Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Best Meals 2012 # 3 "Rapid Fire" with José Andrés @ The Bazaar

Epic rapid fire with José

I decided mid way through the year that I wasn't going to do a best meal or best dish list this year because there were already way too many great ones in the mix. From the delicious and fun visiting chef Pop Up Series hosted by chef Michael Schwartz at Harry's Pizzeria, to the great monthly themed dinners hosted by chef Aaron Brooks at Edge Steak & Bar, to some wonderful wine and champagne dinners along the way and of course, the "underground and experimental" dinners we throw with some creative and talented chefs over at Cobaya Miami.

But some of these meals were truly exceptional and memorable. And I wanted to go back and give them the credit they deserve.

I must admit that ranking these meals was very difficult as all were truly outstanding. As with my normal "tiers", these rankings take all facets of the meal into consideration. While food is the primary component, phenomenal wine or simply a great time will bolster ones rating.

I intended on limiting the list to my Top Twelve for 2012 but it was impossible to cut down to 12. Thus, I went with my top Fifteen plus a tie.

Big thanks to all of the chefs, kitchen crews, managers, sommeliers, bartenders, servers and support staff for making 2012 another happy year for my belly!!


#6   Billecart Salmon Seafood Dinner @ Edge Steak & Bar
#5   Brad Kilgore "Anatomy of a suckling Pig" 
#4  Krug Dinner @ Michy's

As you will see from my post below, I was very fortunate to enjoy three great tasting menus in one week at The Bazaar.  Two of those meals occurred while chef José Andrés was in the house and one turned out to be an epic culinary adventure.  My third Best Meal of 2012 was an incredible dinner that I got to experience with my good friend Steve from Blind Tastes.

The main dining room was quiet on that night but the presence of chef Andrés loomed large. He was working the room in his jovial manner and made several stops at our table. Yes, he busted my chops a couple of times for taking pictures of the food especially when I tried to sneak in a shot with the flash on.  I know Steve loved that! During one of his stops, he proudly told us about the frequent time he was spending in Haiti assisting people struggling as a result of the earthquake. His goal is to teach them to bake their own bread and make there own food.  It was impressive and moving.

While polishing off one last gin and tonic after our meal,  a manager came over to our table and said chef  Andrés would like you guys to join him at his table. We hesitated, not! We jumped at the opportunity and what we witnessed was epic. Ever the perfectionist, chef  Andrés had the kitchen send out every dish and cocktail on the menu for him to taste. Each dish flew out of the kitchen and watching him taste and comment was entertaining and educational. "Needs more salt" he shouted out. "This is the BEST sangria in the world" he said while grinning. After he was done examining and tasting each dish they were passed our way. Those were the best "scraps" of all time! José's Tacos for daysssss!!!

For a food fanatic like myself, that night was truly special and one I will never forget.   

My initial post about my first few dinner and the rapid fire session is reposted below.

The Baazar - South Beach - as good as it gets * * * *

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Four FANTASTIC meals including three in one week, two with chef José Andrés in the house and one that was EPIC in every way.  The Bazaar opened last month in the brand new SLS Hotel on the corner of 17th St. and Collins Ave. in South Beach.  I'm not going to bother discussing the forty or so dishes I've tried thus far because it would take me forever to do and it would probably put you to sleep.  Plus almost every dish was great to outstanding.  Instead, I will simply tell you that it is as good as food gets and a complete culinary treat from start to finish in every way.

Service has been equally impressive (with the exception of the busboy who removed half filled gin and tonics from the table on two occasions during my first visit) thanks to general manager Giancarlo Pagani and his friendly team.

Kudos to chef de cuisine, David Thomas, who was previously at Tomas Keller's Ad Hoc, for executing this extensive menu almost flawlessly from the start while continuing to improve with each visit. Thomas and his kitchen crew quickly made The Bazaar one of the best restaurants in town.

It was also great to meet and chat with Minibar chef  Jorge Hernandez who was in town to assist with the opening and menu tweaking.  Great guy and great chef.  Remember that name food fans.

Of course, the biggest treat of all was meeting chef Andrés on two occasions and having the opportunity to discuss food with him along with his overall philosophy and vision.  Hearing about the teaching and work he continues to do in Haiti was impressive and touching.  Nevertheless, the highlight was being invited to join him at his table where I witnessed an exciting rapid fire session where every dish and cocktail was brought to the table for him to taste and tweak.  Inspiring.  Oh and the best "scraps" I've ever had.

