Desert Companion

At first bite: Flesh for fantasy

DessertBazaar Meat by José Andrés makes protein the main player — but with a captivating sense of whimsy and wonder

If you think pork rinds are best left on the shelf of a gas station convenience store, I implore you to sample the “super-giant pig-skin chicharrón” at Bazaar Meat by José Andrés. The pork crackling arrives at the table in dramatic fashion: a single blistery sheet, almost as large as Wilbur himself, is seductively unwrapped from butcher paper — just long enough for you to “ooh” and “ahh” — before being smashed to bits with a wooden mallet. You may be struck with crispy shrapnel in the process, but it’s a risk worth taking.

Served with a cooling, za’atar-spiced yogurt dip, it makes a fine introduction for a playful, interactive and meat-centric meal to come. From the first sip of an Aladdin Manhattan, poured from a smoke-infused decanter, to a final palate cleanser made tableside with grapefruit, rum and liquid nitrogen, the razzle-dazzle quality of my recent dinner at the restaurant filled a void that I’ve long felt in our local dining scene.

Chicharron

Support comes from

Is it innovative? Not necessarily. Fine dining aficionados have enjoyed (or suffered, depending on whom you ask) their share of foams, dusts and spheres since the early aughts. But there’s no question that Bazaar Meat’s executive chef, José Andrés, has the cred to back up his wizardry. A James Beard award winner and protégé of legendary culinary innovator Ferran Adria, he provides flavor and flamboyance in equal measure.

Take his classic beef tartare. By “classic,” I expected a sad-looking pile of raw hamburger meat, but Andrés’ take comes with a sexy twist: Diced sirloin dressed with mustard, HP sauce and anchovies arrives in a giant marble mortar for a striking presentation. A heavy hand of capers and pungent mustard brought life to the perfectly cubed sirloin, and a side of warm Parker House rolls burst with buttery sweetness.

A raw bar included Asian-influenced bites (the pristine sea urchin sushi at the next table elicited shameless stares), traditional caviar service, and classics such as shrimp cocktail and King crab legs. However, this being an Andrés production, we opted for the “Smoke & Ice” Kushi oysters, topped with foam and served in a glass dome full of applewood smoke. The flavor was simultaneously aggressive and refreshing — a welcome upgrade on the usual plate of shucked bivalves. A five-piece serving is hardly enough.

Bazaar Meats

And then there was THE foiffle  — capitalization intentional. An impossibly crispy-yet-delicate shell of a waffle was filled with an airy foie gras espuma, and then garnished with a shower of chopped peanuts. Peanut butter and honey add a nostalgic quality. Cut into this crispy waffle with a fork and watch the delicate filling of foie gras foam flow forth like lava. It could have used a fruity foil to cut through the richness, but it still remains the best preparation of foie I’ve ever had.

A slightly less successful offal dish was the tortilla Sacromonte. I had expected some iteration of the traditional Spanish tortilla, made with potatoes and eggs. What I got was an omelet without the spuds. Nuggets of sweetbreads, kidney, and beef marrow — all cooked until pleasantly crisp — studded the fluffy curds, while a raw egg yolk served as a sauce. It was flawlessly executed but just too rich for my taste.

Entrees arrived in a more straightforward fashion. A minimalist construction of Wagyu beef cheeks, cumin-heavy mojo sauce, and orange segments required nothing more than a fork for cutting. And braised lamb neck, served with golden cubes of potatoes and briny fried oysters, was a solid, stick-to-your-ribs plate of food — a crockpot dish gone glam.

Smoke and Ice Kushi OystersIn place of composed desserts, the last course is a mix-and-match selection of miniature bites. Guests can sample the exotic (yuzu, rose) or familiar (chocolate, bacon) in the form of individual tarts, marshmallows and creampuffs. But after feeling as if I had pillaged Noah’s Ark for dinner, a scoop of chocolate mint sorbet sufficed.

Bazaar Meat deserves credit for executing an extensive menu without sacrificing quality. For every creative option, there is also a safe one: you can choose between foie-flavored cotton candy or simple stuffed olives; morcilla (blood sausage) with fresh uni or roast chicken with potatoes; grilled baby corn with “popcorn powder” or an honest plate of grilled asparagus. Unlike other hotel restaurants, it caters to a diverse clientele without spreading itself too thin.

There was only one turn-off about this dining wonderland, and that was an in-house pit for table games. The commingling of beef and blackjack lent a certain soullessness to what would otherwise be a lovely space. However, it’s a feature I’m willing to overlook, because in a city oversaturated with designer burgers and hot dogs, I’d say the experience was the most exciting I’ve had this year.

Bazaar Meat

Inside SLS
Las Vegas, 2535 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-761-7610, slslasvegas.com

HOURS
Sun-Thu
5:30-10p,
Fri-Sat 5:30p-11p

 

More from
,

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!

KNPR and NPR Thank-You Gifts including t-shirts hoodies and cap

More Stories

Desert Companion
Dining
Desert Companion
Editor's Note
Dec 01, 2014

Raise your forks

Bazaar Meat
Desert Companion
Feature