The week before opening the Bazaar by José Andrés in New York City, Andrés himself was in Cádiz, Spain. “Wow,” he said by phone from the car with his recognizable Asturian ardor. “I’m seeing hundreds of flamingos, beautifully pink.” In a few days’ time, the flamingos will have flown and Andrés will be back in New York, on the second floor of the new Ritz-Carlton, to rally the troops for what is perhaps his longest-anticipated and, frankly, riskiest opening yet.
Since the first Bazaar opened in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2008, the restaurant has been marked by a sui generis whimsy. Foams! Cones! Cotton candy! That plays well in L.A., Las Vegas, Miami, and, perhaps, even in Andrés’s hometown of Washington, D.C., where he recently opened a triumphant Bazaar in what was once the Trump hotel. But in New York, where the prevalent aesthetic is easy luxury; in midtown, where the overarching mood is “vacant”; and in the Ritz-Carlton, where few New Yorkers dare tread, a high-theater chain restaurant is a big gamble. Andrés is unfazed: “I don’t open restaurants,” he said. “I tell stories, and no two are alike.” At the New York Bazaar, Andrés has relied on two longtime colleagues — Manuel Echeverri, the culinary director of all the Bazaar restaurants, and Koji Terano, the restaurant group’s head chef of R&D — to helm the unusually concise menu. “The idea,” said Andrés, “was to explore the connection between Japanese and Spanish cuisine. Japan and Spain share so many values in cooking — the love for rice, the love of frying, the love of grilling, of seafood, of shellfish, of marinating in vinegar — and when you look, we are so deeply connected.”
Ahead of the August 8 opening, Andrés talked us through a few dishes he’s most looking forward to.
Socarrat (pictured above)
“Rice is one commonality we are exploring on the menu. Socarrat refers to the crispy rice stuck to the bottom of the pan. It always seemed like the best part to me. Originally this was going to be a miso-tinged unagi dish, a reference to a Valencian eel stew called all i pebre, but the flavors were conflicting. Instead, we are using shima aji (striped jack). As soon as the socarrat comes out of the fire, we slice some raw fish on top. The rice is hot enough to warm — but not cook — the fish. We present it flat and fold the socarrat at the table, almost like an omelet. It’s finished with little daubs of fresh wasabi.”
Japanese sea-urchin cone
“Every Bazaar has a cone or a few. Here, the cone, made with brick dough, is filled with Hokkaido uni. On top is a yuzu-kosho mayonnaise, with a couple layers of shiso garnished with nori purée, and fresh wasabi.”
“In New York, we’re doing more tableside presentations, including this Bazaar classic. Every Bazaar has a beef tartare; this one naturally emphasizes the two cultures of Spain and Japan. We’re using 100 percent Wagyu, though we’re looking for a Spanish version of this, too, served with pan de cristal, a typical bread from Catalan, and tempura’d shiso leaves.”
“Crudo is sashimi, and sashimi is crudo. That’s a huge overlap in the two cultures. In Japan, where it is known as the ‘king of the fish,’ madai is prepared for special occasions. Here, we serve it as a crudo to showcase the beautiful red color. It’s lightly cured and served with irizake, a sauce made with sake and umeboshi, to which we add tomato water, a technique created by Spanish chefs. It’s garnished with kombu-pickled radishes, compressed jicama, and olive oil, because why not?”
“Hako means box in Japanese. This style of sushi, in which the rice and seafood is pressed into a mold, was a precursor to nigiri. It’s quite rare to find in the States but is common in Japan. The fish is fresh shima aji, which rests atop two layers of rice, separated by chopped shiso leaf. For a bit of Spanish flavor and texture, we add some mojo crocante: a mixture of fried garlic chips, roasted pine nuts, and fried rosemary.”
Ensaladilla de bogavante
“I’ve made hundreds of versions of this traditional lobster-and-potato salad. It’s what I eat when I cook for my family on vacation. The secret is mayonnaise. Always more mayonnaise. To me, what makes the dish special is that the potato salad isn’t entirely cold. We warm the potatoes, smash them with a fork, then mix in the lobster knuckles and claws, piparra peppers from the Basque Country, hard-boiled egg, and a lot of mayo. We finish this with a little lobster oil on top.”
“Not only do both Spanish and Japanese culinary cultures feature raw fish in some form, they also both have perfected frying. For this tapas, we use baby squid from Cádiz that we call puntillitas. It’s a very common and popular dish. The squid are served around a squid-ink mayonnaise sauce, a fermented-squid sauce called ishiri, and an ishiri-cured quail-egg yolk. The idea is to use the squid to mix the yolk into the mayo, sort of like French fries and ketchup.”
“The idea here was to present a 100-percent-Spanish preparation in a way that appears Japanese. These chicken wingettes are first deboned and marinated in salmorejo (the Canary Islands marinade, not the Andalusian soup). Then we stuff them with a mixture of ground ibérico and onion before they’re grilled. The wingettes are finished with sesame seeds.”
“First we take a very thick cut of eggplant and lightly fry it. Then we spread honey-miso sauce on top. That goes on the Josper, an open grill, and gets garnished with pine nuts, sesame seeds, masago, coriander, and preserved lemon. The skin becomes nice and firm while the flesh is gooey, so it’s like eating out of a cup.”
This post has been updated. The restaurant is on the hotel’s second floor, not its third.
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