chef season 6.
The Bazaar is one of the more unique restaurants in the city as many of its dishes are, literally, spectacular. Using some molecular gastronomy flair, the plates served are unique in preparations and style. This is most evident in The Bazaar’s not-so-secret back dining room – the Saam room. Serving a tasting menu of 20+ courses, this separate dining room showcases some of the restaurant’s most fun and unique dishes.
I’ve been to The Bazaar a few times, and the Saam Room once before. From those visits, my general thoughts were that the food was interesting, though somewhat hit or miss in terms of taste. This meal would prove to be my strongest meal here yet.
The Golden Boy
The first “course” was this shot of sherry, cava, bitters and gold dust. This tasted similar to Martinelli’s sparkling cider, something I really enjoy. I could have consumed a whole glass of this.
Lotus Root Chip
Next up – thinly sliced and fried lotus root chips, topped with star anise. The star anise added a rather subtle licorice-like flavor to these chips.
Olive Oil Bonbon
Next is a staple on the Saam menu – the olive oil bonbons. A candied shell encapsulates olive oil, making it look like a drop of olive oil suspended in air. I enjoyed the sweetness of the exterior in tandem with the richness of the olive oil.
Bagel & Lox Steam Bun
This was a variation on the classic bagel combination of a bagel, lox and cream cheese. Instead this was with a steamed bun topped with salmon roe, dill and creme fraiche. Interesting interpretation. All of the flavors were present, though I didn’t think it was anything special.
Tuna Handroll 2009
Liquefied nori, sesame paste, avocado and chopped tuna filled this cone, which was the restaurant’s interpretation of the sushi roll. I actually really liked this, with the crispy cone adding some nice texture to this bite.
Black Olives Ferran Adrià
This dish has evolved a little, from being just “olives” to “black olives,” with the addition of a little squid ink in the spherification. It tasted just like an olive, with a hint of squid ink. It’s a lot of effort just to get the flavor of an olive with squid ink, but I thought this preparation was kind of cool.
I first had this at this year’s American Wine & Food Festival and loved it. This plate is combining two very decadent ingredients (Jamon Iberico and Spanish caviar) that work well together. The richness of the fatty ham and the salty, briny caviar made a very nice bite. So simple and so delightful.
I appreciated the salty meatiness of the pastrami, wrapped around a crunchy cracker. A little bit less inventive than other dishes, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
The Bazaar has always had some great boneless chicken wings. Really crispy and moist, these go down easily. I thought the buffalo sauce, while just a small dollop, was very strong and almost overpowering. I kinda wish I could purchase a bucket of these, without the sauce, and watch some weekend football.
Here we have shima aji atop puffed rice. The fish was good, though I thought the fish:puffed rice ratio was a bit low. Interesting interpretation of the traditional nigiri.
Chipirones en su Tinta
Next was a squid dish with a squid ink sauce. Puffed rice (made with squid ink) accompanied the squid, lending the dish a nice crispy texture. The squid was a little chewy, though tender, and was extremely flavorful. I really enjoyed this dish.
Linguini and Clams
This was really interesting. Dashi was solidified using agar agar to make a “pasta.” Small bits of mirugai clams were included to complete the dish. The “noodles” tasted like an udon soup – wonderful. The clams were too small to really be noticeable though, but I still enjoyed this dish.
Japanese Baby Peaches
Very sweet Japanese peaches were paired with burrata cheese, hazelnuts, a hazelnut praline and a crouton. The creaminess of the burrata worked well with the sweet peaches, while the crouton and hazelnuts provided some nice texture.
Hot & Cold Foie Soup with Corn
Here we had a foie gras soup topped with corn foam. I didn’t get a lot of the foie gras flavor here, but the corn was sweet and delightful.
Not Your Everyday Caprese
One of The Bazaar’s most famous dishes features a marinated cherry tomato, a tomato “heart,” pesto and a mozzarella spherification. This was a cute and unique presentation, and the flavors were spot on.
Kurobuta Pork Belly
This was the first really meaty dish of the night. The pork belly was pretty lean and tender, and I enjoyed the potatoes which accompanied the pork. The pickled vegetables added some nice acidity.
White Truffle “Risotto”
We were told that black and seasonal white truffles were an optional supplemental course. Here’s shaved white truffles over Japanese bomba rice, made risotto-like. Wild mushrooms were added into the mix for some additional flavor. Truffles and risotto are a common (and in my opinion somewhat overused) pairing, but it’s hard to go wrong – I enjoyed the earthiness of the truffles and the al dente rice.
Foie Gras Cotton Candy
This was another supplemental dish of cotton candy filled with foie gras. Interesting. I enjoyed the richness of the foie gras paired with the sweet, light cotton candy. Rather unusual, but it worked for me.
A now-classic dish at the Bazaar is the Philly Cheesesteak. Air bread, cheddar cheese and wagyu beef are combined to make a haute version of the sandwich. I’ve enjoyed this “sandwich” many times, and this was no exception. The beef and cheese meld together very well, with the air bread adding a little bit of body to each bite.
Dragon’s Breath Popcorn
One of the most spectacular dishes is the Dragon’s Breath. A bowl of liquid nitrogen was placed on the table, in which small pieces of caramel popcorn were placed.
The effect of chewing the popcorn was sensational. The liquid nitrogen was so cold that breaths of air turned into ‘smoke’ coming out of your mouth and nostrils. Definitely a fun dish, though this tasted like standard caramel popcorn.
This was the first dessert of the evening. A clementine sorbet and rose sabayon were paired together. I enjoyed the citrus flavor of the sorbet in tandem with the floral tones of the sabayon. In addition, the light sorbet paired well with the richness of the sabayon quite nicely.
The second dessert featured eucalyptus mint ice cream, peppermint mousse, and chocolate ganache. The mint had a strong flavor – combined with the rich chocolate, it made a great mix. Mmm chocolate and mint. The cookie bits added the necessary texture to complete this dish.
Sexy Little Sweets
Lastly, we finished with the mignardises. We were presented with vanilla and mixed berry gelees, salty dark and vanilla with red peppercorn chocolates, and earl grey, lemon ginger, and saffron chocolate truffles. My favorite was the earl grey with its strong tea flavor, which I liked with the chocolate.
In all, I thought this meal was pretty good. We had some pretty interesting dishes (the linguine with clams, olive oil bonbons, cotton candy foie gras) and nothing was bad. However, I don’t have a desire to return for a while; I think a lot of The Bazaar’s draw is in experiencing some of the novelty and being able to play with your food, and I’ve satisfied that curiosity for now.
It’s funny that you don’t have a desire to return. I feel just the opposite! Every visit makes me want to go again!
Ahh I’m just weird I guess. Everyone else seems to enjoy it!
Definitely didn’t know the Saam Room even existed! Probably because it’s not in my budget to do the 20 course tasting! 😉 But fun to live vicariously through you. I really would like to go for high tea some time. Love Waylynn’s pastries and am always a sucker for girly tea things like that.
The Saam Room is a good way to try the Bazaar, but I’ve heard the afternoon tea service has some interesting eats as well. I’ve actually been for brunch when they had it, and they served some really good stuff.