wd~50 – New York

Call him an eclectic pioneer, a nonconformist chemist, a mad scientist or culinary daredevil, but Chef Wylie Dufresne has his feet firmly planted in the culinary world.  This James Beard Award nominee for Best Chef in New York City is somewhat of a celebrity chef now, using the disciplines of molecular gastronomy to entertain diners with food like they’ve never imagined or seen before.  He will liquify, solidify and gassify; he will deconstruct, reinterpret and transfigure.  Some may not like this style of cuisine and others may not even get it, but it will always be a new experience that makes the mind question what is normal.

At Dufresne’s Lower East Side restaurant wd~50, he works with pastry chef Alex Stupak (who worked as pastry chef at Alinea in Chicago) to construct an inspirational menu where what you order will look completely different from what you expect.  Pizza may turn up as pebbles, cocoa nibs may present as socium alginate and calcium chloride caviar pearls, bone marrow as dehydrated discs and shrimp as noodles.  While the concepts and presentations are abstract expressionistic, the execution of these gourmet projects are a precise science.

Contrary to the whimsical menu and reputation of the restaurant as a carnival of molecular delights, the restaurant decor is disappointingly boring, reminiscent of a local pizza parlor still stuck in outdated 90′s decor.  The mismatch takes away from the experience and I find myself feeling uninspired, even unexcited for this experience.  I suddenly feel skeptical about ordering the tasting menu, and opt for à la carte.  Yes, ambiance does matter.

Corned duck with rye crisp, purple mustard, horseradish cream

One of the most popular items on the wd~50 menu since its opening in 2003 is the corned duck, a beautifully constructed cylinder of lean but juicy duck that is gift wrapped around a tower of delicious condiments.  Untangling the ring of thinly sliced smokey bird reveals a nucleus of  tart horseradish cream and slivers of honey pickled garlic, a perfect power play of spicy and sweet.  A smear of dark purple mustard reduced with red wine adds a luscious savor while the bouquet of microgreens adds a fresh kick to the presentation.

Eggs benedict

A must-try dish at wd~50 that represents Dufresne’s philosophy and fantasy, the deconstructed eggs benedict is a colorful surprise of culinary cubism.  Crispy Canadian bacon chips are wedged in dollops of slow poached egg yolks, bright like the summer sun and made with the consistency of liquid just barely becoming solid.  English muffins become minimized as delicate coatings for the warm Hollandaise cubes, its intense richness showing my palate that big flavors can come in small packages. The sprinkles of black Cyprus volcanic sea salt help to cut through some of the heavy buttery flavors while chive spears placed at skewed angles add more geometry to the edible installation.  Fun, edgy and inventive, but good enough to compete against a traditional eggs benedict?  Not for me.

Aerated foie, pickled beet, mashad plum, brioche

The most memorable act of the evening is a plate of aerated foie, fine reticulated columns of savory liver that resemble a loofah at first glance and a microscopic image of bone matrix upon closer inspection.  The foie is light, airy and fragile, collapsing and melting into smooth liquid gold inside my mouth.  The tart sweetness of the plum purée, the acidity of the pickled beet rectangles and the delfino greens that hang over the foie like ivy all elevate the flavors of the foie, but I find myself fascinated with the crispy brioche crisps, sliced so thin that it too takes on the latticed construction of the foie.

Iberico pork neck, endive, buckwheat, clove

Thick cuts of sous vide Iberico pork neck are sweet and succulent, a stellar combination with the apple cider and brown butter sauce, but those are the only good ingredients in this ambitious and busy dish.  Cloved tuille tastes like the first strong puff of a clove cigarette, normally a good thing for post-meal smokes but not what I want on my pork.  Fried endive is an overcooked soggy bitter mess while deep fried buckwheat has the opposite effect- not quite puffed enough that it becomes a gritty grainy nuisance that gets embedded into the sockets of my teeth.

Lemongrass mousse, brown sugar, jack fruit, whole wheat sorbet

Pastry chef Alex Stupak creates an architectural dessert using a serpentine tube of lemongrass mousse accented by flourescent yellow dots and slivers of jackfruit.  Lemongrass foam on both ends of the mousse hold its height while the long rectangular strips of lemongrass ice start to slowly melt over the whole wheat sorbet and brown sugar crisp.  As the ice melts and our spoons diligently work away at the dessert, the configurations of the components begin to change, and a new form of non-static abstract art is revealed with every bite.

The meal ends with chocolate shortbread-covered milk ice cream, cold balls of intensely sweet ice cream that taste like Oreo cookies.

The cocktail menu at wd~50 is interesting in concept, but poor in execution.  The Bourbon Bimbo had to be sent back because it tasted like the bitter white flesh of lemon rinds, and ‘A Saltier Dog’s saltiness was overpowering, killing whatever flavor it was supposed to have.

It is difficult and unfair to rate a restaurant based on one quick visit with just a handful of dishes, and I dare not question whether wd~50 is truly worthy of a Michelin star or a place in S. Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants list.  All I know is that my visit didn’t excite me to return again, at least not until the interior is revamped, the mood lightened and the menu improved.  Wiley Wonka’s laboratory of molecular delights is a fun exhilarating experience, one that will certainly provoke a lot of thought and conversation- but does his passion come through enough in his food, and does it have that punch that will make a diner want to come back the following week, and the week after?

wd-50

50 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002-2401
(212) 477-2900

Random trivia:  Did you know that jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, reaching 80 pounds in weight and up to 36 inches long and 20 inches in diameter?

Bar 210- Los Angeles

Imagine yourself in the middle of the vast landscapes of Burgundy where rows and rows of lush green grape vines in the middle of summer extend far beyond your visual field, interrupted only by quaint farm houses and rolling hills.  You pop open a 1971 Romanée-Conti, swirl it around in your glass, and savor it in your mouth as you bask in the warm sunlight.  You make love to every molecule of this elegant vintage wine with your palate and appreciate life for getting you to this moment.  Now imagine dumping that same bottle of wine into a styrofoam cup and drinking it at a rowdy state fair where screaming kids in overdrive terrorize their parents.  Does it still taste as good?

