Location: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.246.5555
Date: March 14, 2018
Cuisine: Spanish influenced Molecular Gastronomy
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.
Somni is the “secret” prix fixe only room within the Bazaar, which replaces the previous secret room, Saam. The new one has a format more like é by José André as it’s 10 seats and fairly theatrical. There are two seatings, and a $235 dollar a person (includes tip) tasting menu. They do allow dietary restrictions with advance notice.
Somni has its own waiting tables out in the lobby. But knowing that we are serious gluttons and that the many courses would be small we decided to partake of a “pre-dinner” by ordering off the Bazaar menu.
Fred brought this older Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée. These mature grand cuvees are fabulous.Foie Gras Floating Island Soup. Corn espuma, corn nuts, chives. I haven’t had this exact soup before, but it is roughly based on an older Jose foie soup I had 20+ years ago at Cafe Atlantico. Very rich — lots of cream.
Oxtail Steamed Buns. watermelon radish, cilantro, serrano chili. I love the texture and breadiness of these Chinese buns combined with other more savory ingredients.
‘Rossejat’ Negra. paella-style pasta, squid ink, sepia sofrito, shrimp. Very nice version of this dark noodle based squid ink paella.
Tortilla de Patatas “New Way”. potato foam, egg 63, caramelized onions. The ingredients of the traditional tortilla (potato & egg) deconstructed and served in a very soft fashion.
“Philly Cheesesteak”. air bread, cheddar, wagyu beef. I never get enough of this dish! The crispy bread, the soft wagyu, and the succulent salty meted cheese inside!
Then we move on to Somni proper.
The former Saam space has been opened up to the Bazaar kitchen, reformatted in lovely pale wood and with a semi-circular bar. It’s much more airy.
The whole kitchen is visible behind the bar. And there is a weird empty void space behind the guests.
The kitchen now merges into the Bazaar kitchen.
Chef de Cuisine Zabala Aitor, hailing from Catalonia and Basque. He worked at El Bulli, Arzak, Aelarre, and ABaC!
The vessels are all exquisite.
Hojita. A nitro frozen cocktail of rum. Delicious and strong.
Fred brought: 1990 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. BH 97. 1990 is one of my favorite vintages ever for this storied cuvée because while the vintage was on the riper side the high yields allowed the fruit to retain a very good level of acidity which made for balanced and ageworthy wines. While I have had the pleasure of tasting the ’90 on a number of occasions since its release, the last time was alongside the 1985 and the 1988, and as admirable as those two vintages are, the 1990 is head and shoulders above them to my taste. The fantastically complex nose is comprised of an abundance of yeast and toast characters that don’t completely dominate the essence of apple, pear, citrus, spice, acacia blossom and discreet orange peel scents. There is equally good depth to the delicious, full-bodied and powerful flavors that possess a lovely sense of vibrancy thanks to the still firm but fine mousse that shapes the delineated, delicious and impeccably well-balanced finale. In my view 1990 is one of the greatest vintages for this wine of the last 25 years and one that is still drinking well. While there is no additional upside development to be hand, neither is there any rush to drink up as this should continue to hold effortlessly for years to come.
We get to see all the intricate plating.
Pan con tomate y jamon. Classic toast with tomato pulp and jamon. The toast itself may not have actually been toast.
Almond shell. Looks like almonds, but you pop the whole thing in the mouth and eat it — soft, nutty, and amazing.
Apple floret, cheese & beet. One of these cheese, apple, beet salads served in sponge form.
“Piggy” de manteca colorada. A pig shaped little crisp.
Jose has long had a thing with “hands.” Not sure what it is.
Caviar & Truffle. Straight up briny goodness.
Nori empanada. I can’t remember what was inside but it was delicate and crispy.
Spot prawn and that’s it. Pure succulent Santa Barbara spot prawn steamed or sous vide or something. Incredibly fresh and juicy. Sucked out the head!
