Sunday, November 1, 2009

Los Angeles: Saam at The Bazaar

Saam at The Bazaar is the closest we'll ever get to true Gastronomy on the west coast and Alinea is gastronomy at its finest in the U.S.

So the question is, who was better? Saam or Alinea? My answer at the end of this post.

First off, we don't live in Los Angeles. We literally drove two hours from San Diego to Los Angeles to dine at Saam. After our meal, we drove back home the same night. This was a similar situation when I dined at Alinea and drove two hours from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago. You can find my three-series post on Alinea here.

Saam is essentially the chef's tasting room at the city's hottest restaurant, The Bazaar by José Andrés. It's a 40-seat hideaway tucked behind the Bar Centro away from the glitz and lively action of the main restaurant. This is not the first hideout of José Andrés. He also has a more exclusive 6-seat tasting room at Minibar within Cafe Atlantico in Washington, D.C.

So what makes José Andrés hot in the City of Angels? Well, his mentor is avant-garde chef Ferran Adrià, the owner of the world's best restaurant in the world to-date, elBulli. If you're not one of the few lucky guests that have dined at elBulli, you'll be sure us unlucky ones will flock to the next big thing, any avant-garde chef who has been influenced by Ferran Adrià. Essentially a disciple of "Adriànism" in which I'm devoted follower.

Now, this is where our story begins. A devoted follower, experiencing the gospel of Adriànism by José Andrés.

After you are escorted to the back of Bar Centro, the hostess will open the door to the tasting room. That night there were roughly 13 tables. We sat in the back corner booth. The space is designed by Philippe Starck which is lined with Murano glass sconces (looks like a skull), rectangular mirrors and creamy leather.

As we were seated, we were given a leather bound wine list which was extensive (12+ pages) and the option to keep the menu tableside or be surprised. We opted to be surprised.

Here is a copy of the 23-course menu.

As soon as we were seated, the courses started coming quickly so I didn't get to photograph the first and second courses.

Course #1: Nitro Caipirihna
Tableside service. Frozen liquid nitrogen cachaça and lime.

Course #2: Artichoke Chips

Course #3: Olives Ferran Adria
Olive-flavored liquid, sodium alginate and encapsulated using calcium chloride

Course #4: Olive Oil Bonbon
Extra virgin olive oil, encapsulated in isomaltose

Course #5: Bagel and Lox Cone
Smoked salmon roe, fresh dill, cream cheese

Cocktails from their specialty cocktail list.

Magic Mojito - $16
Served in a shaker and strained over cotton candy

Mojito - $16
Havana’s refreshing classic, made in the traditional method

Course #6: Caviar Steamed Bun
Paddlefish roe, crème fraîche, lemon air, steamed bun

Course #7: Jose's Ham & Cheese
Air bread, La Serena sheep's milk cheese wrapped in Jamón Ibérico de Bellota

Course #8: Boneless Chicken Wing
Green olive purée, chicken wing

Course #9: "Canned" White Asparagus
In celebration of Spain's great canning tradition, white asparagus, yogurt, black olives, tomato caviar and edible flowers.

Course #10: Sea Urchin Ceviche

Course #11: Japanese Baby Peaches

Course #12: Guacamole "New Way"

Course #13: "Corn on the Cobb"
Baby corn, spanish truffle

Course #14: Kampachi "Nigiri"
Hamachi, watermelon, wasabi, red wine, soy, jalapeño

Course #15: Norwegian Cigalas
Lobster, toasted brioche, seaweed salad, lobster broth

Course #16: "Smoked" Arctic Char
Smoked salmon on top of a chickpea pancake, tzatziki sphere, compressed cucumber, green chickpeas, olive oil, dill

Course #17: Not Your Everyday Caprese
Cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella, pesto, balsamic vinegar

Course #18: Tournedos Rossini
A5 Wagyu beef, cotton candy, toasted brioche

Our server Daniel, prepares the course tableside by pouring liquid nitrogen into a bath to dip small morsels of caramel corn popcorn. Diners are asked to chew the morsels with their mouths closed while breathing through their nose. The effect: plumes of smoke escape through your nostrils.