High quality ingredients, excellent seasoning, exciting flavor combinations and proper preparation define good food, but ambiance and atmosphere can make or break it.  Oceanfront views, romantic candlelight, crackling fireplaces, water fountains, perfectly dressed servers and gorgeous interior decor attract diners who want a relaxing and pleasant dining experience.  Patrons are more likely to revisit a restaurant with mediocre food but beautiful atmosphere and professional service, than one with the opposite combination.  When your sense of sound, sight and smell are pleasantly stimulated, your food will naturally taste that much better.

Chef Marcel Vigneron is no newcomer to the culinary scene- we know and lovingly hate him from his notorious Top Chef days when he shined on screen as the nation’s new villain with knives.  He seemed to have found the perfect home in The Bazaar where his molecular gastronomy skills were given an extra coat of polish.  His solo venture at the Hatchi Breadbar dinner sold out to satisfied diners who swooned over his adventurous and delicious creations.  This classically trained chef’s latest gig comes as a surprise to me, a rowdy and pretentious bar called Bar 210 in the former Trader Vic’s space in the Beverly Hilton Hotel.  The 7,000 square foot space also houses Plush lounge where young party-goers can dance the night away in stilettos and boots.  Hanging gold chains against a background of more gold add extra bling to the dimly lit Bar 210 space where the scantily clad (but beautiful) waitresses in one shoulder minis try their best to hear your order over the loud music.  It’s a sexy establishment, but hardly the right venue for Vigneron’s innovative culinary art.

Marcel, as always, was a gracious host, welcoming us to his new crib and coming out to present each plate to us.  But even this bigger-than-life chef seemed painfully out of place at Bar 210 where the other patrons in flashy garb and here-to-be-seen attitude were more interested in the overpriced cocktails.  The Global Tastings concept that we saw in his Hatchi dinner back in December 2009 where he married international spices with modern interpretations is continued in the small bites menu at the bar.  We settled into our uncomfortable bar stools for our tasting dinner that kicked off with a momochan amuse with mint and saffron yogurt powder.

The Ahi tuna tartare plate was a breathtaking bouquet of vibrant colors and sensational flavors.  Tender chunks of meaty tuna over crunchy biscuits topped with an artistic palette of ponzu gel, pineapple, jicama, nasturtium flowers, avocado cream and wasabi tobiko excited my palate with each successive bite that introduced a new medley of textures and flavors.  As I desperately tried to block out the annoying music from my aching head, I couldn’t help but wonder how much better the tartare would have tasted in a proper restaurant environment.

Compact but meaty Kusshi oysters were served on a salt bed with grains of paradise seasoning and citrus dashi air.  As always,  Chef Marcel’s presentation demonstrated elegant beauty with a touch of playfulness- these pearls of the sea looked like they had been swept up by the ocean breeze and miraculously washed up onto a white sandy beach.

Speared tails of plump succulent shrimp with Thai tom kha flavoring were curled up over a carpet of white coconut milk powder and covered with a blanket of basil seeds, crispy ginger and Thai herbs.  It was a wonderful dish of tantalizing textures and fragrant aromas, but I much preferred the more intricate version of langoustine ravioli with tom kha foam and avocado wrapped mango that he presented at the Hatchi dinner- but the theme at Bar 210 wasn’t elegant cuisine, it was simplified bar food.

Yogurt, caramelized walnuts, celery and microgreens stayed afloat in Wally boats of purple endive while a walnut shipmate shouted ahoy from an apple raft nearby.

Leave it to Vigneron to interpret and twist classic concepts, like the Cobb 2010 which offered a modern presentation on a traditional salad dish.  Cobb salad ingredients were mixed together in bite-sized rolls and topped with small portions of the individual ingredients- bacon bits, avocado cream, tomato caviar, quail egg and blue cheese.  Just picturing the mischievous look on his face as he invented this dish made me smile, and it left me longing to see how far he could stretch the potential of this concept.

A familiar face from The Bazaar came by to say hello- boneless chicken wings brined for 24 hours, then confited, deboned, breaded and fried.  Only this time, instead of a green olive purée, they got a face lift with micro celery and a butt job with blue cheese injection.  Although the cheese was a bit overpowering, the incredibly tender chicken, barely able to contain its savory and rich juices, was electrifying.  Knowing the unbelievable amount of painstaking preparation and thought that went into this chicken, it bothered me even more to see it underappreciated in this bar environment.

Tuscan style potato cubes were deep fried to a perfect crisp exterior and steamy moist interior, going well with the creamy chlorophyll mayo.

In an unexpected potato stand-off, I preferred the velvety wrinkled skin of the Canary island potatoes with chlorophyll mayo, a joyous encore dish from The Bazaar.

Yogurt seems to be his thing right now, as it appeared in numerous dishes including the gravlax on toasted bread with kalamata olive dust, pickled ramps and dill.  The fatty and luscious cut of salmon practically melted in my mouth, but a boost of acidity or salt to counteract the mellow yogurt would have perfected this dish.

Modernized banh mi sandwiches came in the form of pork belly sliders with red onion, shaved carrots, green beans and daikon slivers.  This was the perfect bar food that made you want to reach for a glass of ice cold beer.

There were too many salty components in the short rib sliders with tomato confit, arugula, black olive aioli, brie cheese and caramelized onion purée but the meat was juicy and tender, making for a satisfying bite.

I was ecstatic to see another encore from his fantastic Hatchi dinner which also happened to be my favorite dish from that event, Vadouvan lamb with tzatziki, lavosh, za’atar, mint, cucumbers and preserved lemon.  It’s obvious that sliced meat would never taste as good as meat served on the bone, but given that the original lamb chop made such an impression on me, I was even more saddened to see this less inspiring rendition at Bar 210.

The chef finished our tasting with a dessert plate of liquid brownie sticks, chocolate covered strawberries, blueberry tarts and macaroons.  The cold ice cream brownie sticks with crunchy rice puffs made me feel like a kid again.

Although I appreciated the beauty of each dish and how much preparation went into them, it was difficult to live in the moment and savor each bite with the loud music and atmosphere obstructing my dinner.  It also bothered me that no matter how good the food was, the crowd that this bar attracted would never fully appreciate it, as they were less likely to be interested in his work and more likely to be keen on their waitress’ hourglass figure.  But it’s a bar, after all, and people don’t come here for the food- they come here for the scene and the scenery.  Considering that Chef Vigneron had to simplify his dishes from fine cuisine to finger food in order to cater to this younger bar crowd, he maintained his style and flair as best as he could.  Still, the usual explosion of creativity and vivacity that I’m used to seeing in this chef’s work was regretfully muffled.   Just like a good bottle of wine deserves to fall upon the lips of an appreciative gourmand, Chef Vigneron’s food deserves an environment which is more fitting and worthy.  It’s a good thing that he’s pursuing his passion in his upcoming SyFy network show, as his personality and stage presence is too perfect for TV, but the real next step is to open his own restaurant where we can see, smell and taste the true soul of this outstanding chef.

