Eating in is better than eating out in Amsterdam

While the Dutch are famous for beautiful architecture and art, their cuisine has suffered a very dark past.  Potato porridge, pea soup and carb-heavy plates of lackluster flavor immediately come to mind, making me wonder how a country surrounded by Bocuse D’or winners can manage to remain so behind the culinary times.  There has been a recent movement toward contemporary Dutch cuisine, with native chefs returning from overseas restaurant stints who incorporate local ingredients with newly learned techniques.  However, I quickly discovered that fine dining in a city so cosmopolitan as Amsterdam, is still not so fine.

In keeping with their wonderful sense of artistry and craftsmanship, many restaurants in Amsterdam are true architectural beauties.  Dining by candlelight in a reclaimed glass greenhouse in the middle of a park at De Kas, throwing back oysters on a modernized retired ferry at Pont 13 and lunching in the bustle of a former church-turned-bright Moroccan oasis at Bazar all offer exciting backdrops for a fun dining experience.  Sadly the food always seemed to fall short of its surroundings, and expat residents generally concurred with my observation.

What can we expect from a country whose most popular fast food chain is a glitzed up version of a vending machine?  The gaudy red and yellow signs of Febo are visible on every street corner of Amsterdam, dreadful institutions of grease and fat that sell krokets, hamburgers and kaassouflé through small coin operated windows.  Bamihaps (deep fried mee goreng), kalfsvleeskrokets (veal croquettes) and frikadels (minced meat hot dogs) that have been sitting in a window for who knows how long simply cannot be good for you.

Tourists wandering into any one of the numerous Dutch pancake restaurants will be surprised to find dense heavy cakes smothered in bacon and swamps of melted cheese instead of the light fluffy ones that we are used to.  And the Dutch version of Belgian fries are soggy sticks of recycled oil suffocated with awful sauces and toppings.  How can one go wrong with fries, I thought, as I waited in a long line at the ever popular Vleminckx, but the signature patatje oorlong (‘war fries’) topped with mayonnaise, spicy peanut sauce and raw onions quickly made it to my list of most disgusting eats.  Dutch dining, at least in restaurants and street corners, seemed to emphasize grease and density over flavor and quality.

Amsterdam is a melting pot of cultures, and Dutch cuisine gets its much needed boost of flavor and energy from the Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccans, Ethiopians and Indonesians.  With an array of Indonesian restaurants to choose from, one can retreat for a rijsttafel rice table extravaganza when their palates tire of bland food.  Flaky buttery Surinamese rotis with duck curry and crispy green beans will also please the weary traveler.

Chinese dim sum on a lazy Sunday morning at Oriental Palace in Chinatown is another palatable dining option.  Pork siu mai, shrimp har gow, pan fried jiaozi, shrimp cheong fan, lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice, taro dumplings, turnip cakes and squid in black bean sauce are as good as any dim sum parlor in the US.

But I didn’t come all the way to Amsterdam just to eat Chinese dim sum and Surinamese rotis.  What exactly is Dutch cuisine, and how can I eat well in the Netherlands?  After some investigation and a lot of observation, I started to realize that the majority of locals stay at home and cook.  Dining out isn’t a big part of their culture, and the best meals are prepared at home using ingredients from local food shops, markets and delicatessens.  Take Kaashuis, a specialty cheese store filled wall to wall with artisanal goudas, Edam and Leyden.  The Dutch are as famous for their cheeses as they are for their windmills and wooden clogs, and with over 200 domestic and imported cheeses to choose from along with a smorgasbord of marinated olives, roasted tomatoes, beautiful breads and cured meats, one will never have a bad meal anymore.

Immediately next to Kaashuis is a butcher shop offering everything from housemade sausages hanging from the ceiling, pickled beef tongue, venison pâté, rabbit rillettes and a glorious hock of Jamón Iberico to shave.  Across the street from the butcher is a gorgeous sweets shop called Patisserie Kuyt bursting with the warm enticing scents of freshly baked pastries and biscuits.  The glass window cases are filled with sheets of dainty little chocolate ganaches, bonbons and decadent cakes.  Just a few stores down from Kuyt, like in any other neighborhood in the city, is a bakery selling baguettes, croissants, sourdough loaves, dense hearty rusks and various artisanal breads.