The food, creativity and passion of chef Andrés plus the super South Beach setting, easily make this one of the best all around dining experiences in the country.

                                          sls hotel

As promised, I am not going to bore you with details about each dish since I've enjoyed too many.  The following is a photo recap via my iPhone of my first four visits.  I missed some shots of great dishes along the way and contrary to my dining partner in crime for three of these meals, Steve "Blind Tastes" BM, my flash was off for a majority of these shots.  Although I'm not a photographer and don't carry a fancy camera to restaurants, I still wanted to share my fantastic experience with you via my crappy shots.  Enjoy!!

Bull con lucha libre mask
Blanca room w/ shell chandelier

Tableside LN2 Caipirinha

The finished product. $5.00!!!!

The ultimate gin & tonic (great drink)

'colada cubano'-coffee with foie gras

Liquid mango nigiri- sea urchin, shiso, pickled sansho pepper

Corte de foie gras-tamarind, olive bread, mango chutney

Baby Japanese Peaches-fresh burrata, hazelnuts, arugula

Watermelon and Tomato Skewers-pistachios, caramelized tomatoes

Traditional Sui Mai-pork, shrimp, peanuts, water chestnuts

Sea Urchin Cream-seaweed, ponzu (on right)

'Bagel and Lox'-salmon roe, dill cream cheese

Aceitunas Rellenas-piquillo pepper, anchovy, olive oil

'Colada Cubano'-coffee & foie

Bao con Lechon-Chinese bun, pork belly

Yuca 'Churros'-with peanut butter and honey

Cuban Escabeche "Estefan's Way"-hamachi, pickled onions, sour orange

Kueh Pai Ti-Singapore's favorite street food-shrimp, peanuts, chili sauce & Croquetas de Wade Pollo

Sea Urchin-butter, black pepper, toasted bread

Dragon Fruit Ceviche-tuna, pecans, lime, hibiscus

Smoked Oysters-ice and smoke, apple mignonette

Sauteed Catalan Spinach-apples, pine nuts, raisins

Cuban Coffee Rubbed Churrasco-passion fruit

Black Rossejat-paella-style, squid ink, shrimp, alioli

Special off menu treat from Chef Andrés- His Traditional Cuban. Outstanding!

'Cubano'-Secreto de Iberico ham, Iberico ham, swiss, mustard, pickles

Tembleque-'jiggling cocnuts', mango, cinnamon

Chef Andrés tasting every dish!!

GM Giancarlo pouring Chef Andrés the best sangria!

We need salt!!!

Best seat in house!

Jose's Taco-caviar, jamon Iberico

Sauteed Shrimp-garlic, parsley, lemon, guindilla pepper

Bone Marrow-Hamakua Farms heart of palms, Florida citrus, capers

Baby Japanese Peaches part II!!

Ajo Blanco-Mango, sherry ravioli, king crab, fresh almonds

King Crab, raspberries

Empanada a la Gallega-"Spring Roll" soy sauce

Papas a la Huancaina-Peruvian potatoes, sea urchin

Not Your Everyday Caprese-cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella

Pisto-vegetable stew, tomato, eggplant, zucchini & golden egg

Liquid Mango Nigiri

Scallop-on the half shell, Caribbean dressing

Frozen Blue Cheese Sandwich-lemon marmalade, walnut bread

Jamon de Toro-salt-cured fatty tuna with Iberico fat, picos

Japanese Taco-grilled eel, shiso, cucmber, wasabi, pork, chicharrones

No clue

Tres Leches-Cuban rum, pineapple & 'tres leches' ice cream

Tembleque-jiggling coconut

Banana-Mojito-mojito sorbet, mint & caramelized bananas

Pre dinner New York Sour @ Bar Centro

Embutidos Platter - They nailed the Pa amb Tomaquet. Iberico ham, loin & chorizo perfecto

Wild Mushroom Idiazabal cheese, organic egg yolk 
Onion Soup foie gras 'capuccino' 
Gazpacho Patricia with lobstahhh
Black Cod Alcaparrado cooked in plastic bag
Foie PB&J on Wonder Bread
Hyde Beach Pool Side Pops & Frozen Mixed Drinks

RUN to The Bazaar soon and often.  There are a tremendous amount of treats on the menu coupled with great service and a fantastic overall dining experience.  Four stars for sure!!  

The Bazaar (at the SLS Hotel)
1701 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach FL

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