[REVIEW] The Bazaar Miami Restaurant Review
Sometimes when I'm feeling cheeky, I like to tell myself (and others, when they comment on my excessive gastronomic adventures) that my job is to eat. This makes me one those lucky people in life who love what they do, so even though I may technically be on holidays down South, I never take a break from my "work". Poor, Abbey, I know. Well this week we made a little day trip to Miami to do a little exploring and find some good eats. I managed to get a reservation at The Bazaar by Jose Andres in the gorgeous SLS Hotel after doing a bit of thorough research from the Florida Chowhounds. With two locations (one in Beverly Hills and the other in South Beach), Jose Andres has a pretty strong culinary track record including a number of cookbooks, James Beard awards, a PBS food series (Made in Spain), and numerous other television appearances and speaking engagements related to his work in food policy.
The Miami location is led by David Thomas (previously of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc), and features two separate dining rooms (the smaller Rojo room at the front and the more formal Blanca dining area at the back), both supported by three separate kitchens. We were sat in the front room, which was perfectly fine with us as it allowed for a lot of very interesting people watching. Let's just say I had to strategically position my male dining companion away from the sea of stunning legs so that he could even attempt to hold a decent conversation. Now, I have been to a lot of beautiful places filled with beautiful people in my life, but it got to the point that I started to wonder how they let me in! Just a reminder to myself to maybe get my hair blown out ahead of time after a day at South Beach. Oy! Anyways, in the moments I managed to tear myself away from the herds of eye candy, I noticed the interesting decor. The room was broken up by massive pillars, decorated with Spanish phrases. I didn't even attempt to decode, and simply appreciated them for their style. On the wall beside our table hung a massive bull's head enrobed in a Mexican wrestler's mask, and on a neighbouring wall hung a large framed screen playing a dream-like movie of half-naked models (because the live one's walking in and out of the hotel weren't enough!) This is definitely not the cottage-cozy restaurant look that seems to be favoured back at home. Regardless, somehow I still felt comfortable and welcome.
This might have something to do with the charming, professional service. Our male server ensured a flawless perfectly timed meal execution (start to finish "long" tasting menu over 2 1/2 hours), appropriately replacing cutlery, filling water glasses, and cracking a few tasteful jokes in the process. With the exception of one of the food runners (who always followed up for us), the well-orchestrated staff all seemed to know the menu and be enthusiastic about their favourites. At one point in the night, a young lady popped by our table to deliver a complementary vegetable dish because we were "the nicest table of the night". It were little interactions like this that really made our evening a treat, and that is not even saying anything of the food and drink.
The cocktail menu at The Bazaar is fun, innovative, and features lots of references to molecular gastronomy techniques (foams, liquid nitrogen etc). If we didn't have a long drive back to Palm Beach, we would have stayed all night and sampled ourselves silly, but alas, choices had to be made. We tried the Passion Fruit Up (Rum, passion fruit and ginger-laurel syrup, topped with passion fruit foam), and the Pisco Sour (pisco, fresh lemon and lime juices, egg whites and bitters). On the former, the foam was reminiscent of a whipped up passion fruit curd that retained its silky smooth texture yet with a light as air finish. Much less sweet than the Passion Fruit, the Pisco Sour was incredibly smooth and well balanced.
Passion Fruit Up
Food-wise, the menu promised a unique combination of old world Spanish cuisine, and globally inspired tapas. One look and I was a bit overwhelmed with choices (there were 4 pages), so we immediately opted to be relieved of decision making burden and opted for the "long" tasting menu, instead. We had:
Jose's Taco with Caviar and Jamon Iberico
A super big first small bite. As instructed, we rolled the caviar around the Spanish ham for one incredibly powerful mouthful of savoury goodness. Maybe a little bit too salty (could have used a bit of acid to cut all of the sodium), but nevertheless, it was incredibly tasty.
Aceitunas Rellanas with piquillo pepper, anchovy and olive oil
Another hit of savoury flavours, but this time, the olive oil and aromatic orange zest tempered down the salt to a much more palatable level.
"Bagels and Lox": Salmon roe, dill cream cheese in a cone
One of the tastiest, yet simplest dishes of the night. The cream cheese in the bottom of the cone was luxurious, creamy and light, and the salmon roe literally burst in my mouth with sweet, salty fish flavour. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly balanced.
Kueh Pai Ti with shrimp, peanuts, and chili sauce
I adored this dish and will try to replicate this sometime as a hors d'oeuvre at home. The edible cup was crispy and salty, and the filling was incredibly well-balanced, with perfectly dressed noodles, well seasoned shrimp, chili and crunchy peanuts in a single bite.
Croquetas de Pollo: Pulled chicken with Bechamel Fritters
Yikes- left with a platter of these and I would be in for trouble. The filling was rich, creamy, cheesy and completely exploded with oozy goodness upon cracking into the crispy fried exterior. I loved the decision to serve the fritters in a plastic shoe, it was wwhimsical and playful and complemented the food.
