Friday, June 26, 2009

Saam at the Bazaar - Beverly Hills

Saam, an intimate and secluded enclave inside the Bazaar in Beverly Hills, is perfect for foodies that want to taste it all. So, yes, it was a exhilarating to dine on more than twenty courses, each prepared with much thought and precision. The mastermind behind this food madness is much acclaimed and Iron Chef Champion, Chef José Andrés.

The Bazaar is located in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. It has a little bit of everything: interesting art, stirring colors, and a bustling crowd. It’s the place you want to go to have some serious fun with your friends. Of course because there is so much to look at, décor and people alike, it’s a great spot if you aren’t with the most exciting conversation-mate. But walk through an unassuming door on the other side of this scene and you enter a completely different world. Quiet and private. A haven from the hub-bub.

A flute of bubbly from Spain was poured as we sat down to cheers the start of our anniversary weekend. Not far behind that was the Chef’s “Welcoming Cocktail” and a few snacks. I’m already feeling welcome with the warm reception of a seemingly old friend, Audra, at the front, to our waitress, who greeted us a genuine smile.

Speaking of drinks, I recommend ordering one of the wine flights. I ordered the Spanish flight of four wines: a bubbly, a white, a red, and a sherry. Dear Ben ordered the global flight, which comes with the only sparkling wine served in the White House, Schramsberg. Since you couldn’t possibly pair a drink with each of the many courses, this allows you to pick your food’s partner as you see fit.

The Salt Air Margarita: It’s the solution to the lime and salt rim around your margarita glass. That salty air is built in this drink! I rarely order margaritas out, and when I do, hold the salt. I just don’t like those big salt crystals outlining my glass. I loved the Salt Air Margarita because of its neat look and sophistication of flavor.

Sweet Potato Chips: The Sweet Potato Chips were served alongside the Salt Air Margarita. The sweet potatoes were thinly sliced length-wise and crispy. A yogurt sauce flavored with tamarind and star anise accompanied the chips. It tasted clean, as if to cleanse my palette. Can we take home a bag of these yummy chips as a parting gift? I loved that these chips did not appear greasy at all.

Cotton Candy Foie Gras: Creamy Foie Gras on a stick with crunchy corn nuts surrounded by cotton candy. It’s a time sensitive, one bite delight. I love the contrast between the corn nut crunch and the buttery delicacy.

Olive Oil Bonbon: Olive oil and vinegar encapsulated inside a bit of sumac formed in the shape of a teardrop. When you first put it in your mouth, the bonbon had the feel of delicate hard candy, but once you break that sumac seal, the flavors of oil and vinegar explode in your mouth. Extremely inventive. [None of my pictures turned out well enough to post. I guess I'll have to go back to have another.]

Caviar Steamed Bun: A small steamed bun with a scoop of caviar of Sturgeon. I’m kind of indifferent towards this course, not really a lot of taste to be honest.

Bagel and Lox Cone: This is Chef’s take on bagels and cream cheese. My cone was crispy on the outside with lots of cream cheese. I enjoyed this creation, but Dear Ben did not. He said that his cone was full of liquid, and he felt like he had a mouthful of fish eyes. I told him that fish eyes are a delicacy in some parts of the world and that kids fight over who will get to eat the eye. That did not satisfy the icky feeling in his mouth, but the next course did…

Olives Ferran Adria: Liquid Olives. What? I know, I was just as wide-eyed. Liquid olives were invented by Ferran Adria, whom Chef José Andrés once studied under. Each olive was dipped out of a jar and placed on a white serving spoon. Place the whole thing in your mouth and roll it around with your tongue a bit. Then, pop! Olive juice floods your mouth. I think Chef Andrés should incorporate these into a Dirty Martini when the menu changes. Make mine extra dirty please.

José’s Ham & Cheese: The two bite dishes begin. Thin and hollow bread buns filled with hot liquid Spanish cheese wrapped neatly with Serrano ham. A classic comfort with modern presentation. The robust flavor of the cheese was oh, so delicious!

Sea Urchin Conservas: Four thin slices of Catalina Sea Urchin with tiny raw bits of red and green peppers and onions. Since Spain is the canned good capital of the world, this course was appropriately served in a steel can. Dear Ben wondered why we don’t see sea urchin on menus very often. One of our kind waiters speculated that people are scared of it, particularly because of the texture. I didn’t love; I didn’t hate. Dear Ben said it looked like tongue, and that sorta stuck in my head even though I tried to dismiss it.

Boneless Chicken Wing: These are not the kind you find at Chili’s, and it was not just another chicken nugget. It was white and dark meat pan seared in a crispy batter. Dear Ben loved this, he’s a guy after all, but I loved the little dollop of bright green olive purée on top.

Shrimp Cocktail: Santa Barbara spot prawn prepared with a bit of lemon and sesame seeds then skewered with a pipette of cocktail sauce. You put these succulent and sweet shrimp in your mouth and squeeze the pipette for a squirt of cocktail sauce. No more dipping required! The squirt was a bit of a surprise that made me smile. What a fun preparation!

Nitro Gazpacho: Normally Gazpacho is served cold, of course, but Chef Andrés takes up another level, or down a level, so to speak. This gazpacho is frozen, prepared table side with liquid nitrogen. A Gazpacho Slushie! The smoke billows around the bowl as the waitress feverishly stirs the soup and liquid nitrogen together. You can hear the ice crystals breaking up as she’s stirring, which creates more excitement about the dish. The flavor of the gazpacho, however, was very traditional. I appreciated the addition of the puffed croutons; it provided a much needed crunch.