Course #19: Dragon's Breath Popcorn
Caramel corn dipped in a liquid nitrogen bath


Course #20: Thai Dessert

Course #21: Warm Chocolate Mousse with Pear
Chocolate mousse, coconut sorbet, pears, pralines

Course #22: Petits Four
Course #23: Tablets - Bonbons
White chocolate-raspberry and chocolate-candied orange lollipops, dark chocolate tablets and bonbons

To conclude our meal, we were each given a copy of the menu rolled as a scroll and tied with a gold bow.

After thoughts: The food was solid. It was what I expected for a full-on tasting menu. Our servers were knowledgeable of the courses and willing to answer any of our questions. Once I busted out my dSLR, the servers were quite accommodating to my food shots. It seems I was better equipped than other diners since everyone one else was using their iPhones.

The verdict: I really wanted to love Saam as much as my beloved Alinea, but you will never forget your first love.

What happened: A few issues occurred during our visit that I couldn't get past. First off, when we checked-in 15 minutes prior to our reservation (which was recommended), we were almost late for our tasting because none of the hostesses bothered to notice that we were waiting and have not been escorted to the tasting room. We arrived 5 minutes after our appointed reservation time.

When we arrived to the tasting room, it felt awkward. There was no direction as to where to go or who to follow. Unlike Alinea, the hostesses knew who I was when I walked in and escorted me directly to my table.

Lastly, after signing the check, we waited a few minutes to receive our menus. Finally, I asked for the final menu and what caught me was his statement of "I'm still new at this..." which is a no no in my books. Service was not spot on as it should be.

Would I go back? It depends. Perhaps if I'm in town for business or a friend invited me to tag along. We probably wouldn't drive two hours unless we're invited to. Maybe we witnessed an off night due to the Halloween festivities so I still recommend this place for other foodies who actually live in town since the price is right at $95 per person.

Aside from the service issues, I'm still a fan of José Andrés. I wished we had a better experience at Saam. I already booked a rezzy to dine at Cafe Atlantico in March and plan on making a rezzy for Minibar once the book opens in February.

Things to know:
  • If you're not into molecular gastronomy or avant-garde cuisine, then Saam is not for you. Check out The Bazaar and if you're wanting more, then book a rezzy at Saam.
  • Saam is located behind Bar Centro within The Bazaar restaurant at SLS Hotel. Valet parking is available for $10. There is also street parking available next to the hotel.
  • The Bazaar is attached to the hotel and has its own entrance near the valet.
  • Dress code: Upscale casual. Dark jeans is acceptable attire. A jacket is not required.
  • The tasting room is open from Thursday to Sunday starting at 6:30pm and the last tasting is at 8:30pm.
  • Book at least a week or two in advance. You can book a rezzy by calling Saam at 310-246-5545. You will be asked to fill out a reservation form (shown here) and a credit card is required to hold a reservation.
  • The prix fixe 23-course menu is $95 per person. The average cost for two people with 1 cocktail, tax and gratuity is around $300.
  • No wine pairing option by the glass, only by the bottle. I recommend pairing the tasting with their specialty cocktail list. If you're not driving, I would do about 2-3 cocktails. I highly recommend the "Magic" Mojito.
  • You are asked if you want to keep a copy of the menu tableside or be surprised. For your first time, you may want to view the menu to ensure you get all of your courses and substitute any courses with some of your favorites such as Cotton Candy Foie Gras.
  • Don't forget to take home your menu (or ask for it).
Saam at The Bazaar
465 South La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90048



Robyn said...

Hey Jocelyn, your pictures look great! I haven't had the tasting menu from Saam yet, just had food from Bizaar while grabbing coctails. But your pictures make me want to try the full tasting for sure! I'm loving all the spots you're hitting up, by the way. If you're ever up in LA and need a dining partner, let me know!

Epicuryan said...

Great pictures. Looking forward to your miniBar post. I am currently on the wait list for Jan 27 but it doesn't look good so I'll just have to live vicariously through you two.

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