When back in LA, a biochemist friend of mine invited me to dinner, and I figured what more interestingly appropriate thing for us to try than the molecular cuisine of a student of Ferran Adria, the mad scientist himself. So shortly after the opening of the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, my friend and I took our seats at the Bazaar,… and what a bizarre experience it was.
We started with the El Bulli-influenced spherical olives, which was essentially olive juice encapsulated in a thin gelatinous coating. When you take them, the sensation is a burst of flavor in your mouth. For us though, we found them overly salty, despite our love of olives. And although we thought it was an unarguably interesting idea, we found the sensation of biting into the gelatinous coating with the burst of olive flavor reminiscent of accidentally biting into a vitamin E capsule, not something we’d really want to do again.
We ordered some liquid nitrogen cocktails and my companion was particularly interested in seeing the preparation process, but the final product was no different than any other frozen drinks found elsewhere.
Although I am not a fan of foie gras, out of curiosity, we decided to try the decidedly different foie gras “lollipops”. They arrived as chunks of foie gras wrapped in cotton candy and served upright on skewers. The foie was cold and dense, the candy floss cloyingly sweet, and there was nothing to counterbalance the heavy richness or one-dimensionality of the dish. In my book, although odd and attention-getting on the menu, in reality, it was a failure in terms of taste and presentation- a disaster of a dish.
We also tried their molecular interpretation of a philadelphia cheesesteak- “air bread, cheese, and wagyu”, which brought to our minds freeze-dried astronaut fare which initially seemed intriguing, but the result tasted like overpriced, highly stylized “Cheetos”, a childhood cheese-flavored puffed corn treat.
The most successful dish for us, was surprisingly the most conventional- a well-cooked flank steak that was juicy and flavorful, and much appreciated. It was disappointing however, that this was the best tasting dish in a place that was expected to excel at the avant-garde and experimental.
We were excited by, and appreciative of, the ideas and the intentions, the techniques and the processes behind the food; but many of the “experiments” simply fell flat, and ultimately, the food was simply not very good.
At the end of the day, I am not sure who had higher expectations or who had been more disappointed, my biochemist friend or I.
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