Because it's Jose Andres, teamed up with SBE no less, The Bazaar deserves our attention. Some opening night observations: Wasn't too crowded for a first night, picked up by 9pm. Andres not in the house, but we're told he will be tonight and through December. For the Top Chef fans, Marcel is highly visible. Cocktails in Bar Centro first---cowhide sofa slippery, "Cousin It" stool just odd but certainly not the strangest thing in the room, server obviously very excited to finally wait on real customers. Our friend called the overall design "sensory overload." Dirty martinis with brine "air," basically a froth, and spherified olives taste exactly what it sounds like. Escorted to dining rooms: Rojo is darker and sexier than Blanca, plus it has the open kitchen; Blanca was serene. For a first night, our server was pretty spot on. She answered all of our questions, pronounced things in a perfect Spanish accents and knew the menu, which is exhaustive.
The best way to describe the whole concept: Gastronomic playground. Huge menu with a wide array of traditional tapas (for Rojo) and "modern" tapas (Blanca). Hits: bread with tomatoes and jamon Iberico; sea urchin in a can with what was, in essence, a pico de gallo; fideo paella; carrot fritters; Catalan spinach; juicy homemade sausage and white beans. Misses: tough pork cheeks; way over salted sea scallops; "world's greatest" stuffed olives just basically stuffed olives (but the spherification olives get us every time). There are some kinks to work out, but overall, good stuff. Exciting stuff. Escorted to the Patisserie: split a few bon bons for dessert, saffron candy in edible paper was a fun twist.
The check "follows you," so you pay only when you're finally finished. Tips, apparently, are pooled through all of the rooms, which on the surface seems unfair (why would the server working the $1,000 table in Rojo get the same amount as the guy who delivers three bon bons and some water), but they assure us it "all works out." Take-aways: The month of training paid off and hopefully when it gets full, servers will be able to hold their own; there is some serious eating to do here with the traditional dishes and the more adventurous presentations, but we hope they cull through the best of the best and let the rest drop by the wayside; the bathrooms have WAY too many mirrors and bright light, but maybe that's perfect for LA's vanity; SBE d-baggery kept to a minumum, at least for now. (465. S. La Cienega Blvd, 310.246.5555; website)
· Eater Sneak Peek: The Bazaar by Jose Andres [~ELA~]