Bar 210

9876 Wilshire Blvd

Beverly Hills, CA 90210

(310) 887-6060

Random trivia: Did you know that chlorophyll, a green pigment found in plants that aids in photosynthesis, acts as a deodorizer that eliminates bad odor, and is therefore routinely added to chewing gum?


Tapas Molecular Bar- Tokyo, Japan

His culinary Holiness Chef Ferran Adrià has revolutionized the world of gastronomy with his inventive and playful style of cooking.  Many of you have probably heard the sad news that the holy grail of all restaurants, El Bulli, will be temporarily closing its doors in 2012.  Initial rumors reported that Chef Adrià was going to open a culinary academy instead, but he later refuted these rumors and announced that he was going to reopen in 2014.  Whatever the case, nobody can argue that he was at the forefront of creating a whole new style of haute cuisine centered around the disciplines of molecular gastronomy.

Of all of the culinary trends that we have seen these past few years, this style of scientific gastronomy has had the greatest appeal to me.  I am a self proclaimed science geek who did a Chemistry thesis on the different chemical components of acid rain for my high school studies.  I was on the math team and competed as the science nerd on our BrainBowl team (our version of inter-scholastic Trivial Pursuit).  I was a Biochemistry major in college, and I chose the path of medicine for my career.  So when the high-energy particles of science and food collided, they broke the carbon chains of monotony and converted boredom into pleasure through a stable process called culinary fusion.  I love when spectacular food appeals to my 5 senses, but I love it even more when it stimulates my cerebral cortex.  You want to talk about how calcium chloride cross-links sodium alginate polymers to form jello?  Pull up a chair and let me pour you a glass of wine, sexy.  Purrrrr…..

Fortunately I live in Los Angeles where this culinary trend has taken off.  I had a few excellent meals at The Bazaar last year, run by one of Ferran Adrià’s disciples Chef José Andrés.  Chef Marcel Vigneron has incorporated similar techniques in his innovative cuisine, as demonstrated in his Hatchi dinner this past December.  Liquid nitrogen infused cocktails have been popping up in almost every bar around town.  On my recent pilgrimage to Tokyo, I had an opportunity to have a full-blown molecular cuisine orgy at the Tapas Molecular Bar.

Situated on the 38th floor of the majestic Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Nihombashi Tokyo, this exclusive restaurant has been raising a lot of buzz since it opened with the hotel in December 2005.  It feels more like an exclusive club than a restaurant, as it occupies only a tiny bar counter space in the middle of the Oriental Lounge adjacent to the hotel lobby.  The kitchen is run by head chef Jeff Ramsey, who used to work with none other than José Andrés at Minibar in Washington D.C.  Ramsey, who is a Japanese-American hapa, is the perfect fit for this title- with his experiences working with both types of cuisines in both countries, he can formulate innovative avant-garde menu concepts with traditional flavors which will still appeal to the Japanese palate.  The Tapas Molecular Bar has won 1 Michelin star for the second consecutive year.

There are only 2 seatings a night at 6pm and 8:30pm, and only 8 seats per seating.  The reservations attendant informed me that I had to be punctual for my reservation as the meal was going to start exactly on time.  Each item on the 20-25 course menu is introduced and described by the chef and subsequently served to all guests at the same time.  My dining partner and I arrived 30 minutes early to our 8:30pm reservations, and enjoyed a cocktail in the chic Oriental Lounge overlooking the breathtaking night view of Tokyo.  I ordered the Tapas Molecular Bar signature cocktail, the Fresh Pear Martini made with pear-infused Grey Goose vodka, La France pear espuma and Cointreau.  With the flickering warm lights from the fireplace reflecting on the V-shaped glass and the spectacular backdrop of gem colored city lights, this was one delicious and sexy martini.  The olives were also meaty, juicy and scrumptious.

Large silver metallic plates with the printed Winter menu greeted us at our seats.  Like traditional Japanese sushi restaurants, this was interactive counter dining where creator and eater came face to face.  Only this time, I felt more like a spectator at a theatrical chemistry lab watching the mad scientist and his docile assistant brew potions and create puffs of clouds over Bunsen burners.  The small kitchen behind the counter was like an experimental workshop, full of contraptions that could cryovac, sous vide, foam, spherify, liquify and gassify.  There were flasks, pipettes, test tubes and beakers abound, and all of us were mesmerized with the magical performance.  With every pop, sizzle and poof we all giggled like children at a puppet show and couldn’t hold back our oohs and aahs with each twist that came with the dishes.

Shattered Rose Martini 粉々のローズマティーニ

Liquid nitrogen was slowly poured into the martini glasses, creating a cool white layer of fog that brought mysticism and magic to the aperitif.  As the fog started to clear, it gave way to a cluster of flash frozen ‘shattered’ rose petals floating on a delicate thin top layer of ice.  Imagine a floating iceberg on a tranquil red sea in the cool arctic mist.

Puffed Barbequed Pork ふっくら焼豚

Triple Cooked Kuwai カリカリくわい

TMB’s version of chicharrones was a light and crispy piece of deep fried pork rind with a caramelized coat of dark sweetness and what I thought to be a hint of star anise.  It tasted like soy senbei rice crackers with a perfect addictive combination of sweet and salty.  Kuwai, a Japanese arrowhead vegetable that looks like an upside down apostrophe mark, was cooked to a golden crisp exterior while the bulb still maintained a warm and fluffy consistency.

Arctic Potato Chip 厳寒チップス

When I picked up this thin yellow ruffled sheet, I was surprised to find that it broke into pieces very easily between my fingers.  That was when I realized that it was a delicate piece of ice falling apart under the warmth of my fingerpads, and I’d better eat it fast before it all melted on my lap.  The water that remains after boiling potatoes was frozen into sheets and served as a chip.  I understood the intention of having this ice flake mimic the crispiness of a potato chip, and it was even salted very generously to taste like it came out of a bag; but it was too cold and too watery for me to appreciate the gustatory illusion.

