Even before South Florida had two gems by Chef José Andrés, I’d visited (and loved) SAAM at The Bazaar in Beverly Hills for a memorable and glam birthday celebration. Needless to say, I’m ecstatic we now have a couple of our very own Bazaars! The first, The Bazaar South Beach, happens to be one of my top favorite restaurants (even placing fourth on my Top Ten Restaurants of 2016 list posted several weeks ago). The second, newly opened Bazaar Mar.
High hopes going in can sometimes be the kiss of death, just not this time. I felt oddly comfortable while dining at Bazaar Mar. Our dynamic waiter orchestrated our dinner with ease. Had they really only been there for several weeks? Could have fooled me. No stumbling around or going back to find out the answers to my questions. Every chair in place, napkins folded, and artwork hung. If there was anything missing, they sure hid it well.
What I tried:
Initially overwhelmed by the vast amount of options on the menu, I took my time studying them thoroughly. There is something for everyone. And then some. When ordering, keep in mind that orders are supposed to come out as they are ready, one of my peeves. Luckily, our waiter did a great job coursing them out and it ended up not being an issue.
As usual with any José Andrés menu, creativity is key and the wow factor is always in full effect. Why be normal? The Funnel Cake, served on a beautiful silver octopus-themed vessel, was really a flavorful blue crab, two-bite concoction over a thin seaweed crisp. A tease really. I wanted more. And though I could have ordered another round, I did not. I really wanted to sample as many bites as possible. I couldn’t decide between the two croquette options, so I ordered them both. Maybe it’s because I grew up eating Bacalao Croquettes, but I preferred them over the Main Lobster Croquetas (by a very slim margin). By dinner’s end, I noticed I’d kept all the dipping sauces that accompanied the dishes, just so I could cross-dip (is that a thing?). No worries, I abstained from double dipping. Clearly, I loved them. The Tuna Ceviche Nikkei, topped with a soy-cured egg yolk, was bright and refreshing. I swooned over the Not so Po’ Boy José! (#RichBoy). And how could I not? Delicately fried oyster sandwiched between buttery brioche buns and topped with caviar? Oh yeah! Actually, I’m still swooning.
As expected, Bazaar Mar’s menu features a ridiculous amount of seafood from the Florida Keys to New Zealand and everything in between. Don’t miss the tanks holding the live Maine Lobster and friends right by the entrance. Oddly enough, even with all those options, I didn’t see any octopus on the menu. Not sure why. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the tender Ibérico Secreto. Legend has it, this aesthetically less-than-desirable cut of pork (marbled shoulder muscle-off the Meat Eater section of the menu) didn’t sell as well in the old days. Big on flavor regardless of looks, butchers kept this one all to themselves. It was their best kept “secreto.” I worried as I looked at the reddish pink hues inside of my pork, but I took a bite (once the waiter reassured me) and instantly felt happy to be in on this secret. Somehow, I never noticed it on the SOBE menu, but it’s there as well. A couple of favorites also made their way to Mar’s menu: the tableside LN2 Caipirinha, Bagels & Lox, and the Ferran Adrià Liquid Olives.
To end dinner, I ordered the Key Lime Pie “Our Way.” Plated with key lime ice cream seashells, a graham crumble sandcastle, and even a bit of salt air sea-foam, this dessert brought the restaurant concept full circle. Playful, but not cheesy.
A lonesome column in a corner has a couple of lyrics inscribed of Spaniard Joan Manuel Serrat’s song: Mediterráneo. “…soy cantor, soy embustero, me gusta el juego y el vino, tengo alma de marinero.” It reads, “I’m a singer, I’m a fibber, I like the game and wine, I have the soul of a sailor.” Designed by Philippe Starck, the vast space is an ode to the sea. Ocean blues and whites rule the interiors with a generous use of handprinted ceramic tiles, imported from Spain. Chef José’s quirky sense of humor is at the forefront of the interior design. Think of it as Disney’s hidden Mickeys. You just have to know where to look.