I’m sad to report that a recent visit to Jose Andres’ minibar left me a little underwhelmed. It began at the bar before dinner. Left to the whims of the America Eats bar, we were unable to get a martini with an olive, an ingredient deemed not Classic American enough to have on hand. So a twist it was, and I was left craving salty all evening. A year ago, when minibar was still housed in Cafe Atlantico, the martinis had an “olive” that was the juice of nine olives suspended in auger or some such. I had really been looking forward to that.
As for the meal itself, I hope the magic of modernist cuisine hasn’t simply worn off for me. I hope rather that my expectations for wonderment plus awesome flavor have just been heightened since dining at Alinea in Chicago. minibar, on this visit, felt a bit gimmicky and sensational over heartwarming and delicious (or even filling!). A truly bitter snowball kicked the whole thing off and I could barely get it down. The mojito popsicle was similar and better and sufficient. Likewise the sea bean tempura hit tart again and better.
There were certainly some good dishes–chicken shawarma, grilled salmon toro–but also familiar if you’ve seen the El Bulli documentary (now streaming on Netflix). The olive oil soup with mandarin was straight out of the film only Ferran Adria eventually drops the mandarin and quite rightly. The olive oil soup was wonderful, but I left the (again) tart citrus on the plate.
The chefs, who cook and plate before you, were the same as a year ago, and I’m not sure if the joyless vibe was coming from me or them. They brightened when discussing the opening of Jose’s new Bazaar in Miami. They were headed there that weekend; perhaps that’s where all the fun has gone. Andres has many irons in the fire now, including a Catalonian buffet at the National Gallery to complement a Joan Miro exhibit. My desire for good food on the Mall compels me to give it a whirl and soon–it runs through the summer.