Apple and Manchego アップルマンチェゴ

This was a TMB classic that has been served in other seasonal menus.  The exterior of this mini cigar was made of thinly sliced and baked apples which were rolled into tight cylinders.  A manchego cheese and apple juice sorbet was made with a Pacojet and piped into the apple tubes.  It made for a delightful sweet and creamy snack that I would love to have around the house for an afternoon tea session. 

Roast Pepper Caviar 焼きパプリカキャビア

A strange contraption of hanging syringes filled with alternating red and yellow liquid was brought out to center stage.  The chefs slowly pressed down on the plexiglass plate on top which evenly distributed pressure among the syringes filled with paprika essence and sodium alginate.  Upon contact with the receiving pool of calcium chloride, a chain reaction occurred where cross-linked polymers were configurated in the form of a thick gel, thus transforming liquid droplets into viscous pellets.  The bright colored ‘caviar’ was seasoned with olive oil, thyme and salt and served in a small porcelain spoon.  They didn’t have much flavor, but I loved the bouncy and slippery textures.

Tai Chazuke 鯛茶漬け

Ochazuke is a classic Japanese comfort dish where warm green tea is poured over a bowl of steaming white rice and condiments which typically include dried rice crackers and dried nori seaweed.  In this deconstructed version, a delicate slice of kelp-infused sea bream was garnished with strings of fresh kombu seaweed and crispy dried arare rice crackers, and served with an umekombucha (pickled plum and kelp flavored green tea)  liquid sphere.   When I closed my eyes and took this dainty spoonful into my mouth, the briny aroma of salty seaweed perfumed my sinuses, invoking a dynamic phantasm of a mighty sea bream swimming boldly against the strong currents of the winter Ohotsuku sea.

Bacalao Espuma バカラオのエスプーマ

Bacalao (salted dried cod) espuma was layered over a tomato cream base in a tall shot glass and decorated with a small garden of microgreens and red tomato caviar (seeds).  I loved the subtle flavors of the smooth bacalao cream and the overall playful art deco composition of the dish.  A thin baguette wafer topped with kalamata olive paste and semidried tomato bits added an extra layer of saltiness that complemented the sweet mellowness of the cream.

Scallop with Cultivated Pearl ホタテの真珠添え

Flash boiled scallops served on its shell with sweet papaya slices and paprika cubes were cooked to a perfect tender consistency, but the real beauty of the dish came from the glistening white pearl on the edge of the shell.  The gel foam made with honey, yogurt and lime juice, and painted with a gloss to make it shine like the real deal, was a bit too sweet for my taste but I appreciated the elegance and artistry of this aesthetically memorable dish.

Spider Crab and Jamón たらば蟹とハモン

A glorious red chunk of sweet spider crab lounged in the center of this playful dish, getting pampered with a deluxe facial spa treatment consisting of a moisturizing jamón iberico mask and an invigorating chardonnay vinegar cleansing foam.  The warmth of the crab meat slowly melted the paper thin sheet of jamón fat into a shiny coat of luscious savor, tucking all of the tasty crab essences into the plump meat.  Pink grapefruit jelly garnished with thin microgreens and coarse green pistachio crumbs added more texture and freshness to the crustacean, and for me personally the green ice plant stole the show.  With its dewy complexion and crisp crunchy texture, this vegetable was an absolute delight.  The fleshy and hearty green leaves were covered with small silver fibers which made them look like moist dew drops glistening in the early morning sun.

Black Truffle, Lily Bulb 黒トリュフ、百合根

A hearty yurine lily bulb cream soup was layered with truffle infused foam and topped with succulent wedges of lily bulb flesh, shaved black truffle, truffle oil and drizzles of concentrated bouillon caramel.  The savory flavors of all of the components came together in a successful melange of rich divinity, not to mention the seductive bouquets of rich earthiness wafting from the truffle slices.  This was one of my favorite dishes, and as a truffle enthusiast, I was very happy.

Secreto de Cerdo イベリコのヒミツ

Shhh….can you keep a secret?  Or two?

This dish named ‘secreto de cerdo’, or ‘the pork’s secret’, had more than one secret twist.  It was presented in a covered porcelain bowl that, when opened, released a puff of aromatic cherry wood smoke.  When the beautifully scented rich smoke cleared, voila!  It revealed perfectly cooked slices of Spanish Iberico pork on a bed of bok choy.  The other ‘secret’?    The section of pork meat served was actually called secreto, which is the highest quality marbled meat located under the arm beneath the layer of fat in the armpit.  It’s a special cut of pork that can only be harvested in small portions from each animal, and it’s practically like bacon.  The deep savory flavors of the secreto jus went wonderfully with these divine cuts of tender meat that were infused with the smokey perfumes of cherry wood.  This dish in particular paired perfectly with our Chilean Cabernet, a masculine bottle of 2007 Montes Alpha with hints of tobacco and black peppercorn.

Foie, Coffee, Potato フォアグラ、コーヒー、じゃがいも

My least favorite dish was a haphazardly plated array of roasted asparagus and thick potato discs which were garnished with frozen foie gras shavings and drizzles of espresso glaze.  The Hokkaido potatoes were starchy and bland, and were severely lacking in flavor despite being confited in foie gras fat.  The shaved slices of frozen foie gras melted quickly into a sad flesh-colored blob before I could salvage it with my knife.

Wagyu Ravioli, Kinome, Maitake 和牛のラビオリ、木の芽、舞茸

The translucent ravioli in this following dish was made with reduced wagyu beef consommé, brimming with rich meat flavors and bouncing with a firm gelatinous spring due to the high collagen content.    The ravioli was packed with savory morsels of beef shank and buttery bits of braised Achilles tendon. Sautéed maitake mushrooms added earthiness to the dish while a rosemary cream foam tempered the robust flavors of the meat.  The green kinome pepper leaves brought vibrant color and zest to this fantastic course. 

Xiao Long Bao 小龍包

Next came my other favorite dish of the evening, and the one that made me smile the most.  By this point in the meal, I knew that I couldn’t take the menu literally.  There was inevitably going to be a twist on ‘xiao long bao’, Chinese soup dumplings, and I toiled over what they were going to serve.  Was it going to be a deconstruted XLB?  An inside out XLB?  A liquid XLB sipped through a straw, or a puff of XLB scented smoke? The chef was busy torching away at something behind the counter and I couldn’t wait to see what was coming out.

