“Feed Us and Tell Us a Story.”
Imagine yourself at a cocktail party having a drink and a little snack when suddenly the earth cracks open and you fall into the center of a dream awakening in a forest where you’re roaming carelessly encountering butterflies, bees and fresh morning dew. And just when you think you have a sense of your surroundings, you walk through a pumpkin patch and emerge ocean-side meeting a hare, dungeness crab, sea urchin, pig, lobster and snail.
Mid-way through the dream, a martini glass with a curious mist arrives unveiling a flawless black diamond suddenly turning you into a Cheshire Cat with a big, dumb, devious grin. And you’re left alone with the diamond to dream about hoisting it, admiring its every flawless detail. Suddenly you’re eating the diamond and you think you have died and gone to heaven.
Then you awaken with acidity and soon you are feasting upon a creature from the sky. So the saying goes, always behave as if it’s tea time and you’re munching on bourbon in solid form but not before you’ve spent a few moments behaving as a dragon. You feel no remorse as you devour a leaf from a Venus fly trap and then just as quickly as it all began, you’re back in your arm chair holding chalk making your best contrived effort to play tic tac toe. Finally, the Golden Egg arrives and you are no longer in a fantasy, you are no longer feeling like Alice in Wonderland. You’re sitting in the drink laboratory tasked with assembling legos. The narrator has moved you out of heart-space back into head-space with absolutely no space left in your appetite.
We left Minibar & Barmini having successfully crossed the abyss that normally separates us from ourselves. Thank you Mr. Andrés.
~ Only the beginning.
The Thesis of a Tasting Menu
Food has a consciousness and it’s the consciousness of an artist. Delicious abstract. We don’t eat for the sole purpose of nourishment at a place like Minibar. We eat because we want to experience the artist.
Why did we choose the semi-private table instead of the bar? You’d laugh if we told you, but suffice it to say that it’s the best vantage point in the restaurant.
From Jose’s table, the beauty is watching the poetry of the dining room breathe. The servers and chefs succinct. It’s the vantage point of the Great Observer, which we favor, generally speaking – sitting back in the private universe we’ve created, just the two of us, watching life as it’s written.
The Current Focus at Minibar
Product & flavorful manipulation are the current focus at Minibar. In our early days of fine dining (recall 2012), flavor was sometimes compromised for manipulation. Chefs were stretching the boundaries surprising us with food that tasted nothing like it looked and looked nothing like it tasted simply because they could, and we the people were willing to pay top dollar for their trickery.
During that early era, it was pleasing, artful manipulation, but it didn’t always equate to delicious tasting food. As chronic fine dining enthusiasts, for a time, we paid for “the show.” As gastronomy has evolved, some of our favorite, fluid artists are already off carving new paths bringing about a new dawn for restaurant goers. In 2017, the goal seems to be ‘flavorful manipulation’ which is only made possible with attention to product and focus on taste.
The comprehensive experience of the menu at Minibar is playful, inspiring & delicious. The intersect between inventiveness and ingredients has been carefully defined and beautifully executed. Truly an experience like no other.
To us, (two people who travel and eat extensively as a hobby, with no professional training in culinary arts whatsoever,) the future of fine dining is being paved by chefs like Ryan Poli (Catbird Seat) and Jose Andre’s (Minibar) – These chefs are realists when it comes to ingredients, but whimsical storytellers interjecting a bit of humor and chemistry to enhance the overall experience. Gastronomy should come into play when a dish could benefit from a little scientific bump, but not everything needs a chemistry infusion to be extraordinary.
Next we’d like to elaborate on the tasting menu, highlighting the memorable and noteworthy aspects of each dish We’ve mapped out all 30 courses by name with wine pairing, divulging ingredients along with pictures – blah, blah, blah, the usual boring stuff, but we’ve also added a few blurbs about the experience – which is vastly more ridiculous & entertaining.
We’re dreamers. We’re wanderers.
We like to keep our reviews short & concise and we don’t take ourselves too seriously – most importantly, we’re fans not critics of the chef life. We must confess that we are having the time of our lives as Tastemakers for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We’re sure you’ve heard, Minibar is a Diners Club 50 Best Discovery!
Let us begin…
30 Course Pairing at Jose’s Private Table
1: PIZZA MARGHERITA IN THE LOBBY
Pizza-pretzel and dried couscous (earthy version of Rice Krispies) served on the coffee table in the foyer.