Perhaps the best part of shopping and eating in Amsterdam is the fresh seafood.  Close to Kaashuis and Patisserie Kuyt is a quaint little store called Fishes, offering the most beautiful selection of fish, cephalopods, mollusks and bivalves for a reasonable price.  Smoked eel, mackerel and salmon, all delightful Dutch specialties, are as good as it gets here in this clean and well organized shop.

And what about raw herrings, those shiny slippery fish that the Dutch so love and adore?  Herring stands can be found at any outdoor market and along the canals, crowded with locals who stop in for a quick snack, but after numerous samplings of these succulent treats across the city, I found the best ones at Fishes.  Here you won’t have to deal with rude herring-meisters who treat you like the tourist that you are, but will be welcomed by the generous staff who run this clean joint.  Herrings are best enjoyed during the early summer months when its flesh is at its sweetest, but even when I was there in the winter, they were oily, plump, tender and sweet, hardly requiring the chopped onions and gherkins that come as accompaniments (in fact, purists scorn their presence).  Hold the herring by its tail, tilt your head back and slide the whole fish down your throat as the Dutch do, or cut it up in bite sized pieces and eat it with a Dutch flag toothpick if you’re shy.

With easy access to the most wonderful specialty products in the neighborhood, coupled with fresh organic produce from the Noordermarkt farmers market, we were soon eating like royalty in our cozy apartment.  It didn’t make sense to throw away our Euros for consistently disappointing and appalling dining experiences.  Short of being invited to somebody’s house for a home cooked meal, this was the most economical, pleasant, delicious and sane way to enjoy ‘Dutch dining’.  Like a duck confit salad on a bed of organic baby greens, steamed artichokes, roasted red beets and tomatoes with a mustard vinaigrette.

Or fresh sardines from Fishes, pan fried in olive oil and dressed simply with salt and chopped parsley on toasted rusk.  Ingredients so fresh, so flavorful and incredible that they speak for themselves.

Whole smoked mackerel quickly became my favorite daily eats, with toasted rusk, fresh mâche salads, organic fruits, artisanal cheeses from Kaashuis and a bottle of wine.  Melt-in-your-mouth smoked salmon from Fishes made it on the breakfast table every morning, while pickled beef tongue, smokey and slightly chewy in the best possible way, was another shining star in our daily routine.

When all else fails, there’s always chocolate space cakes, moist buttery snacks that taste innocently sweet.  Of course, you’ll still have to prepare some food for those outrageous munchies that will follow.

Random trivia:  Did you know that splitting a restaurant bill and ‘going Dutch’ comes from the concept of a Dutch door which is split horizontally in the middle so that the bottom half can stay shut to keep farm animals out, while the top half can remain open to let air in?

Thomas Haas Patisserie – Vancouver, BC Canada

Love is the most beautiful of dreams and the worst of nightmares’

- William Shakespeare

Love, oh love, how dark, bitter and semisweet thou can be, but chocolate, I prefer thee exactly that way. As bars, truffles, fudge and cake, no person can resist the allure of chocolate. From ancient Mayan civilization to modern 21st century times, the cacao bean has been an object of seduction, temptation and satisfaction. Processing, blending, tempering, decorating and molding is not as easy as one thinks, and it takes a true artisan to master the complex craft of chocolate making. I had the privilege of meeting one such chocolatier in Vancouver, once during dinner at Le Crocodile and the following day at his newly opened patisserie and café in Kitsilano.

Born and raised in Germany as a fourth generation Konditormeister, or Master Pastry Chef, Thomas Haas was destined to follow in his great grandfather’s footsteps. His great grandfather opened Café Conditorei Haas in 1918 in the Black Forest village of Aichhalden, Germany. After graduating from school, Thomas went on to work at several Michelin starred restaurants in Europe before settling in Vancouver for his first executive pastry chef position at the Four Seasons Hotel. It was shortly after working alongside Daniel Boulud as Executive pastry chef to open the famed Michelin starred restaurant Daniel in New York that Thomas exploded onto the scene, winning numerous competitions and awards for his creations. He now runs 2 namesake patisseries in Vancouver, the original location in North Shore and the newest addition in the trendy neighborhood of Kitsilano, which happens to be right next door to Daniel Boulud’s restaurant db Bistro and Lumière.