What’s this, a lamb chop?  I was confused, as were all other guests.  This was TMB’s version of the popular XLB soup dumpling, where they took the same concept of having flavorful juice inside of a sealed package that bursts inside your mouth.  A pomegranate and meat jus gelatin cube was placed in the middle of the lamb chop through a center incision, sealed with meat glue, and cooked to perfection.  We were instructed to eat the whole thing in one bite so as not to waste any of the flavorful juices onto the plate, and boy was this one juicy and mind blowing dish.  I closed my eyes when I went for the kill and I felt my heart skip a beat as the hot mouthwatering juices burst inside of my mouth and filled every crevice with its intense richness.  I didn’t even bother with the sweet potato, pistachio, honey and ginger purée, as the lamb XLB was already perfect on its own.

Miso Soup 味噌汁

Another winning dish for the evening was the deconstructed miso soup.  A jiggly blob of miso soup ‘sphere’ garnished with white tofu ‘caviar’, a drop of green onion oil and dried wakame seaweed powder were all presented as separate entities on the porcelain spoon.  However, in that one swift bite, the miso sphere burst open like a water balloon under the slightest pressure of tongue on palate to mix with the other components to trick my taste buds into thinking that I was having a comforting sip of warm miso soup from the bowl.  This dish was fun, clever and playful.

Snow, Sel Guerande 雪ー冬のいぶき

The first dessert course was a winter dish that was made with nitro-frozen shavings of milk with sel guerande.  The liquid nitrogen formed that characteristic white mist that slowly and eerily spilled out of the bowl.  The crispy and crunchy flakes tasted sweet like condensed milk, and I loved the dragon’s breath effect that the liquid nitrogen created as diners munching on the dessert unwittingly snorted white smoke out of their nostrils.

Dessert plate デザート

An architectural display of various bite-sized sweets was presented to us as we started winding down from our extravagant meal.

Mont Blanc モンブラン

This delightful ball had a light whipped creamy interior with a dusting of brown chestnut powder.

Raspberry Soda 木いちごのソーダ

Olive oil gummy オリーブ油のグミ

The pink raspberry soda disc that fizzed with carbonation on my tongue tasted sweet and creamy at first, then changed to sour and tangy once the fizzing started.  The yellow olive oil gummy with sugar coating had a sweet yet rich and slightly nutty flavor.

Cappuccino cotton candy カプチーノ

Genuine chocolate truffle 正真正銘のトリュフチョコレート

I loved the cappuccino flavored cotton candy fluff ball whose fine soft fibers melted and collapsed in my tongue into a sweet coat of sugar.  The genuine chocolate truffle was genuine in both senses of the term- it was a silky black chocolate truffle that was generously coated with real black truffle powder.  The balance of sweet and savory, sugary and earthy were superb and divine.

Fruits フルーツ

The finale to our elaborate molecular cuisine extravaganza was a guided journey through the wacky world of miracle fruits.  First we were instructed to suck on a lemon wedge to confirm its almost painful sourness.  After we washed our mouths with a swig of cold water, we were told to suck on the small red oval miracle fruit for 1 minute.  After we spit the red seed out, we sucked on the same lemon wedge again.  Gasps, laughter and shrieks simultaneously erupted from the arena as all 7 diners were taken by surprise by how sweet the lemon tasted.  We sucked on the lime to find that this too was as sweet as honey.  The juicy navel oranges?  Practically like mango.  The miracle fruit changes sour flavors to sweet, and this effect lasts for up to 2 hours.  They told us that the reaction is stunted by heat, so hot liquids like coffee or tea can destroy the sweetening effect.  I unknowingly took my last sip of Cabernet and was jolted by the fact that it tasted like vintage port wine.  What an amazing fruit!

Some dishes lacked flavor and finesse, but all dishes surprised, fascinated and entertained.  Each dish had a creative interpretation and clever twist that kept us on our toes all evening.  I was disappointed that Chef Ramsey didn’t do our 8:30pm seating, and instead we had a rookie Japanese chef who seemed a bit nervous and diffident.  I still got to chat with Chef Ramsey after my meal and overall I was happy with the unique experience. For 14,000 yen it was worth every precious minute to be a VIP front row guest to this exclusive private show that would almost put Cirque de Soleil to shame.  Floating gadgets, morphing forms, disappearing objects and colorful illusions captivated all who were fortunate enough to participate in this once in a lifetime memorable meal at the Tapas Molecular Bar.

Tapas Molecular Bar

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi

Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 103-8328 Japan

Telephone: +81 (3) 3270 8800

Random trivia: The miracle fruit, which is grown in West Africa (the one we had at TMB came from Ghana), contains an active glycoprotein called miraculin.  Although the exact mechanism is unknown, miraculin binds to taste buds to create an illusion of sour foods tasting sweet.  Research is being done to use this for cancer and diabetic patients.

Ogasawara Hakushakutei 小笠原伯爵邸ー Tokyo, Japan

In case you haven’t heard me say this enough times in my blog already, Tokyo has surpassed Paris as the most gourmet city in the world, winning the most Michelin stars on the 2010 guide and boasting the most 3-starred Michelin restaurants of any city.   It was only a matter of time, as I know first hand that there is really no city quite like Tokyo where you can walk into any restaurant or hole in the wall and come out satisfied.  Even the 7-Eleven convenience stores serve gourmet rice balls and take away bentos that are to die for.  I’m proud to call this wonderful city my second home, and I was excited to explore more Michelin star restaurants on my annual trip home over the winter holidays.

Some important friends were in town, and I was given the responsibility of choosing the perfect place to celebrate the end of 2009.  As I perused the Michelin guide, a certain restaurant caught my eye.  Ogasawara Hakushakutei (which means Count Ogasawara’s residence) grabbed my attention for a few reasons.  First of all, it was housed in a historic mansion that used to be inhabited by a Japanese count.  Secondly, it offered creative Spanish cuisine by a Spanish chef.  Lastly, I couldn’t believe that it was practically around the corner from our house, the same house that I grew up in.  How did I not know about this place all these years?

Chef Gonzalo Armando Alvarez Melchor, who trained in Barcelona, took over as executive chef at Ogasawaratei in 2009.  They offer set course menus for both lunch and dinner, which reflect traditional Spanish concepts with a touch of contemporary mischief using imported Spanish delicacies and local Japanese vegetables.  I took one look at their sample menu online, and I knew that we were in for a real treat.  I was delighted to see that they also had a café and bar that served classic Spanish tapas like tortilla de patatas and pescaditos fritos.

