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Great taste in design and food

RESTAURANT CRITIC

A giant silver teapot covered in glittering silver Bisazza tile sets the whimsical tone for the Bazaar at the new SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. Oh, my. What to make of this extravagantly weird and wonderful playroom that seems to take up the entire ground floor of the hotel? Philippe Starck pulls out all the stops, shuffling through his signature quirks, in designing the Bazaar, which encompasses two tapas areas -- Rojo and Blanca -- the mysterious, dark Bar Centro, and La Patisserie, a dessert bar outfitted like a jewelry shop with bonbons and other wicked sweets housed in glass jars.

The place is a bona-fide movable feast. Start with a drink at Bar Centro, move to one of the tapas bars (Rojo is traditional; Blanca, contemporary -- but you can order from either menu at either place. Got it?), and finish with some sweets and coffee at La Patisserie.

As arresting as the decor is, it is mere window dressing for Spanish chef Jose Andres’ cartwheels through the tapas genre. The Washington, D.C.- based chef and Spanish television star has written a book on the subject, no less. His menu is literally pages and pages of wonderful-sounding little dishes. You can order on your own -- our waiter suggested two of each dish for the table. But we opted for the $65 tasting menu and were glad we did. The food just came: We didn’t have to think about it -- gorgeous jamon iberico de bellota (the most prized of the Spanish hams) with aged Manchego, Idiazabal and a goat cheese from Spain; beautiful little toasts rubbed with tomato and anointed with olive oil; the best gazpacho I’ve had in my life; delicious cheesy croquetas; and more from the traditional side of the menu.

Andres’ modern take on tapas elicits some heartfelt wows. There’s the famous “liquid olive” from El Bulli that bursts in the mouth, flooding the palate with briny green olive essence. I loved the lighter-than-air Philly cheesesteak and the skewers of watermelon and tomato insides, and the fabulously rich Ottoman carrot fritters with crushed pistachio sauce.

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I could go on, but I won’t. Discover the rest of the menu yourself.

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virbila@latimes.com

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The Bazaar

Where: SLS Hotel, 465 S. La

Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills

When: Open 6 p.m. daily

Price: Appetizers, tapas, $7-$16; desserts, $10-$12; tapas tasting menu, $65 per person, sometimes less. Valet parking, $15.40.

Contact: (310) 246-5555, www.slshotels.com

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latimes.com /guide

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