Thomas Haas patisserie and café in Kitsilano is one of the few places in the world where you can buy handcrafted artisanal chocolates and pastries, and also enjoy it with a cup of coffee or tea. On any given day, you will see Thomas behind the counter, serving viennoiserie, packing chocolate truffles and working the cash register while answering questions and giving recommendations to customers with a friendly smile. For a busy konditormeister and restaurateur, it’s nice to see that he is so involved with the front of the house and extremely approachable. He even came over to our table with complimentary macaroons and took the time to chat with us about all of his beautiful creations.

Thomas Haas’ signature dish is the dark chocolate ganache with pecan, caramel and Brittany fleur de sel, but his silky dark chocolate ganaches with fruit flavors like cassis, rasperry, lime cachaça, lychee and passion fruit are also famous. Perfect little balls of chocolate truffles made with Jamaican rum and matcha are tantalizing, as well as his elegant pastries like raspberry financier and pistachio sour cherry tart. He doesn’t stop there- chewy caramels, pâtes de fruits, chocolate sparkle cookies in the freezer that you take home and bake, chocolate bars that come in several flavors and cocoa percentages (I love the dark chocolate rooibos-rose and milk chocolate chai), and hot chocolate made with Valrhona chocolate that come in gorgeous tins (the Aztec with chipotle and ancho chile has even made a guest appearance in a foie gras appetizer in one of my previous dinners).

Manjari chocolate cake with manjari chocolate mousse and rum crème brûlée with a cup of vanilla rooibos tea was seductively rich and subtly sweet with a slight hit of smooth rum, and the perfect dessert to follow our burger lunch at db Bistro. The white chocolate wedge printed with the Thomas Haas logo was a cute touch.

Cassis, chocolate, vanilla and passion fruit macarons were an absolute delight, and some of the best macarons that I have ever had, rivaling the Pierre Hermé, Fauchon and Ladurée versions that I have had in Paris. A perfect crunchy outermost layer, deceptively thin, that gives way much easier than expected to a moist meringue that collapses around the flavor packed center filling. The passion fruit is my favorite, as the filling is made with the perfect balance of sweet and tart, but they’re all light and soft with a clean finish.

Thomas Haas’ award winning chocolates and pastries in Vancouver are absolutely worth the trip, and Thomas makes the visit even more worthwhile by creating a unique atmosphere for those who want to stay for a cup of coffee and scrumptious pastries. His North Shore store, which houses the main kitchen, is constructed to look like the inside of a chocolate box. The Kitsilano location takes a more scientific approach to its decor, where the door frame is inscripted with the molecular structure of theobromine, the primary alkaloid found in cocoa and chocolate, and the mirrored ceiling tiles represent the structure of this chocolate molecule.

Love can be dark and bittersweet, but Thomas Haas’ dark and bittersweet chocolate creations will make you forget about lost loves and make everything just perfect.

Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates and Patisserie

Kitsilano store:

2539 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC V6K 2E9, Canada
(604) 736-1848

Random trivia: Did you know that chocolate contains over 1500 flavor components? Just like coffee or wine, chocolate has many different flavors due to complex layering of distinctive notes like cinnamon, tobacco, berries and rose. The origins of the beans (Ghana, Jamaica and Venezuela, for example), process of fermentation, soil and roasting process all contribute to distinct subtleties in flavors, which is one of the reasons why chocolate pairs with wine so well.

Jean Philippe- Las Vegas

The Aztecs drank it, the West Africans grew it, the Dutch produced it, the English sold it, the French refined it, the Easter bunny wore it, and everybody loves it- chocolate.  Archaeological findings suggest that humans were enjoying chocolate as far back as 1400 BC when it was consumed as a beverage.  The Mayans made it into a frothy bitter drink while the Aztecs, who called it xocolatl, often flavored it with vanilla, chili pepper or annatto.  With the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate crossed the high seas and fell upon the lips of the Europeans, leading to a continental frenzy over this little bean that could.  The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657, and the rest is history.  Everybody in the world knows what chocolate is, and everybody, whether or not they want to admit it, loves it.

Flash forward to the 21st century, and we now have chocolate available everywhere we turn.  Supermarkets stock entire aisles of it, and even local gas stations have a pretty impressive collection by the Cheetos rack.  But the really good stuff comes from learned pastry chefs and chocolate makers who have dedicate their lives to pleasing us with enchanting sweets.  On a whole other different level we have master chocolatiers, who are artisans in the art of chocolate who have studied the history and chemistry of chocolates and trained their skills extensively.