The Grand Salon

As I walked up to the restaurant on the pebbled pathway, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Here in the middle of Shinjuku district, the busiest district of the most densely populated city in the world, was a beautiful mansion built in 1927 that had been left protected and well preserved.  An old iron lamppost, the kind that you see on the cobblestone streets of Paris, cast a soft glow of light onto the tree that shielded the terracotta tiles on the roof of this Spanish style villa.  The grand entrance had a red carpet that led to the reception desk, after which the staff escorted us past the Grand Salon and the fountain courtyard to the waiting lounge.  Stained glass windows, a majestic chandelier and antique wooden furniture adorned the beautiful lounge where a female pianist played classical music all night long.  Creaky wooden floors and marbled pillars in numerous private dining rooms throughout this 2 story residence demonstrated old world charm and integrity.  I felt like a butler in coattails wearing a monocle would show up any minute, and in fact it practically happened.  Perfectly coiffed staff wearing crisp black tuxedos guided me every step of the way through my royal restaurant voyage, treating me like I was the mistress of the house.  The grand dining room, next to the Moorish influenced cigar room with a blue-gold ceiling and mosaic tiles, was pristine, clean and sharp.

The level of professionalism that I observed in the staff was first class, and it simply did not compare to any other restaurant that I have ever been to.  Swift, sharp, intelligent, courteous and calm, every person was at the top of their game.  I felt really comfortable here because I knew that I was in good hands.

La ligera crema de ajo blanco y bastón de Jamón Ibérico de Bellota crujiente con queso de Arzúa-Ulloa

We started our tasting menu with an ajo blanco mousse flavored with olive oil, ham and raw almonds, and garnished with fine bread crumbs and chopped chives.  The mousse had an incredibly light flavor that was enhanced by the subdued saltiness of a layer of tomatoes and anchovies that we were surprised to find at the bottom.   Although this dish had an overall rich velvety texture, there was still a hint of graininess from the ground raw almonds which I really enjoyed.  Our garlic cream mousse came with a crispy baton slathered with Arzua Ulloa cheese, black truffle powder and crusted jamón ibérico de Bellota .  Oh, if they would only package these tantalizing baton chips by the dozens and sell them in supermarkets, this world would be a better place.

Los guisantes bajo un velo de caldo de Ibéricos, erizos de mar y un aceite de piñones ahumados

A warm silky blanket of Iberico broth gelée tucked a family of tender young peas into their porcelain crib along with their jamón ibérico companions.  Each fresh pea burst with flavor in my mouth as it also released a veil of smoky aroma from the pine nut infused olive oil.  The salty bits of chopped ham, the crunchiness of the chopped pine nuts and the creamy ooze of the sea urchin all danced on my tongue in a textural dance off.

El calamar impregnado en Sanpoukan, hilos verdes, tallos de acelgas y canela cassia

I loved the playful presentation of the citrus flavored squid dish where the head and the legs engaged in a private tête-à-tête.  The squid was marinated for 30 minutes in Sanpoukan juice (a Japanese citrus) before it was grilled à la plancha.  The moment this plate was placed in front of me, I could smell the faint aroma of Sanpoukan tickling my olfactory cells as I admired the architecture of the presentation from all angles.  The swirls of sliced green beans had a great crunchy texture as well as the small dices of red and yellow swiss chard stalks that embellished its surface.  The alternating dots of squid ink and cinnamon paprika sauce were the perfect acccompaniment to the exquisite and tender cephalopods.

La Cigala, cubitos de Hino-Na aderezados con un aceite de ajos confitados y salsa de queso de Galicia

We all loved the delicate grilled scampi that lounged on a mattress of white Tetilla cheese sauce and a pillow of Hinona turnips that had been marinated in confited garlic oil.  5 dots of green parsley oil looked lovingly at the majestic piece of succulent and juicy shrimp as they tried to jump on to the swirly mattress of creamy Galician cheese.

El foie à la plancha, salsa de uvas, arena de azúcar moscabado y virutas de macademia

Grilled foie gras is always a crowd pleaser, especially with the crowd that I was dining with on this special evening.  The succulent foie gras was perfectly seared with a coat of dark brown muscovado cane sugar and topped with light snowflakes of shaved macadamia nuts.  Peeled naked grapes and figs escorted this noble monarch of Liverville down the royal carpet of rich red wine and green Swiss chard sauce.  This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.

The grilled foie gras went especially well with our bottle of house red wine that we ordered for our dinner.  Palacio del Conde de Ogasawara’s 2006 Ramón Bilbao limited edition Tempranillo was exquisite.  I was impressed that this restaurant had a special house wine made by the one of the most famous and reputable bodegas in Spain.  I was even more impressed by the startling high level of service here at Ogasawara.  I keep a collection of wine labels, and have a special wine label kit where I stick a clear adhesive sheet to the label, peel it off and store it in a special folder.  I forgot to bring a sticker, or étiquette de vin, and asked them if I could take the empty bottle home with me.  Within minutes, the sommelier returned with the wine label already placed on an étiquette sheet for me to take home.  I was speechless.

El arroz negro con sofrito de sobrasada, pimientos salteados y flores de nira

This was my other favorite dish of the night that simply blew me away.  The arroz negro, rice cooked with black squid ink, had a dazzling texture that was like mochi rice.  It had fantastic ‘koshi’, a dense texture that became richer and more elastic with each chew.  Small morsels of spear squid mixed in with the arroz negro also added an auxiliary level of ‘koshi’ texture to the dish.  Annular drizzles of yellow saffron sauce added an ethereal aroma that perfumed the dish, while a Majorcan sobrasada sausage sofrito added tang and smokiness.  Sautéed yellow, orange and red bell peppers contrasted the arroz with its crunchy texture while a Japanese garlic chive (nira) flower graced this heavenly plate like a star on a Christmas tree.

