D.C. Dining: minibar by José Andrés
I just returned from a weekend of wandering around Washington D.C. and I can't wait to share my dining adventures! Washington D.C. is not necessarily a place that is on my radar but one of my dearest girlfriends moved there for graduate school so of course, I had to visit! There's nothing better than enjoying sensational food with your best friends.
First on the itinerary, dinner at the two Michelin star restaurant minibar by Jose Andres.
Having dined at several of Jose Andrés' restaurants ( Jaleo, Bazaar, Saam, é, China Poblano and Barmini) I was anxiously anticipating my experience at minibar. In preparation for the twenty plus courses ahead of us that evening, I opted for an early seating. They ask that you arrive fifteen minutes prior to your reservation and I can now see why- TRAFFIC. Holy smokes and I thought I had it bad in Nashville.
As we approached the restaurant, we were warmly greeted and escorted to this lovely living room reminiscent of a scene from Alice and Wonderland. Reveling in the magnificent decor, we were treated to sparkling wine and a treat from the kitchen: Pizza Margherita which was served with an ever so small bag of puffed quinoa. Quite the twist on a typical Neapolitan pizza.
Having a few moments to enjoy the snack, we were then escorted to the kitchen and seated center stage. Chef quickly placed this lovely small wax bowl in front of us. It reminded me of something that you would see during the pre-historic time, but alas it was simply the vessel for our first cocktail, Wax and Honey. Sourced from Barr Hill in Vermont, this cocktail had the perfect amount of sweetness and floral notes. And the wax bowl? That was made from beeswax which was sourced from the Barr Hill farm. Genuis, right?
Having caught a sneak peak on Instagram, I could not wait for the next few bites: Butterfly and Hibiscus Crackling. Crafted from beet puree, the chef did a remarkable job creating these ever so delicate butterflies. The hibiscus crackling reminded me of a tart fruit roll up and had the residual effects of taffy.
One of my favorite bites of the evening was Harry's Berries Al-Andalus. These strawberries were sweet and delicious and left me wanting many many more. Much to my dismay, that didn't happen.
Savoring the last bits of our Harry's Berries, a silver tray was presented adorned with magnolia leaves. Inside each leaf, was Cogan's Magnolia Dew Drop. This was our introduction to spherification for the evening. The culinary team crafted a bite similar to a dew drop that one might find on a magnolia tree early in the morning.
Side note: I strive to be completely honest with my readers about my dining experiences. While my viewpoint may differ from others, it's important that I depict the experience as it happened rather than provide a romanticized narrative about a dinner I didn't enjoy.
This is where my disappointment began to develop with minibar. Compared to my other experiences, little information(ingredients, inspiration, preparation, etc.) was provided on this course. I was hoping it was a fluke, but sadly it was par for the course that evening.
Presented on a large green banana leaf tray was Hokkaido Uni and Iberico Droplet. This proved to be quite a thought provoking course as uni and Iberico ham are an unusual combination. While it was an interesting flavor profile, it didn't fall into my top five courses for the evening.
The following course's flavors were reminiscent the Fourth of July, Chicken and Corn. Strategically balanced on top of a white lacquered can, was crispy chicken skin topped with barbecue sauce and shaved corn off the cob. Curious as to what was inside the can? Is was a sweet horchata like drink that complimented the flavors of the bite perfectly.
Presented next were Parmesan Spoons. The culinary team molded parmesan cheese into two spoon like utensils, one of which was topped with caviar. Guests were instructed to use the spoons to stir and consume the basil foam concoction presented. Being the turophile that I am, I loved the texture of the spoons and of course, who doesn't love caviar.
Concluding the snack portion of the evening was an interactive course for the guests, Pumpkin Tarts. Using liquid nitrogen, the culinary team created a tart shell using pumpkin seed oil. Placed inside the fragile tart shell was an interesting and bright gel combination which had yuzu like notes throughout. This was quite the fun course. Using the smallest of spatulas, the chefs fed each guest the dainty tartlet which immediatley melted in your mouth.
Making the transition to our savory courses, the chef presented the table with the Santa Barbara Spot Prawn which would be used to create our next course. Using this as the centerpiece ingredient, the team presented a gorgeous dish of ceviche garnished with nasturtium leaves. This was by far one of the more elegant dishes of the evening. Although again, the chef did not go into much detail about the inspiration for the dish or the ingredients. Again, rather disappointing for a two Michelin star restaurant.
Keeping with the seafood theme of the evening, we were presented with Snail Caviar: Fast and Slow. I was quite intrigued by this as I was interested to see how all of the flavors (Jamon Iberico, Rabbit, and Snail) harmonized. I can only imagine what some of you might be thinking, but quite honestly this experimental dish was perfectly constructed. The sommelier paired this dish with a Spanish sherry that highlighted the flavors of the dish flawlessly.