On a previous visit to Paris I was blown away by the artistry of Patrick Roger and his beautiful gallery on Blvd St. Germain.  One of my guilty pleasures when I visit my family in Tokyo is to nibble on a few of French chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin’s treasures at the Isetan in Shinjuku.  Los Angeles isn’t host to a distinguished chocolaterie yet, but with the recent surge of fine dining establishments and discerning gourmands, I’m hoping that it’s not too far in the future.  On my recent trip to Las Vegas I got a chance to revel in the beautiful cacao installments of patissier Jean-Philippe Maury on the Vegas strip.  At the Jean Philippe Pâtisserie in the Bellagio and now the Aria, die hard sweets fans can sinfully indulge in Meilleur Ouvrier de France and World Pastry Champion Jean Philippe Maury’s sensational creations.  There is something for everybody at Jean Philippe, where he offers not only chocolates, but pastries, salads and sandwiches too.

The Pâtisserie on the ground floor of the Aria has multiple sections, starting with an impressive display of rotating white and dark chocolate flowers by the gelateria.  Adjacent to the gelato and sorbet section is a crêperie where skilled crêpe makers will make a savory or sweet crêpe for your liking, followed by the beautiful retail store with rows and rows of enticing chocolates and candies.

Nougats, brittles, spreads, sticks, artisan jams, caramels, cakes and even rice crispy balls are all made on site every day by a team of 80 bakers in the kitchen.  At the chocolate bar, you can choose from a variety of sensational hand crafted artisanal chocolates with flavors like anise, amaretto, banana, peanut orange and vanilla rum, and take it home in beautiful boxes.

Imaginative displays of chocolate sculptures sit high on rotating pedestals, delighting shop patrons even further with Maury’s whimsies.  All of the edible works of art are colorful, vibrant and dramatic in true Vegas style.

My favorite chocolate sculpture was the chocolate bonsai, delicately carved with fine details of the tree bark and spiny leaves, and accompanied by a dainty three-tiered sakura cake in celebration of spring.

Long glass display cases line the other end of the large pâtisserie, showing off endless rows of pastries and breads, and intricate cakes like tiramisu in a glass cylinder, cheesecake encased in a soft folded white chocolate envelope and tarts with raspberries piled high in a tall pyramid like a croquembouche.

What I love about this pâtisserie is that it’s not just a take away boutique like most pâtisseries.  It’s also a cafe where patrons can experience instant gratification at any one of the cafe tables that face the display cases.  Salads, paninis and cold sandwiches are also offered here, giving diners the option of having an entire light meal here.  Naturally, hot chocolate is on the menu, and with so many options for dessert, one may easily have a continuous dessert tasting and never leave the cafe.

Fortunately there is a reason to leave the Jean Philippe Pâtisserie at Aria- the Jean Philippe Pâtisserie at the Bellagio.  There you can take in the dramatic floor-to-ceiling 27 foot chocolate fountain that put Jean Philippe on the Guinness World Records.  Nearly 2 tons of dark, milk and white chocolate cascade down leveled tiers in a glass enclosed space in a spectacular display of this true life Willy Wonka factory.  On your way out, don’t forget to buy a box of chocolate truffles for that person you love.  Who are we kidding?  Buy it for yourself.

“Like jewelry or perfume.  A blend, a shape, a texture.  Creating a candy with precision, emotion and passion.  Give yourself the pleasure of gods.”  – Jean Philippe Maury

Jean Philippe Pâtisserie

Bellagio – 3600 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV, 89109
(702) 693-8788

Aria- 3730  South Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(866) 359-7111

Open 6am-12am

Random trivia: Recent studies show that chocolate gives us many health benefits.  It is believed to suppress the symptoms of migraines and stop diarrhea.  Regular consumption of dark chocolate can lower the possibility of a heart attack.  Post-exercise consumption of lowfat chocolate milk in athletes provided superior muscle recovery in studies.  Theobromine in chocolate proved more effective at cough suppression than codeine.  But eating chocolate for our health is just an excuse.  Studies showed that melting chocolate in one’s mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate that was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing, and also lasted 4 times as long after the activity had ended.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.

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?