Bluefin Tuna Toro: My favorite of all sashimi when dining out, so I was especially happy to see this course arrive. The course consisted of a small block of watermelon covered with a slice of the raw Toro and a touch of wasabi. It’s the addition of a quail egg that brings this dish together though. It’s cooked at a perfect 63˚C for an hour. Since the white coagulates at 61˚C, and the yolk cooks at 65˚C, the yolk remains molten when prepared at 63˚C. Use your fork to emulsify the yolk and spread over the dish, and you’ve got something truly wonderful. One of the best courses of the night!

Norwegian Lobster: Norwegian Lobster cooked to perfection with a brioche crust on a bed of seaweed salad. An espresso cup of warm lobster broth is served alongside. Flawless. Let’s just leave it at that.

“Smoked” Salmon: A deconstructed dish with a pink salmon square placed on top of a thin chickpea pancake. A cucumber brick topped with a sphere of tzatziki sauce are the remaining components. The shapes and lines created on this plate were a piece of art itself. I tasted the salmon and cucumber on its own, but the real treat was when I managed to get everything into one bite. The tzatziki sphere was meant to be taken in just one bite, so I felt that I must take in each element at once to get the flavor profile as it was meant to be.

Not Your Everyday Caprese: This is another course that cried out to be eaten in one bite. Mozzarella, tomato caviar, a peeled cherry tomato infused with balsamic vinegar, each held in their place with a bit of pesto. Clearly, it is not your everyday Caprese, yet the flavors were familiar. I was most impressed with the balsamic flavor in the cherry tomato; I want all my tomatoes to taste like that.

Tournedos Rossini 2009: This preparation was first made for Italian opera composer, Gioacchino Rossini more than 200 years ago. This man was known for his gluttonous ways, so it’s no wonder this was my favorite of the night. The Kobe A5 beef was in a rich jus with wild mushrooms, foie gras, and topped with a brioche crouton. A great way to end the savory courses of the evening.

Dragon’s Breath Popcorn: It’s easy to see why this is called “Dragon’s Breath” once you see someone eat it. A small square of caramel popcorn is placed in liquid nitrogen and placed on a serving spoon. There’s nothing to be afraid of, but you can’t help but feel a little bit anxious. Put the popcorn in your mouth and chew – keep your mouth closed! As you chew, plumes of smoke escape through your nose. It’s hysterical! You can’t help but giggle when you see tables around the room experiencing this. The waitress said it gets her every time. This course is more of a show than anything else, but the popcorn is actually tastes pretty good too.
Dear Ben's Dragon's Breath!

Chocolate Biscuit Coulant Michel Bras: Named for French chef, Michel Bras, this course is basically a tiny chocolate molten cake served on a cloud of creamy goodness. Dear Ben said this was his favorite of the desserts, and it was very good. Hot, rich, decadent chocolate poured from the inside of the chocolate biscuit, and the whipped cream served as your glass of milk. Who wouldn’t enjoy this?

Coconut in a “Half Shell”: A coconut gelato tipping out of a half shell. Except the half shell isn’t really a shell at all. Liquid nitrogen helps the gelato coconut shell keep its shape, so the “shell” is edible. You could taste flakes of coconut throughout the dish, and it wasn’t overly sweet. This was the least memorable course, I might have missed some details.
[None of pictures turned out well enough to post.]

Petit Fours: A slate of small treats was the final adventure. I started with the milk chocolate and white chocolate lollipops. Chocolate was swirled and set in an intricate design. The flavor was not stand out. The White Chocolate & Ginger bonbon had a sharp ginger filling that could be off putting if you’re not crazy about ginger. Dear Ben falls into that category. I enjoyed the tang very much. Plus, I thought about the benefits of ginger after such a full meal. Finally, I savored the dark chocolate tablet with its salty flavor. I ate Dear Ben’s portion too…

As we were finishing up, Chef José Andrés came to greet us. He appeared jovial even at the end of the night, and signed our menus which were tied up neatly with a brown satin ribbon. Afterwards, Dear Ben and I were offered a kitchen tour where we were also introduced to Sous Chef, Adam Cole. We discussed our favorites of the night and watched the kitchen in action for a few minutes. It was just so obvious what kind of people work at Saam/The Bazaar. It’s the kind of people you want to be around.

Was this meal worth the splurge? Absolutely! Will I go again? Most definitely! The menu will likely change a bit in July, and I’m eager to see the next generation of flavors.

…and those are my Notes from the Napkin!

Saam @ the Bazaar
465 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Saam at the Bazaar By José Andrés on Urbanspoon


  1. Yum! Sounds delicious- especially the dessert courses :)

  2. i think i may have been your not sure but maybe. are you the teacher from the OC? if so, it truely was a pleasure taking care of you guys that evening. im glad i found your blog! keep up the good work! i dont just say that because if the kind words you wrote about saam but because it really is inspiring to read reviews from a womans perspective. i'll let you know when the saam menu is updated so we can have you back for dinner again.
    all the best,

  3. Kelly - yes, it was fabulous! When they update the menu we should go!

    Carolina - I'm so glad you found the blog! We had an amazing night, and can't wait to visit again. Please do let me know when the menu is updated. :)

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