Minibar by jose andres

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Oct 14, 2011

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

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After our culinary tour of New York, my friend, Bill, and I decided to try one of Washington, D.C.'s best restaurants, minibar by jose andres.  Now minibar doesn't have a Michelin rating and it doesn't appear on Restaurant Magazine's World's Best Restaurants list but it has consistently placed near the top on Washingtonian Magazine's list of Washington's Top 100 Restaurants and Chef Jose Andres has received numerous awards including a nomination by the James Beard Foundation as Outstanding Chef for his work at minibar, frequently appears on TV including segments on Top Chef, 60 Minutes, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations as well as on his own show, Made in Spain, and recently taught a course in culinary physics at Harvard University with Ferran Adria, for whom he worked at El Bulli before coming to America.  Jose Andres has a number of restaurants in the U.S.  The best known is the Jaleo chain of tapas restaurants, a Spanish style of eating that he is largely responsible for popularizing in the U.S.  minibar was his first "molecular gastronomy" restaurant, a style of cooking largely developed by Ferran Adria.  Based on the success of minibar, he has also opened another molecular gastronomy restaurant in Los Angeles called The Bazaar SAAM, which I will be visiting later on this trip.

minibar is very small.  There are only six seats and two seatings, five nights a week for a total of only 60 people a week, making reservations tough to get.  The six customers sit at a bar, or I suppose you could say a minibar, with the chefs on the other side.  The chefs place each course in front of you.  They then describe what you are about to eat and, in many cases, give you recommendations about how to eat it.  The dishes are all small.  In many cases, they are a single bite.  The number of courses varies but is generally between 30 and 35.  There is a server on the customer side of the bar who comes around and clears the plates and utensils.

When you make a reservation they ask if you have any allergies or dietary restrictions.  I told them that I was vegetarian but that I'd be willing to be flexible for something really special.  When I got there one of the chefs told me that most courses were vegetarian and that the quantity of meat in the other dishes was quite small.  Since a lot of prep work is required, they seemed to have already made the decision that I'd get the same food as everyone else.  I was OK with that except for the oyster and clam courses.  I'll definitely need to be more specific next time.

It's a different style of restaurant from any that we visited in New York, making a direct comparison impossible, but based on our overall enjoyment of the meal, we both preferred it to any of the more highly rated restaurants we visited.  It was a very pleasant experience.  The closest comparison would be to WD-50.  The differences are still quite large but minibar and WD-50 both showed the creativity and whimsy you tend to get with Molecular Gastronomy.
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