Pairing: NV Krug Grand Cuvée , Champagne, France
Milky, sweet nectar (vodka mead & honey) in a warm-to-the-touch, paper-thin bowl made of wax.
3: BUTTERFLYBeet-enriched, crunchy, sweet and balanced snack.
4: HIBISCUS CRACKLINGSlightly-sticky-to-the-touch, very delicate, candy-crusted hibiscus leaf.
Pairing: 2015 Rudi Pichle Wösendorfer Kollmütz Gruner Veltliner
Smaragd, Wachau, Austria
5: HARRY’S BERRIES Al-ANDALUSFrosty strawberries, gentle pop of preserves.
6: COGAN’S MAGNOLIA DEW DROPSweet dew nectar.
Hedgehog of the sea meets an acorn-noshing pig and they spawn HOKKAIDO UNI AND IBERICO DROPLET.
Noteworthy: Where Uni is concerned, we don’t mind aquatic, we just don’t want to taste aquarium. We usually only have Uni when it’s on a tasting menu because we don’t like it enough to order it by itself. Good news in that Minibar prepared this one with ham consommé which added just what we needed to help us enjoy this slithery little bite.
Warm crisp-of-corn atop chilled corn chowder.
Pairing:NV Bodegas Hidalgo “Wellington” V.O.S. Palo Cortado Sherry
9: PARMESEAN SPOONSCaviar laced edible spoon, airy, crispy, cheesy, interesting.
10: PUMPKIN TART
This dish had to be prepared table side in dry ice and fed to us by chef off his silver spatula! The best part was being fed. One simple bite. Sorry no picture!
11: SCOTTISH LANGOUSTINEA definite favorite of the night! First appearance this little fella made, he was alive on some rocks. We said our goodbyes and then he showed back up 4 minutes later ready to indulge in. Perfectly prepared, tender, buttery, perfect flavor.
Noteworthy: The menu moved from dishes that could be enjoyed in just one bite to dishes that required 3-5 bites to complete. It was a nice variation of portions which enabled us to comfortably finish all 30 courses.
Caviar and butter garnished with shaved elderflower.
Noteworthy: Every bite of this dish, I caught myself grunting (a bit embarrassing when I realized where the sound was coming from) but I was simply unable to subdue myself. Absolutely amazing.
Pairing: 2015 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay
“Fast” as in marinated in rabbit stock and “slow” as in snail eggs. Wonderful texture and flavor combination. Irridescent, oceanic, thoughtful.
14: OREGON DUNGENESS CRAB, BROCCOLI AND CHEDDARPillowy gnocchi of cheese and broccoli with a tender portion of crab.
Light, soft color palatte, gentle on the stomach, melted on the tongue like silky ribbon.
Right in the middle of the 30 courses.
This is where the night got interesting and F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S. We gave some serious consideration to heisting the black truffle that arrived at the table in a martini glass (flown in fresh from Australia). Spent a considerable amount of time enjoying the aroma (huffing truffles) and passing the glass back and forth in anticipation of our next dish. They were going to have to pry this away from us because we had zero plans of ever giving it back.
Mushrooms, foie gras & peas garnished with the freshly shaved truffles.
Noteworthy: contents in the cellophane bag reach an internal temperature of over 400 degree F.
Pairing: 2010 Miani Rosso Friull Colli Orientaili, Italy
A bite-sized popsicle made of Tigre De Leche.
Noteworthy: The frozen acidity was a nice sensation on the tongue and disruption to the taste buds as we prepared for the final savory.
18: SQUAB SALMISA tender cut of pigeon breast. Perfectly prepared covered in freshly shaved truffles.
Noteworthy: When they said we were moving on to the final savory, Brandon turned to me and said, “But I want to live here.” In a pitiful voice. He wasn’t ready to move on because that meant saying farewell to the black truffle. This was it, our hearts sank & we took one last huff of the aroma and watched sadly as the truffle was hauled away from the table. This dish was filling.
Pairing: 2014 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, California
Mojito beverage packed into a tiny lime wedge. Very clever.
20: GORGONZOLA DOLCESpongy, light cheese bite.
Noteworthy: Orgasmic doughnut served on a peg-leg pig statue.
Pairing: 2007 Oremus, 5 Puttonyos Aszú, Tokaji, Hungary
Honey, Lavender (for the aroma) ice cream.
