My third visit to The Bazaar by José Andrés made me realize what a great deal the restaurant really is. No, seriously… I think it’s an absolute steal.
For the past few months I’ve been learning how to make molecular goodies at home, so I really enjoy seeing different techniques that the chefs are using at Bazaar. Three recipes that I’d love to master are Ferran Adria’s “Liquid Olive”, “Pea Ravioli” and also something called “Dragon’s Breath” Popcorn.
Over the years I had seen the “Liquid Olive” and “Pea Ravioli” on various TV shows including “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain” and “The Best Recipes in the World with Mark Bittman”. Both of the episodes took place at Albert and Ferran Adria’s world-famous elBulli restaurant, on the Costa Brava in Roses, Spain.
My husband Peter and I have tried getting reservations at elBulli for many years, and once again we were notified that all spaces were filled for the upcoming 2009 season. (Email from elBulli)
ElBulli receives over 2 million reservation requests each season, and there are “only” 8,000 seats available from June to December. Yet I email the restaurant a few times a month, just reminding them that we are open to any available dates and figure that if it happens, great… if not, then we try again next year (and the year after).
If by some miracle, there is a cancellation this season and we get the much anticipated “we-won-the-elBulli-lottery” email from Luis Garcia (the man in charge of bookings)… there is no doubt that we would dig deep into our savings and try to go. We could only do this if we had enough time to actually book the trip properly… meaning if we got the notice a few days before the reservation date, there would be no way we could swing it.
Now just for the fun of it, let’s say we are given a confirmed reservation at elBulli a full thirty days before the actual departure date. How much would it actually cost to eat that one meal at elBulli?
I decided to find out and started researching flights and hotels on Hotels.com, where I “faux-booked” a trip for June 2009.
I began this exercise (in positive thinking) by searching for the following:
- Two round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Barcelona.
- Six nights at a hotel in Spain: Five in Barcelona and one in Roses near the restaurant. (Realistically, if we would make the trip to elBulli, then we would want to at least spend a few extra days sightseeing around Barcelona).
- Transportation from Barcelona to Roses.
Monday 29 June 2009
Depart Barcelona (BCN) 8:45 am
Arrive Los Angeles (LAX) 3:50 pm
airberlin 8937 / 3530
5 Nights at Hotel Sidorme Mollet in Bracelona (I chose the most inexpensive hotel offered).
Total for flights and above hotel (price combined on Hotels.com) is
$2,826 (for both of us)
Add in one night at Vistabella hotel in Roses where elBulli is located is $180 per night.
Above Subtotal $3166.00
To that, I add on these costs:
The elBulli 30-course tasting menu, which would cost approximately $500 ($250 per person, or more).
A full-time dog sitter: Our three dogs are like kids to us, so when we go out of town we pay someone to love them, feed them, run them and most importantly… sleep with them. I know… they are spoiled (we call them “duvet” dogs). For a week away we would pay our usual sitter (Jade), $100 per day. Total of $700
TOTAL for this itinerary: $4366.00
I would still need to add in additional meals & entertainment for the week. We can get by on two meals per day, and will definitely want to hit every tapas bar in site. Then there are museums, entertainment, transport around Barcelona and shopping. I’m going to just round it out to $5,000.
I know there are probably much cheaper ways to make the trip, maybe take the bus or train instead of renting a car, or find super cheap airline tickets with ten stops in between. Whatever the actual costs, we are still talking THOUSANDS of dollars for one coveted meal at elBulli.
How about another famous molecularly focused eatery that’s closer to home? MiniBar… José Andrés’ tiny, six-seat-only restaurant in Washington DC? I first learned about MiniBar on Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie (on PBS) and the episode was called “Anatomy of a Meal with José Andrés”. Just last week, MiniBar was featured again on “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain”. That’s where I first saw the “Dragon’s Breath” popcorn and it was just SO COOL… after cooking the small bites of caramel popcorn in liquid nitrogen, Andrés and Bourdain popped the pieces in their mouths and “smoke” came out of their nostrils.
MiniBar is much easier to get to then Roses, Spain, and if we actually scored reservations, the tasting menu (27 little bites) would cost $120 a person. We could easily fly in for one or two nights and keep the costs down (a little bit). MiniBar’s 8:30pm seating starts at 8:40 and can take up to 2.5 hours, so I would plan to arrive the day before in case of flight delays. Let’s say we have a dinner reservation for March 28, 2009. Here’s the breakdown:
Round/Trip flight to DC (again, using Hotels.com):
Depart 1:10 pm Los Angeles (LAX)
to Washington DC (IAD) Arrive 8:54 pm
Depart 5:50 pm Washington DC (IAD)
to Los Angeles (LAX) Arrive 8:20 pm
Two nights at the Candlewood Suites Herndon
Rental Car: Hertz Economy Car
Total for above (for two people): $687
+ $240 for MiniBar
+ $400 for additional meals, sightseeing & shopping
A trip to José Andrés MiniBar in Washington DC (Air, Hotel, Car and Meals): $1327.00
I could spend the next few days trying to figure out the costs of visiting restaurants that focus a large part of their menus on molecular, modern treats… Alinea in Chicago, wd~50 in NYC, Mugaritz and Arzak (both in Spain), and the mighty Fat Duck in England… but the point I’m trying to make is… I don’t have to. I can hop in my car and drive the fifteen minutes to the Bazaar by José Andrés and slurp down ten liquid “Olives Ferran Adria” (that’s what they’re called on the menu) and the “Dragon’s Breath” liquid nitro cooked popcorn? Yup, the Bazaar has that too!
Honestly… the place just makes me happy! Each time I’ve taken someone new to experience it with me, and it’s like we’re all in kindergarten and just visiting the circus for the first time… but with way better concession snacks!
For all the joy and deliciousness I’ve experienced in my three visits to Bazaar … I really believe it’s an absolute bargain.
Our cost for our most recent dinner at The Bazaar was $158 for the two of us. That included 9 dishes, 2 desserts and 2 cocktails. The price also includes entertainment (if sitting near the Rojo kitchen) and education (if you’re into molecular cooking too!).
Finally, in comparison to a night at elBulli, The Bazaar by José Andrés is a steal. I know times are tough and I feel tremendously grateful that I get to eat there at all. To me, it’s worth every penny.
New Dishes We All Enjoyed (we were joined by my sister Janet, her husband Paul and our good friends Afaf and Ray):
Sweet Potato Chips with Yogurt, Tamarind, Star Anise $10
Adorable (almost Barbie doll size!) Foie gras and Quince on a Mini Brioche Bun 3 for $12
Sea Urchins, Avocado in a Steamed Mini Bun 3 for $12
Beef Hanger Steak and Piquillo Pepper Confit $10
Toro (Tuna) “Nigiri”, Wasabi, Watermelon, Soy and Jalapeño $16
“Dragon’s Breath” Caramelized Popcorn made with liquid nitrogen. After you pop these treats in your mouth… smoke streams out your nose (like a dragon)! Made by Chef de Cuisine, Michael Voltaggio. Thank you!
Dishes we had on previous visits and enjoyed again:
“Philly Cheesesteak” Air bread, Cheddar Cheese, Wagyu Beef $8 (everyone loved these)
Hilly Cheesesteak Air bread, cheddar Cheese, Mushrooms (instead of beef) $7 (my sister’s favorite)
“Not your everyday Caprese” Cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella in pipettes $12
King Crab with Raspberry Vinegar $16
Dining Date: 2/1/09
A special thanks to William Douillet and the entire staff for an exceptional evening.
The Bazaar by José Andrés
465 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA
Reservations Available on OpenTable