The restaurant, a surreal pleasure palace of melting-glass chandeliers, mirrored walls, and mismatched, weird furniture in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, is as much known for its bar scene as it is for its molecular gastronomy–inspired tapas. Women in slinky minidresses were out in full force.
We dove right in with the most gimmicky-sounding thing on the menu: the restaurant’s signature $20 Caipirinha, made tableside, using billowing gusts of liquid nitrogen to freeze it to a slush that you eat with a spoon. But lo and behold, what seemed like pointless theatrics proved otherwise. The process gave the drink an otherworldly texture: cold, creamy, and velvety, with not a single ice crystal.
The massive menu was split into two sides: traditional tapas and experimental tapas. We stuck mostly to the nouveau side. First to arrive were a duo of tiny ice cream cones on a little stand, containing caviar. A few bites of salty goodness, but it would have been nice if the cone wrapper had been a bit crunchier.
Much more delightful was a dish described as a “Philly Cheese steak on air bread.” It was like an upscale Hot Pocket: thinly sliced, raw-seared beef topping a paper-thin pastry container filled with sharp cheddar fondue that spilled out when you took a bite. Who doesn’t love a little Cheese Whiz action?
Boneless chicken wings were breaded and deep-fried, served with a brilliant, smooth-green olive purée. One of the Bazaar’s most popular dishes is one of its most simple: wrinkled little potatoes that have been cooked in a lot of salt so they appear dusty, served with green mojo dippin’ sauce. Visually, the dish was beautiful: The potatoes were all different colors of fingerlings, so that they resembled multihued stones from a riverbed.
Though it didn’t sound appealing, we took our server’s suggestion and ordered the restaurant’s famous “foie gras cotton candy.” Expecting spun sugar flavored with liver, we were happy to find it was actually vanilla-flavored cotton candy, served on a stick, hiding a cube of foie gras beneath. The dish worked remarkably well: The sensation of putting your mouth around a melting spider web of vanilla, then sinking your teeth into a surprise nugget of soft meat, was incredibly pleasurable.
For dessert, we were led to a different part of the restaurant, called the Patisserie. Our check followed us. Decorated like a femme pink and white candy shoppe, but with a touch of Tim Burton creepiness, it had an extensive menu, which included cookies, candies, ice cream, and bigger desserts. We went for a square-shaped lemon poppy seed cupcake, which arrived a bit too dense for our tastes, and another liquid nitrogen creation: a riff on the French dessert île flottante, or floating islands. Traditionally a meringue ball adrift in a shallow pool of crème anglaise, the Bazaar’s version was a snow ball of coconut foam, the outside of which was frozen solid and, when cracked, revealed a flowing, creamy interior.
The Bazaar is easy to rip on—some Chowhounds scoff that it’s an overpriced “Disneyland.” Yes, the experience of eating at the Bazaar is high-intensity, adult fantasyland bordering on cheesy. Describing it as a drug trip would not be incorrect, except with more food. Going to the bathroom, we felt like we might accidentally walk into a mirrored wall. A retail portion of the restaurant next to the Patisserie was filled with curio cases of gothy black plates with the seven deadly sins written on them in gold leaf, black lace panties, and $400 beeswax candles in the shape of hunky Greek gods.
However, we found it to be very good value. We tried (ahem) 14 different small plates, all of which were really good, and two desserts, for $153. At the end of our meal, we were stuffed, overstimulated, and already scheming on how we could get back to order all the other things we didn’t try.