La lucerna escalfada en un caldo azafranado, puerros cocidos en las brasas y caviares de colores

I didn’t care much for the fish dish, made with an unusual fish called a gurnard or sea robin (and called houbou in Japanese).  The fish filet, served in a saffron sauce with hearty Incan potatoes, was a tad overcooked and didn’t have much flavor.  Shimonita leeks were prepared in a traditional Catalan style of cooking calçots, which are Spanish scallions.   At a calçotada, a calçot cookout celebration at the end of winter in Spain, the outer layer is charred over an open flame,  then wrapped in newspaper to keep them warm and tender.  Afterward, the blackened skin is carefully peeled off to enjoy the soft and tender flesh.  I loved the touch of  molecular gastronomy in the garnish, with dainty colorful paprika ‘caviar’, made by spherification, brightening up the dish.

La presa Ibérica, pure de navos de Kioto, romero y salsa de turron

The savory portion of our tasting menu ended with a bang with the tender and juicy cut of Iberian pork presa, which is a succulent cut of shoulder meat. The sweetness of the red wine sauce was in perfect balance with the richness of the luscious pork fat, and crunchy sprinkles of sweet turrón nougat rounded out all of these flavors.  I loved the hints of select Japanese vegetables used throughout the course, such as the Shogoin turnips from Kyoto which were puréed into a silky spoonful of delight.  Bright green leaves of sautéed spinach were curled back into a shoulder stand and awaited their turn to strut their stuff down the catwalk on my tongue.

La sopa de mandarina y espuma de vino tinto

Our pre-dessert palate cleanser was a refreshing soup of mandarin orange mikan capped with a baby pink foam made with Spanish red wine.  The fine miniscule espuma bubbles released a rapturous burst of wine and citrus bouquets as they dissolved and disappeared in my mouth.

El mousse de chocolate y café, trufa con sablé de queso y helado de haba tonka

The sleek and velvety coffee-flavored chocolate mousse gave way to a hidden center of Galician tetilla cheese filling that tasted like a firm version of Mascarpone.   Cinnamon cookie crumbles held their own and formed a crunchy foundation for the soft mound of chocolate mousse as a roll of cheese sablé dusted with chocolate powder saluted 2 succulent cherries marinated in eau de vie.  The most amazing scoop of tonka bean ice cream waited next in line on the dessert assembly line, imparting a wondrous flavor reminiscent of vanilla and almond. 

Dulces pequeños

Delightful petit fours of chocolate almond and green tea cookies finished our sensational meal at this historic mansion.

Was this restaurant worthy of 1 Michelin star?  For the spectacular and creative food, the spot-on attentive service and a rare opportunity to dine in an illustrious historic estate?  I say 2 stars.   After dinner we took a walk outside to their beautiful backyard.  As we strolled through the perfectly manicured garden and gazed up at the stars through the wrought iron gazebo, I tried to imagine what it was like here 70 years ago when the Count would have his lavish balls and afternoon tea parties.  I could almost hear the scratchy tunes of Duke Ellington playing through the phonograph as women in flapper dresses and cloche hats pranced about on the lawn while their husbands smoked cigars and talked about Al Capone’s latest misconducts.  Being on the grounds of Count Ogasawara’s mansion was a time trip to a special era, and it seemed far removed from the flashing neon signs and noisy pachinko parlors of Tokyo’s concrete jungle.

Ogasawara Hakushakutei

Palacio del Conde de Ogasawara

10-10 Kawada-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0054

03-3359-5830

Random trivia: Did you know that tonka beans are illegal in the US?  These black wrinkled seeds have a magical aroma that is reminiscent of vanilla, almonds, cinnamon and cloves.  It’s frequently used in perfumes and tobacco.  The seed and its oils contain coumarin, which is a potent anticoagulant.  For this fact, its import and use in food has been strictly banned by the US Food and Drug Administration.  (Pssst… if you search online, there are places where you can order it on the black market)

The Bazaar

The Bazaar in the SLS Hotel is a magical carnival of sensory stimulation, a multi-circus act of vibrant colors, outrageous artistic concepts and powerful flavors that saturate every cell in your body.  It’s an exciting world that takes you away to a wonderland mesh of design and taste.  From the moment I entered the swank Bar Centro until my last sip of herbal tea in the rococo Patisserie, I felt like I was sleepwalking through a multitude of wild and fantastic dreams.  Every section of the Bazaar has a different design concept, but all are theatrical masterpieces of Phillip Starck.

Bar Centro

Bar Centro

Bar Centro, with its flourescent yellow background, is dark and mysterious.  It’s furnished with leather couches lined with expensive suede throws, velvet pillows, tall banquettes that hide whispering lovers from the crowd, and a large communal table with spinning movie projection discs glowing softly in the darkness.

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The bar gets creative with their cocktails, using liquid nitrogen and organic emulsifiers to create an original spin on traditional drinks.  We toasted the commencement of our bizarre Bazaar journey at the Bar Centro with a bottle of Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve champagne.  A bold fruity richness with a zesty citrus finish.  C’est magnifique!

Moss vitrines

Moss vitrines

To the right of the bar are tall glass vitrines showcasing select objects for sale by Manhattan design shop Moss.  Each case houses a unique array of fun toys and household items, from squished up teddy bears to enamel combs to porcelain birds to decorative silver plates.  Also for sale are enlarged candid paparazzi photos of famous celebrities at their best and worst (Brad Pitt with Zahara in the park to Gwyneth Paltrow dodging the lens with an outstretched hand).  Each item makes you wonder…why, what, when, where, who, and how???

Famed Spanish chef José Andrés, who trained with Ferran Adrià of El Bulli, has 2 sections in his restaurant.  The contemporary Blanca side, where we sat, has pristine white and pink armchairs and glowing lampshades.

Entrance to the Blanca

Entrance to the Blanca

There are large wonderful photos of bodies in motion, playfully displayed throughout the restaurant.

Blanca counter

Blanca counter

The traditional Rojo side, set behind large grey draping curtains, plays on black and red, with bold chalk drawings of animals and vintage photos of Spanish matadors.  This is the side where you can see the busy open kitchen busting out the wild creations on the extensive menu.

Rojo

Rojo

We ordered the chef’s tasting menu along with a beautiful bottle of 2004 Chateauneuf du Pape, Tardieu-Laurent from Rhone, France.  I embarked on this mesmerizing molecular gastronomy tour with 2 professional chefs and a refined foodie friend.  It was the perfect set up for a perfect evening.

For starters, my favorite creation of the evening, the Philly Cheesesteak.

