Friday, April 9, 2010

Washington, DC: minibar by Jose Andres

minibar by Jose Andres, what can I say other than it made my trip to Washington, DC a memorable one. Enough to make me want to come back for more.

I'm not going to get into the history of the restaurant or the chef because we all know about it, seen his work in pictures all over the blogsphere or read about it in notable trade mags like Bon Appetite, Food & Wine, Saveur, etc. One of my first experiences of his work was during an episode of Iron Chef America beating Chef Bobby Flay (whaat!) followed by a feature in the DC episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation show.

This is serious eats. Not meant for all, really.

No, really. I mean, there are two seatings with six diners at a time. If you do the math, that's roughly 3,120 diners a year (open five days a week, closed on Sunday and Monday). This year, I was one of the lucky 3,120 diners to land a seat with my first try. No worries, I'll have a separate post on how to properly land a reservation here.

I digress.

Ok, two seatings with six diners at a time. Basically the layout is like this, think chef's table in a sushi bar-like setting and you get to interact with the chefs while your meal is prepared. Cool stuff. I like it!

minibar is essentially a restaurant within a restaurant. When I arrived at Cafe Atlantico, I was about 20 minutes early so I hung out at the bar while I waited to be escorted upstairs. I liked the latin-vibe of the restaurant. It's a place where you can go out for happy hour after a long day at work. Business chic, yet casual and not obnoxiously stuffy. It's definitely a different vibe from The Bazaar.

I'm a cocktail kind of gal so I started off with one of my favorite cocktails, a mojito.

(Left) Magic Mojito - cotton candy deconstruction of the classic mojito (rum, mint, sugar, soda & sugar cane.
(Right) Caipiruva - lebion cachaca, housemade grape soda, & St. Germain elderflower liquer served in a tall glass with St. Germain "pickled" kumquats.

After the first seating concluded, the second seating was escorted upstairs to the "minibar". Here's a number of photos of the bar layout.

Look, a cotton candy maker. The chefs declared this machine the BEST cotton candy maker, EVER.

Interesting kitchen gadgets, including a computer screen. The magnet below reads "Beware of Attack Chef".

The hand sculptures freaked me out a bit. I was watching them closely to find out if they would move or not.

The three chefs on deck that night were Chefs Jorge, Nate, and Ryan.

The 27 (29) -course menu is divided into four sections: Munchies, Flavors & Textures, Desserts and Sweet Surprises. Munchies are typically courses with one or two bites. Flavors & Textures and Desserts had special utensils and Sweet Surprises reverted back to single bites.

Note: There were two courses I couldn't identify. After reviewing the menu, it didn't seem they were listed. Then again, I was a bit tipsy during the entire meal so I will 'blame it on the alcohol' for my lack of detail.


1. Hot and Cold Pisco Sour
A new version of a pisco sour cocktail with a frothy egg white topping and a contrast of hot and cold.

2. Beet "Tumbleweed"
Fried julieanned beet

3. "Cornbread"

4. "Bagels and Lox"
Smoked salmon roe, fresh dill, cream cheese

5. "Ferrero Rocher"

6. "Mojito"
Mojito-flavored liquid encapsulated using calcium chloride

A sneak peek of our next course. Yes, those are real rocks, but not edible.

7. Flourless Blue Cheese and Almond Tart

8. Steamed Brioche with "Caviar"
Steamed brioche, caviar and topped with lemon air

9. Tomato Crisp with Anchovy

10. Tempura White Asparagus

11. Cotton Candy Eel
Cotton candy eel with shiso leaf, wasabi, and ginger

Flavors & Textures

A tasting is not complete without special utensils. These ones are unique because one end looks to function like a fork/pick while the other side is a spoon. We were advised to return the utensil back to its stand after each course. Of course like a little kid, I kept forgetting.

These particular utensils were not crafted for minibar. Instead Chef Jose Andres picked these up during his travels.

12. Smoked Oyster with Green Apple

13. Zucchini in Textures
Zucchini gelee, zucchini seeds, zucchini mousse

14. Dragon's Breath Popcorn
Caramel corn dipped in liquid nitrogen

Yes, I ate it before taking a photo of it. The photo would have came out blurry anyway due to the plumes of smoke.

15. "Guacamole"
Tomato sorbet, wrapped in thin slivers of avocado, crunchy tortilla chips, lime juice

16. ?
A new dish that I forgot to write down notes on. It had carrots obviously and I recall mentioning that I would eat more vegetables if carrots were made this way all the time. One of my favorites of the night.

17. "Sun-Dried" Tomato Salad

18. Charcoal Salmon Toro with Black Garlic "Tzatziki"

Hmm, dry ice or liquid nitrogen? What do you think?

19. ?
I seriously forgot what this course was. By looking at the photo, squash flowers were involved and some puffy croutons. Someone please help me!

20. New England Clam Chowder
Potato puree, sweet caramelized onion paste, whipped bacon cream, chive oil, clam foam, fresh clams, bacon bits

21. Parmesan "Egg" with Migas
Quail egg yolk within a parmesan yolk, fried bread wafer, black truffle

22. Cigala and Chufa

Chef Jorge lightly torching the wagyu beef while preparing the "Philly Cheesesteak" course.

23. "Philly Cheesesteak"
Air bread, creamy cheddar, Wagyu beef


24. Kumquats and Pumpkin Seeds

25. Thai Dessert
Coconut milk ice cream, frozen peanut powder, lemongrass tamarind gelee

This was a much better version than the one I had at Saam. The frozen peanut powder didn't overwhelm the dish, see here.

Sweet Surprises

26. Mango Box
Translucent mango, white chocolate box, topped with black olives

27. S'Mores
Passion fruit marshmallow, dark chocolate (I can't remember if graham cracker was used here).

28. Bacon and Chocolate

29. Fizzy Ball
Lemon-lime flavored cotton candy with sodium bicarbonate.

I almost choked on this. A bit strong for my tastes.

Finally the bill. It came inside an egg and our chef smashed it in front of us to reveal our bill.

At the end of our meal, we were handed a menu listing every course that was presented to us. This is the first menu I've receive that was actually printed on transparency paper. Nice touch!

Afterthoughts: This would probably be the best low-key, relaxed tasting I've done to-date. What I love, NO DRESS CODE. After being in work clothes for majority of the day, putting on a nice pair of jeans and a sequined top is my style of a relaxed look for dinner. Anyways, I thought the meal was not overly filling where I didn't need to be rolled out in a wheel barrel. Unfortunately, I was a bit more tipsy than usual so I hope I didn't offend anyone (especially the chefs) with my probing questions or photo taking. I had a great time and would definitely recommend this place to anyone visiting this fine city.

Over a year ago Think Food Group CEO Rob Wilder mentioned plans to expand minibar from its existing 6 seats to 18-24 seats. If it ever happens, be sure I'll be planning my next trip out to DC.

Next time, no Magic Mojito - great stuff but it will leave you thinking you've done something wrong (haha!).

minibar by Jose Andres
Second Floor
405 8th Street NW, Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-0812


QueenoftheFall said...

Just went there on Saturday. It was amazing! I love that it's so small. One reservation didn't show, and the other couple left early. So by the end, it was just the two of us!
Great post on this, by the way. I was looking for a good way to describe the meal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review and the pictures. I've been trying to find something like this to showcase to my friends how amazing Jose Andres' cuisine looks and sounds. Thanks!

BrandonA said...

Great photos here! We recently went to minibar and didn't get a chance to take many photos.

If you don't mind I'm going to use a photo on my blog but will be sure to link back to your blog and credit your photos. If you would like me not to, please let me know.

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