23: DRAGON’S BREATH
Chef gave us a small bite cooled by dry ice and told us to exhale through our nose and chew, chew, chew fast while breathing out! sorry, no pic!
24: LIQUID BOURBON PEANUT
25: KEY LIME PIE BON BON
26: GOLDEN HOSKI-KIWI
27: CORIANDER ABANICO
28: WHITE CHOCOLATE SHISO LEAF
Courses 24 – 28 showed up on a dinosaur server. Very endearing! Each morsel of dessert tasted as good as it looked! In particular, the liquid bourbon peanut was quite impressive. The White chocolate Shiso Leaf was like eating the leaf of a venus fly trap!
Pairing:1985 Dow’s Port, Portugal
Transition to Barmini to enjoy final 2 courses of the 30 course menu. Location change, scene change, vibe change to other side of wall.
29: CHALKLittle box of edible Crayola imposters that tasted like astronaut ice cream.
Noteworthy: We were escorted to the other side of the wall into the drink laboratory! A welcome change of scene after 2 hours of feasting in our own private universe, we were acclimated back to reality. When first seated, we were handed a chalk board and chalk for eating and playing tic tac toe.
Chocolate covered egg with a lego chef inside.
Noteworthy: Closure to a flawless meal by testing our remedial engineering skills (ha! ha!) moving the experience out of the heart and back into the mind. We began in a fairytale (Alice in Wonderland) and ended cerebral sitting in a cocktail laboratory assembling pieces of legos- we really appreciate this journey because it was truly like no other.
Wine Pairing List
NV Krug Grand Cuvée , Champagane, France
2015 Rudi Pichle Wösendorfer Kollmütz Gruner Veltliner
Smaragd, Wachau, Austria
NV Bodegas Hidalgo “Wellington” V.O.S. Palo Cortado Sherry
2015 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay
2010 Miani Rosso
Friull Colli Orientaili, Italy
2014 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast, California
2007 Oremus, 5 Puttonyos Aszú, Tokaji, Hungary
1985 Dow’s Port, Portugal
Did you Know?
Chef Insight: A Tasting Menu is only as good as the mood that the guest is in. We spoke with Chef about trying to please all the guests and his feedback was so practical – can’t please them all no matter how hard you try. If people come in unhappy for any reason (about their life or something negative happens to them unrelated to the restaurant on the day of the reservation,) the menu usually doesn’t taste as good to that guest. The restaurant knows and accepts this as human nature, so a good bit of discernment goes into blogger feedback. That’s sort of the final element that goes into the experience, the 6th sense or diner participation if you will. Five senses (touch, smell, taste, sound, vision) plus the patron’s outlook on life (attitude) shapes the entire experience. Self-awareness is key.
Minibar Facts: Minibar employs 47 staff members to care for up to 18 guests at a time across 2-3 hour time-blocks. For 30 minutes each evening before the restaurant opens, staff pause from their duties and sit together enjoying a freshly prepared meal before guests arrive. José Andrés is very much about a sense of community and takes excellent care of his staff ensuring they are all very well fed and happy ahead of dinner service. At the bar, two rows of six turn over twice a night and Jose’s table turns over only once a night.
Minibar Officiators & Wondermakers
For a flawless evening, go see the following people:
Deepest Gratitude to The Wonder Maker, Chef José Andrés
General Manager (Grand Facilitator): Jhonatan Cano
Head Chef (Officiator of the Menu): Joshua Hermias
Assistant Manager (Officiator of the Wine Pairing): Eric Jeffay
Drunken Mixologist (Barmini Drink God): Al Thompson
If you’re looking for your next food destination in North America, look no further! Make sure it’s Washington D.C.! José offers an entire portfolio of restaurants across the United States while focusing on small plates of Lebanese-Greek, Peruvian-Chinese and Spanish-Mexicana cuisine at his causal restaurants in the District of Columbia.
Chef Andrés also recommended Rose’s Luxury restaurant which was a divine experience of pastas, oysters and small bites – definitely don’t want to miss the Thai inspired lychee coconut salad – it’s mind blowing! Chef Aaron Silverman is making it rain. 🙂
Thanks for reading!
E & B Woodward
Tastemakers for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants
Fine Dining Lovers Across 5 Continents:
Africa, Australia, North America, South America, Europe.
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