Erick brought in it’s special box.
1986 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Blanco. VM 96. The first bottling for this wine since the 1970; aged for 21 years in oak casks, followed by another six years in concrete vats. Pale gold. Pear nectar, orange zest, beeswax, fennel, vanilla and honey on the explosively perfumed, highly complex nose. Densely packed citrus and pit fruit, candied fig and chamomile flavors are sharpened by juicy acidity and a jolt of minerality. Juicy, penetrating and sappy on the extremely long, spice-laced finish, which eventually leaves behind mineral and orange pith notes.
agavin: best white Rioja I’ve ever had. So clean and complex.
Pigtail curry bun. You dip it in the curry sauce — incredible. This was an amazing dish.
Hibiscus Margarita. Another nitro frozen treat, served in the flower. Hard to eat and very alcoholic — but tasty.
Live scallop. Inside this lettuce dumpling.
And in it’s final form. Very “leafy.”
Egg, sea urchin & truffle. An amazing combination. The egg was dried and salty and overall this was an umami bomb.
“Croissant.” With lobster and shellfish reduction. The sauce was one of those French-style “bisque”-like sauces. Great dish with the elements of a lobster pot pie basically.
Larry brought: 1970 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Ygay Reserva. 94 points. Still vibrant and dark red, surprisingly strong fruit and good acidity with a little dill on the finish. Plenty of life left in this one.
Alubias con jamon. Sort of beans and ham — but spherized.
Pekin chili crab. Vague flavors of peking duck.
From my cellar: 1980 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único. 96 points. Opened and decanted and then poured and drank over the course of maybe 2.5 hours. This is a wine that was only getting better. Prob the early part of the drinking window, but really with time in the decanter it was gaining body and interest and so it’s not going anywhere fast. It’s got that wonderful spice that I love in Unicos and hints of red fruits underneath and just a perfect wine.
Japanese A5 & bone marrow. It comes hidden under leaves.
We pulled them off so you can see the meat — pretty neat.
Larry brought: 1959 Moulin Touchais Anjou. 95 points. Golden sweet and amazing.
Under the sugary snowflake was ice cream, macha, and some kind of nut paste?
Vienetta. Like chocolate and vanilla custard.
Merienda. A little white chocolate and nut paste sandwich.Mochi.
Matcha doughnut. Inside was gooey matcha custard that just exploded out! Amazing.
Overall, the food was amazing at Somni. Much more advanced and “sophisticated” than the early Saam meals which were just Bazaar+. This is much more theatrical and formal, much more in the vein of E or minibar.
Service was excellent. First rate really and very attentive. Wine service was very slick too.
But things ran very smooth and FAST. Too fast as the entire meal in Somni from walking in the door to rolling out was only 1 hour and 45 minutes! Yeah! It should have been 3. Maybe a few more courses. They do this, I assume, so they can comfortably get two seatings in and not be working super late. But it felt a bit rushed.
And most crucially, particularly as we opened 6 bottles of wine (5 at dinner proper) we didn’t have enough time to finish our wine. The somm did a great job opening the wines and all that, but he was a bit slow starting them up because of the cocktail and then didn’t pour super aggressively. The net was that we didn’t finish half of it — and considering the quality level and cost of the wines we brought — really at the very top of Spanish wines — it was kinda a shame. I’m sure the staff enjoyed them later 🙂 which is certainly better than wasting them. But really he should have poured faster and warned us that there was no way we would get through so many. We probably only at 1:30 to drink 5 bottles with 4 people.
Apparently they change the food fairly rapidly, so we plan to be back soon, just with less wine or more people.
They also nominally have the annoying 2 bottle per party limit — which I hate and have ranted about before — but they let us open all our bottles with no complaints so kudos to them.
Also, this was only the 2nd or 3rd night they were open — and everything was very polished — pretty impressive.
For a previous Saam meal, click here.
For a meal and The Bazaar proper, click here.