Diners had a surprise guest appearance from our next course before he was taken back into the kitchen and prepared. Curious? Meet Sebastian. And yes, I just made a Little Mermaid reference :)
Subsequently, our next course, Oregon Dungeness Crab, Broccoli and Cheddar was served. Using the spherification technique, the culinary team provided a twist on the basic broccoli cheddar combination. I always enjoy watching the precise movements in the kitchen. Here you can see the attention and amount of precision that goes into each plate.
Concluding our seafood expedition for the evening was Montana Trout Belly and Lemon Yolks. This was one of the heartier dishes of the evening. The fish was cooked in a Japanese charcoal adding nice smoky undertones to the dish.
By now you know my love for all things truffle. From the foraging process to the aromas and taste, truffles are truly a delicacy. When we sat down at the table, I spotted several black truffles under the smallest of cloches in the kitchen. Giddy with excitement, I had to ask when these were coming out. Of course, I didn't get an answer, but a smile. Our next dish was the winner of the evening, but then again I may be a little biased. Served in a delicate cellophane bag were Morels and Garner's Peas en Papillote. Such a delicate dish filled with aromas and flavors that would make your eyes roll back. It doesn't hurt that the truffles were flown in fresh that morning either.
Based on the grimaces at the table, I can safely say that the Leche de Tigre was the least favorite course of the meal. I took one bite and could barely keep it in my mouth. An attempt at a savory seafood popsicle gone wrong. I am a huge fan of experimentation in the kitchen, but this is should be labeled #kitchenfail.
At this point in the meal, I was looking for anything and everything to get the taste of the Leche de Tigre out of my mouth. There was simply not enough wine. Coming to my rescue was the Squab Salmis. Topped with hearts of palm and foie gras sauce, I was excited to try this dish. Disappointment again. The foie gras sauce was the highlight of the dish as the squab was much too gamey.
Providing relief from the last two courses was the Mojito Supreme. The photo below is a bit deceiving as it looks like two lime wedges in a bucket, however, the center of the lime is similar to an adult jello shot. It was bright, refreshing and fantastic!
Our next course was an unexpected twist on your typical cheese course. Using liquid nitrogen, the team created Gorgonzola Dolce. Don't be fooled by the size of this dish. While it may be on the smaller side, it was packed with flavor. The texture reminded me of the Olive Oil and Chocolate dessert served at é in Las Vegas.
Now let's talk desserts! Before you are escorted over to barmini for the remainder of your sweet treats, you are served three courses: Fried Doughnut, Little Piggy, and Chalk. All three bites were remarkable, however, the Fried Doughnut literally was everything. Stuffed with ice cream and then deep friend and dusted with powdered sugar, this is sure to put a smile on anyone's face.
We were fortunate to have a change of scenary and had the pleasure of spending the rest of the evening in barmini where we finished with our interactive dessert and enjoyed a few mignardises. Below you will find a member of the culinary team preparing Dragon's Breath. This dessert took only a few minutes to prepare but gave us all lots of laughs afterward.
How adorable are these mignardises? Pictured below: Golden Hoshi-Kiwi, Key Lime Pie Bon Bon, Coriander Abanico, and White Chocolate Shiso Leaf. Even though I enjoyed them all, my favorite by far was the White Chocolate Shiso Leaf. Those flavors!! Enough to send you into a food coma!
Waiting for our check, one more bite was brought to us, the Golden Egg. Honestly, I wasn't sure I could do anymore, after all, we just finished celebrating our friend's birthday with a cotton candy cake (not pictured- and yes it was as awesome as it sounds). When they brought over the eggs, they told us a special prize was inside, little did I know that the check would be one of them! Besides getting our bill, a little lego chef was placed inside each egg. Cute and clever.
I am grateful that I had a chance to visit and experience what minibar had to offer. Was it what I expected? Did it live up to all of the hype? I think you know the answer to that. While I have much respect for Jose Andrés and his two Michelin star rating, perhaps the culinary team was a bit off their game. When immersing myself into a culinary experience or tasting menu, I find it valuable to understand the chef's perspective/inspiration and learn about the ingredients of each dish. To me, it's important to see the story unfold. If you were reading a novel, you wouldn't read the first page of each chapter and expect to have a full understanding of the story, right? The same is true for a meal.
Reflecting on the evening, I had the chance cultivate new friendships and spend some time and share some laughs with one of my dearest friends. After all, time is our most precious commodity and I am so fortunate that I had the chance to spend the evening with some wonderful souls.
Until next time!
Tariff: $350.00/ person before drinking pairings
Can't Miss Courses: Morels and Garner's Peas en Papillote, Fried Doughnut, and Dragon's Breath
Potential Pass: Leche de Tigre and Squab Salmis
Reservations: Click here