My mom used to always say, "Let the food shut the mouth." As the mother of four, she knew a particularly good meal meant her brood would be quiet for at least the five minutes it would take to eat it.
I have a different interpretation of what Mom was talking about when I say I had a meal yesterday that leaves me speechless. Words can't really describe it.
Which is really stupid of me to be trying to write about it this morning.
I'm not in the business of restaurant reviews, and no, I'm not trying to write off my dinner last night ... this is honestly what I'm clicking on today. I have to see what other people are saying about this restaurant.
I went to dinner with friends last night at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Bazaar restaurant opened earlier this year. I'm still flabbergasted, so I (of course) Googled it and found "A Rare Four-Star Restaurant Review: The Bazaar by José Andrés" in the LA Times.
I haven't experienced a restaurant like this in LA, but I also don't get out as much as most restaurant reviewers, so I was pleased to read that it's not just me.
The chef behind Bazaar, José Andrés, is credited for bringing the concept of "small plates" to the United States. You order two or three things each, and with our party of four last night, you get a pretty good taste of this truly bizarre, eclectic menu.
I took a bunch of pictures of some of the particularly attractive dishes before we dug into them, which was no small task. The stuff is hard to resist. Check out the slideshow at the top for my pictures, and this site, "My Last Bite," for a few more photos I found online of things we either didn't order, or disappeared too fast for the camera. The first picture is a creamy blended gazpacho. Oooh! And I just found the Gazpacho recipe online -- check it out here.
There are traditional Spanish tapas, and then their more modern counterparts. The best example of this contrast: the olives. Old school, stuffed with an anchovy. Then the new twist: a sort of olive shooter in a spoon that looks like a regular green olive, but it's a sort of space-age, scientifically deconstructed and reconstituted olive orb that explodes in your mouth with the truest olive flavor burst you've ever had.
It's described in a lot of food blogs as "molecular gastronomy," which, in this case, involves a lot of liquid nitrogen and special effects. Now, if you're like me, you think, oh brother. But the the "lemon air" on the brussels sprouts leaves, or the pouf of coconut you get on your "Nitro Island" dessert is such a departure from the ordinary food we eat every day, that I'm going to declare right here and now that no, it's not a gimmick. It adds texture and movement and -- eek -- sometimes smoke to the experience.
Seriously? Really, this is a lot of fun. I'm always into really good food, but when it's too fussy, I think you sometimes sacrifice something. "Pretty" food doesn't always taste as good as, say, just a plain 'ol fish taco from Taco's Baja in East LA. But the pictures of the food, in this case, really didn't do justice to the riot of flavors in each dish.
And I felt the same way about the service. The people at The Bazaar are so excited about the food, they seem to be endlessly entertained by the reactions they get from people trying it for the first time. Like the LA times critic pointed out, it's accessible and fun, and "I don't think I've ever been to a serious restaurant (serious in the sense that each dish is a revelation) that was as engaging and playful."
I couldn't have said it better myself. Why am I still trying?
Moving from The Bazaar to the bizarre, and smoking food to The Smoking Gun, check out this story today about a guy who tried to smuggle a bunch of birds through customs at LAX. This guy, Sony Dong from Orange County, had 14 songbirds strapped to his legs in little bird-pouches.
The Smoking Gun story says:
...agents inspected Dong and "found bird feathers and droppings on his socks, as well as birds' tail feathers visible under his pants." A subsequent search "discovered 14 live birds attached to two flat pieces of cloth that were wrapped around his calves. The birds included three red-whiskered bul-buls (which is listed as an injurious species under federal law), four magpie robins and six shama thrush."
They go for $50 each in Vietnam, and Dong told the guys at customs he can get $300-$400 apiece for them here in the United States.
Dong, and a friend, were indicted in Federal court here in LA yesterday.
I'm going to go check on the screech owl baby I wrote about yesterday; I'll have an update on him tomorrow.
Editor's Note: My meal didn't have liquid nitrogen-infused anything or coconut clouds, and nothing exploded or rioted, but it still tasted good.