Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555
Date: June 7, 2012
Cuisine: Spanish influenced Molecular Gastronomy
Rating: Awesome, but needs to mix it up.
I’m a bit of a Jose Andres groupie as not only have I been three times to Saam, at least 10 to The Bazaar (REVIEW HERE), but also to brunch at Trés, and even to é by José Andrés (twice) and Jaleo in Vegas and several places in Washington D.C.
For those who don’t know, José Andrés is perhaps America’s leading practitioner of my favorite culinary style: Spanish Molecular Gastronomy. This school of cooking, a radical interpretation of the preparation of food, was begun at El Bulli outside of Barcellona. Andrés cooked and studied there with master chef Ferran Adrià. I first encountered Andrés’s cooking in Washington DC at Cafe Atlantico, and its own restaurant within a restaurant, Minibar.
I’ve eaten molecular a number of times in Spain, for example at Calima and La Terraza. The Bazaar and Saam brought molecular style to LA.
Saam is the “secret” prix fixe only room within the Bazaar, open Thurs-Sat.
Tonight’s menu, which follows very closely on the typical Saam/é formula.
Tonight begins with a “Kaviar Kir Royale” which is a deconstructed cocktail consisting of cava. You can see the miniature ”kaviar” (spheres of kir) more clearly here, looking every bit like fish eggs. Basically it’s mostly cava, but at your whim you can bit into the little balls of flavor for bits of kir flavor blast.
From my cellar: “The 2007 El Pecado is 100% Mencia from the DO of Ribera Sacra. Its ethereal aromas are reminiscent of a great vintage of La Tache (readers will surely think I’m exaggerating) leading to a layered, sleek, elegant wine with tons of spice, that seems to melt in the mouth.”
The extraordinary wines of Raul Perez must be tasted to be believed. Words simply cannot do them justice. The problem is that they are produced in minuscule quantities. I was only “allowed” 1-2 bottles of this particular wine and I’m lucky to get even that.
“Beet & Yogurt.” This couldn’t have weighed more than an ounce and has a texture not unlike styrofoam (in a good way). It actually tastes great, tart and sweet at the same time.
“Oyster and Jamon.” A little spoonful of oyster with some ham powder and a crispy crouton. It tasted exactly like it sounds. Like intense oyster and a good dollop of HAM!
“Jicama wrapped Guacamole.” Micro cilantro, corn chips. The vegetarian substitution for the ham.
“Parmesan Macaron.” Tastes like… parmesan.
“Seabeans in Tempura.” Fried and salty, they could have been anything.
“Jose’s Combination.” Jamón Ibérico de Bellota with a blob of real caviar. This ham is regarded as the best in Spain, and among the best in the world. They are fed on acorns. Salt on salt here. A very savory combination.
“Ottoman Carrot fritter.” Apricots, pistachio sauce. Vegetarian substitute for ham. A deep fried ball of flavor, with a very exotic taste.
Deconstructed “patatas bravas.” In spain this is a common dish basically being roasted chopped potatoes with a cayenne mayo. This preserves the flavor, but changes up the texture into a little fried cigar. The inside was fluffy and soft. Quite tasty.
“Chicken Skin & Cigala.” This is a bit of crispy chicken skin with a fresh shrimp or crayfish body on top. It was salty and soft/crunchy, and quite good.
The vegetarian sub for the chicken/shrimp. There are artichokes here.
“Not Your Everyday Caprese.” The mozzarella has been through the same sphere process as the olives above, then we have a peeled cherry tomato, tomato seeds, a bit of basil, sea salt, little crackers, and a very fine house made pesto genovese (with extra virgin olive oil). I’m not even a raw tomato fan and this is delectable. The pesto cheese combo really makes it. This pesto is as good as mine (recipe here).
“Crispy Nigiri.” A bit of red snapper on a blob of crispy Spanish rice.
A fantastic special risotto also using bomba rice, with a chunk of fresh santa barbara uni, some black garlic paste, and a bit of bbq eel. It was tremendously good.
“Mushroom risotto.” Instead of the normal Italian risotto rice it used a premium Spanish one, calasparra bomba, and extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Very tasty.
“Chipirones en su Tinta.” More or less a classic Spanish dish, octopus in it’s own ink. Plus some squid ink chips. Very soft and tender meat, complemented by the sweetness of the ink.
“Baby beets, citrus, pistachio, goat cheese.” A nice variant on what has become an LA classic substituted for the Octopus.
“Banh Mi.” A brioche bun with wagyu beef, tofu, cilantro, pickles, pickled carrots, and a kind of mayo. Tasty tasty sandwich. A mix of soft and crunchy too, but the pickles give it a very distinct tang.
“Carrot or Scallop.” Crunchy marinated carrots over seared scallops.
“Brussel sprouts, lemon puree, apricots, grapes, lemon air.” This was a big hit, the sprouts aren’t bitter at all, and have a light cabbage-like texture. The lemon air is the best part, adding a nice zing.
“Mirugai.” A bit of geoduck giant clam, radish, and a watercress puree. This wasn’t my favorite dish, being a bit “clammy.”
Replacing the beef for the vegetarian was a pomegranate cous cous.
“Wild mushrooms in papillote with duck liver.” Sautéed, then heated with a rich cream and mushroom sauce in the bag.
Pop. These are “lobster mushrooms” with a really thick meaty texture and almost lobster/abalone like flavor. There is some foie gras in there too, which just “juiced” it up.
“Japanese Baby Peaches.” Burrata, hazelnuts, arugula.Really interesting. The peaches were so tart off the trees that they were soaked in simple syrup. Paired with the blobs of burrata (a favorite of mine), the nuts, and arugala it was pretty divine.
“Dragon’s breath popcorn.” The pre dessert. A gimmick, but neat.
It tastes like… carmel corn, but you can exhale it through your nose for a dragon-like effect.
“Frozen Apricot Timbale with Amaretto.” This is essentially a semi-fredo, and as it was intensely apricot, and I love apricot, was downright amazing.
“Dessert desert.” This is chocolate ice cream and something nutty “powdered,” hence the “desert” part of the whole thing. The flavors were nice but it was a tad dusty.
“Birthday spun sugar.” Tastes… sweet.
The usual Bazaar “sexy little sweets,” a number of flavored chocolates (flat and in domes) and very good pate de fruits. One of the great things about the brunch at Trés is that they have an all you can eat tower of containing all of these!
A little chocolate hazelnut cube and the menu as a “parting gift.”
Overall, Saam is a tremendous meal, even if not every dish is successful (geoduck!). My biggest observation this time around is that both Saam and é need to mix things up more. I ate twice at é nine months apart and that menu barely changed a dish. Saam fared a bit better, since they mixed up perhaps 25-30% of things. The best new dish was the apricot dessert. The first time you eat one of these meals it’s very impressive, and their exclusive nature doesn’t lend itself to repeats (particularly in Vegas). Still, when cuisine is this innovative, they need to keep innovating like Ferran did at elBuli. With the avant garde, stagnation is death!
For a previous Saam meal, click here.
For a meal and The Bazaar proper, click here.