Japanese Taco with grilled eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi, pork chicharrones
Loved the idea of having a thin slice of cucumber as the taco "shell" to balance out the richness of the smoky eel, and the crispy pork rind and the heat of the wasabi.
Boa Con Lechon: Chinese Bun with pork belly
Yum. They accidentally gave us four buns instead of two, so we had to kindly request that they remove the excess before we filled ourselves up. They were incredibly delicious. The pork belly was tender and crispy, and the bun was fluffy and buttery. Simple and addictive.
Cuban Escabeche "Estefan's Way": Hamachi, pickled onions, sour orange
Incredibly thin hamachi, with a texture that simply melted on the tongue. The sauce was incredibly flavourful with a touch of bright citrus and briny capers adding a good kick.
Smoked Oysters with ice and smoke, apple mignonette
Wow. My nose was saying hot, smoky BBQ aroma, but my mouth was saying icy crunchy refreshing flavour, all of which was balanced by the sweet acidity of the apple mignonette. A serious theatrical performance of the mouth.
Dragon Fruit Ceviche with tuna, pecans, lime and hibiscus
Beautiful bowl of fresh tuna, with just enough sweetness from the dragon fruit and hibiscus. I appreciated the addition of crunchy pecans to contrast the smooth tender texture of the fish. My only criticism would be that I found the lime a little overwhelming, and it probably could have used a bit more salt.
Black Rossejat: paella-style pasta, squid ink, shrimp, aioli
Massive portion, but we were specifically instructed not to eat it all. Biggest-challenge-of-life. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente with a rich, thick flavourful sauce, and perfectly cooked shrimp. It might have been a touch oversalted, so I'm glad I didn't whip through the whole pot, but regardless, it was a stellar main course.
Brussels Sprouts with lemon puree, apricots, grapes, lemon air and banana
I am a huge brussels sprouts fan and this was a lovely way of serving them. The leaves were delicate, and retained their bright green hue despite being tossed with lemon, and the mild bitterness of the sprouts was perfectly balanced out by the citrus and sweet fruit. Parents of picky eaters- this is how to turn BS-phobes into BS-lovers.
Cuban Coffee Rubbed Churrasco with Passion Fruit and Brown Butter Sauce
Perfectly cooked steak with a slightly crunchy exterior from the coffee grounds. I appreciated the strong hit of bitter brew against the sweet caramelized flavours of the sauce below.
Bone Marrow with Caribbean white truffles, Florida citrus, capers
Sauteed Catalan Spinach with apples, pine nuts, raisins
This was our extra complementary dish that turned out to be one of my favourites. The bowl was smeared with a praline butter, that lent a delicious rich savoury note to the delicate flavour of the spinach, and balanced the sweetness of the apples and raisins.
Cubano Sandwich in Honour of Cafe Versailles
We were warned to eat this one carefully over the plate and while I certainly did my best, it didn't save my hands from getting a shower of swiss cheese foam. In the end, though, I didn't mind because the combination of tender pastry, rich cured meat and salty cheese was finger-licking good.
Baby Japanese Peaches with fresh burrata, hazelnuts, and zatar
Yuca Churros with peanut butter and Garden of Ian honey
Likely one of the simplest dishes of the night, but no doubt, one of the tastiest. I am not one to turn down fried dough, in any form, and these churros were probably the best I have ever had. The yuca lent an incredibly moist texture to the interior, while maintaining the signature crunch factor everyone loves. The honey was subtly sweet, and melted into the grooves of the dough, while the house made natural peanut butter balanced out the sugar. I may or may not have eaten 3 1/2 of them (and selected all of the long ones).
Tres Leche Cake with pineapple granita
Once I saw the desserts hit the table, I became incredibly excited as I recognized them all as some of my all time favourite flavours. The cake was impossibly moist, with a delicate level of sweetness, and a bright, crunchy granita to balance out the richness of the cream.
Mojito Sorbet with caramelized bananas, meringue and graham cracker crumbs
Served in a frozen banana boat, the sorbet had a burst of lime flavour, with just enough bitterness to balance out the inherent sweetness of the beautiful bananas, and the creamy meringue topping.
Deconstructed Key Lime Pie
This was probably my favourite of the three, mainly because the lime "filling" had sweetened condensed milk beginnings, which is probably one of my all time guilty pleasures. Here the meringue had a beautiful toasty smoky aroma which offset the sweetness of the pie filling. Yum.
So, for two long tasting menus, two cocktails, 2 cappuccinos (amazing, see above) and a few bottles of sparkling water, the bill including tax and tip was around $350. Yes, this is a pricey and indulgent meal, but we both felt it was absolutely worth every penny and more. We have paid a lot more for tasting menu meals that were neither as inventive or as delicious, and when combined with the stellar service, top notch cocktails and hopping atmosphere, we both declared the Bazaar one of our all time favourite meals. We definitely no where to come next winter for our Miami day trip.
If I have any Floridians who are reading, please do send over your recommendations for delicious eats! I am always looking for a unique meal.