Truffle Dinner Series
SAAM at The Bazaar
465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 2/23/13
It’s been a while since I’ve been to The Bazaar, Jose Andres’ ever popular molecular gastronomy/tapas restaurant. After more than two years, a truffle tasting menu is what brought me back to the restaurant’s private dining area, the SAAM Room; the restaurant held one series in the fall and another in the month of February. $250 paid for 16 courses with black truffles and The Bazaar’s unique flair for creativity in their dishes. Considering the price tag of the special ingredient, I thought this was a relatively reasonable splurge.
My past two experiences at SAAM Room left me thinking the entertainment factor took front seat to flavor development, especially compared to Las Vegas’ é by Jose Andres (which I think has the much better overall experience). However, this meal would exceed expectations set from the past meals.
A lone white saucer awaited us at the table as we sat down. We were too curious to not take a peek inside, which yielded a glimpse (and instant aroma) of the not-to-secret ingredient of the night (we ate through almost the entire thing be the end of the night). I’d have to admit I was pretty excited at this point.
The Little Truffle Maker
The meal began with a gin-based cocktail. Incorporated truffle salt provided a preview of things to come, while a crispy strip of bacon added a smoky, fatty flavor to the earthy drink.
The next dish was a two-parter. A maple leaf-shaped Parmesan crisp was topped with yogurt and black truffle puree, paired with a yogurt powder-covered truffle oil leaf. Fun textures with truffle essences coming through on both.
This was one of the best dishes of the night – a black truffle meringue sandwiched chantilly cream and shaved black truffles. The meringue was so light, melting in the mouth with a subtle truffle flavor. The slices of truffle brought an additional truffle punch, while the sweet chantilly was a wonderful combination.
Cod & Honey
A little bit of a fishy flavor and a little bit of honey were the main flavors – the truffle was present but subtle.
Chicken Demi – “Deuil”
An all-star lineup of ingredients made up this next bite. Fried chicken skin was topped with jamon iberico, shaved black truffles, and jamon iberico fat. Ridiculous.
Dashi Linguine & Mozzarella
The next dish was similar to the notable caprese served at The Bazaar. Cherry tomatoes, liquefied spheres of mozzarella, micro-basil and air bread croutons all made an appearance with black truffle-dashi “linguine.” This was a pretty cool plate, with the tasty truffled dashi “noodles” working well with the freshness of the tomatoes and mozzarella.
Penne & Almond
This was another successful dish based on another fake pasta. The penne was actually made of parmesan water, sitting in a broth of almond milk and a chicken escabeche. Parmesan crisps and shaved black truffles topped it all off.
Of course, the dark egg wasn’t actually an egg at all, but a black truffle gelatin somehow injected with a liquid yolk. SO cool. While the appearance of the egg resembled a Chinese ‘thousand-year old’ version, the consistency was pretty spot on for the egg white…though with a truffle flavor. The yolk burst upon the breaking of the gelatin, mixing with the carbonara sauce base. More black truffles were shaved atop the whole creation.
A butterflied baby langoustine was our next dish, cooked a la plancha. A rich and creamy potato puree filled all the crevices, mixing with the sweet flesh of the shellfish. As we’d become accustomed to, black truffles were shaved on top, adding their earthy essence to the sweet seafood. Yum.
Black Truffle Risotto
We found this risotto to be good, albeit on the salty side. Comparably-speaking, it seemed relatively pedestrian in concept to the previous courses.
Steamed Fish with Black Pepper Air
The generous chunk of steamed cod was very moist and tender but almost devoid of any flavor. The black pepper air was a bit too subtle, so the truffles really stood out here.
Pork Belly with Perigueux Sauce
Our last savory course was the heaviest of the evening, pork belly with a rich truffle-madeira Perigueux sauce. The meat was fairly dense (I presume it was pressed to shape and remove excess fat) with its predictable layers of fat; I thought the truffles got a bit lost in the richness even though it was both incorporated in the sauce and shaved on top. Liquefied spheres of a piquillo sauce was a difference-maker, bringing a zesty sweetness to each bite.
Flan in the Desert
Moving onto dessert, we had a mixture of chocolate flavors with a cookie crumble. Earthy truffles were incorporated in the crumbly base; nuts, chocolate and truffles were the primary flavor profiles.
Coconut with Black Truffle
This next course was a bite of a misnomer since they forgot to shave any truffles on it (which we learned after finishing the course). Liquid nitrogen-frozen olive oil ice cream was teamed up with a hazelnut sponge, coconut foam, and passion fruit jelly. I really liked the ice cream and coconut, but was very curious to see how the truffles would work with all of it. Really would’ve liked a re-do on this one; it took away a lot from the overall experience.
Chocolate Bubble Wrap
White Truffle Air
The last items were a duo of sweets – chocolates made with truffle oil and a white truffle sponge. Truffle and chocolate made a tasty combination, while the melt-in-mouth white truffle air provided a final truffle essence to the meal.
The wine pairings (technically 7 wines, 1 beer) were quite good, and we found them to match really well with the food on this evening.
Vincent Raimbault Sparkling Vouvray, Brut, Loire Valley, France, NV
R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia, Viura, Rioja, Spain, 2003
Malina Ram, Orange Pinot Grigio, Venizia Giulia, Italy, 2008
Unita Brewing Dubhe, Imperial Black IPA, Utah
Arnot-Roberts Chardonnay, Santa Cruz, California, 2011
Parigot & Richard Cremant de Bourgogne, Bourgogne, France, NV
Domaine de l’Ausseil P’tit Piaf, Merlot, Cotes Catalanes, France, 2011
Alvear Solera Cream Sherry, Montilla-Moriles, Spain, NV
I thought this was both a unique and excellent experience. I really just wish the staff hadn’t forgotten the truffles on one of the courses, as it detracted a lot from the overall experience. I still can’t believe such a flagrant mistake was made. Outside of that, some of the dishes were truly outstanding including the eclair, chicken demi, and dark egg. And hey – it was sixteen frickin’ courses of truffles, instantly making this a memorable meal. For the record, I was not sick and tired of the ingredient at the end of the meal. For any truffle lover, I’d highly recommend this over-the-top experience…just make sure the truffles show up on each course.