Seared tender slices of Wagyu beef on oval shaped air bread with melted cheddar cheese.  The air bread is a hollow light thin crust of bread that contains dripping melted cheese.  This was one of the most sensational dishes that I have ever tasted in my life.  The delicate lightness of the air bread coupled with the wagyu beef that melted just as fast as the warm cheese penetrated deep into my taste buds, making me purr with delight.

Next we had one of my absolute favorite foods in the whole world.  I have dreamt of this day when I would finally be reunited with Jamon Ibérico de Bellota.  This is the most prized cured Spanish ham in the world, made from free range black Iberico pigs raised on acorns.  Due to import regulations, The Bazaar is one of the few places in the United States where you can eat this.  The woodsy aroma and deep sweet flavor of the glistening marble fat that melts on your tongue is indescribable.

Pa’amb tomaquet, a traditional Catalan tapas of ripe tomato, Manchego cheese and garlic rub on toasted bread, was the perfect complement to the jamon.

Next we had a signature Ferran Adrià dish, the traditional and modern olives.  First we sampled traditional olives stuffed with roasted piquillo pepper and anchovies.  It was nicely briny and salty, and the green olive flesh was meaty and succulent.

The modern olives, made by spherification, were served tableside by our server.  He came over with a glass jar containing perfectly round green blobs floating in olive oil.  He scooped them out with a small ladle and very carefully placed them on white porcelain serving spoons.  It’s pure olive essence packed inside a thin delicate membrane that bursts inside your mouth with only a slight amount of pressure.

Papas Canarias, salty wrinkled potatoes prepared Canary Island style with mojo verde sauce.  I loved the soft velvety texture of the potato skins.  The potatoes were perfectly cooked inside, and the green parsley, cilantro, garlic and olive oil sauce was light and fresh.

Next was a playful presentation of soy marinated salmon roe cones with crème fraîche and dill.  The crepe cones were thin and delicate, and the roe was both sweet and salty.  A delightful bite of bursting roe bubbles and sour creaminess!

The following dish was a very bizarre take on the shrimp cocktail.  Plastic pipettes containing cocktail sauce pierced through the shrimp flesh garnished with chive flowers, dill and sesame seeds.  Our server instructed us to take small bites of the shrimp while squeezing some of the cocktail sauce into our mouth at the same time through the pipette.  I wasn’t a big fan of this dish.  It was too much work for too little taste.

I really enjoyed this next modern Caprese dish.  Liquified mozzarella balls (same concept as the modern olive spheres) with roasted peeled cherry tomatoes in a basil sauce.  We were instructed to eat the mozzarella balls, cherry tomato, basil sauce and crackers all in one bite, and boy was it a superb and delightful bite.  The cherry tomatoes had a slight vinegary acidic tone, going well with the dark earthy genovese, crunchy crackers and soft liquid texture of the intense mozzarella balls.

Tuna ceviche and avocado roll with cornflower chips and micro cilantro.  A classic combination of avocado and tuna that can never go wrong.  It’s rich, creamy, and flavorful.  The cornflower chips added a wonderful crunchy texture to the dish.

Japanese tacos with grilled eel, shiso leaves, cucumber, wasabi and chicharron.  I didn’t care much for this dish, it was very predictable.

Miso linguine with tomato, salmon roe and lemon.  The dashi flavor of the noodles was very strong, maybe a bit too strong for me.  The textures of this dish were delightful though, with the slurpiness of the slippery noodles and the bursting salmon roe. It served as a nice refreshing palate cleanser before the heartier meat dishes.

A signature fun Bazaar dish of cotton candy foie gras.  They have a gigantic stainless steel cotton candy machine next to the Patisserie where they make these.  Our server instructed us to shove this massive piece of fluffy vanilla scented cotton candy containing chilled salted foie gras into our mouth in one bite.  We put our inhibitions aside and did exactly so, and what a sensational play of flavors it was!  The whispy texture of the cotton candy that collapsed down onto the succulent cube of foie gras coated with crunchy sea salt was sensational.  A genius that Andrés is…

I loved the boneless chicken wings with green olive purée.  First of all, how can you go wrong with fried chicken?  They were crispy and flavorful on the outside and juicy on the inside.

One of the best executed dishes of the evening where we could really appreciate the true flavor of the food was the oven roasted cippolini onions with clementines, passion fruit and pumpkin seed oil.  The onions were wonderfully caramelized, and their dense sweetness paired nicely with the tart clementines.

The braised veal cheeks with California oranges was another delightful savory dish with that perfect balance of citrus tartness and rich veal jus.  The braised meat was extremely tender and melted in my mouth.

To finish off the dinner, sautéed cauliflower ‘couscous‘ with quinoa, pomegranate, dried raisins, pine nuts, cauliflower purée, harissa and lemon.  The ‘couscous‘ here is actually made from finely chopped cauliflower florets.  The sweet and smokey Moroccan flavors of this dish went well with the braised veal cheeks.

Wow, we ate a lot of fine dishes.  And we still had room for dessert!  After a quick kitchen tour we went to the charming Patisserie for sweets.  The pink and white dessert counter is lined with beautiful glass jars and containers filled with delightful colorful treats that are visually pleasing.  A true Alice in Wonderland experience.

Candy jars in the Patisserie

Candy jars in the Patisserie

Beautiful pastries

Beautiful pastries

The patisserie offers exciting sweets such as passion fruit marshmallow, white chocolate lollipop with black olive and sea salt, pineapple gum drops, and lemon ginger bonbons.  We had 2 wonderful desserts.  The hot chocolate mousse with pear sorbet and salty hazelnut praline was beautiful.  The contrast of warm and cold, smooth liquid and juicy solid fruit was delightful.

But my big surprise for the evening was the floating nitro coconut island with passion fruit, banana and vanilla.  WOW, amazing.  The external shell of the white coconut sphere that is hard frozen with nitrous instantly collapses into the molten center with the spoon.  The textures of the external shell and the internal goo is wondrous, and the passion fruit seeds explode with tart crunchiness.  This dessert was really fun to eat, and I had a big smile on my face as I approached it from all angles with my spoon.

Our evening at The Bazaar was fantastic, superb, delightful and fun.  The service was impeccable, the wine selection thorough, the Starck interior design genius, and the food amazing.  It was a thrilling and inspiring adventure into a magical culinary world, and a wonderful sampling of traditional versus modern gastronomy.

The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel

465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Random trivia:  Did you know that couscous has twice as much fiber as an equal portion of oatmeal?