January 13, 2023

Jose Andres' flagship Minibar has been on my must-do list for a while, especially after my two incredible experiences at its "cousin" - é by Jose Andres. Cut from the same cloth - few seats, bar around the kitchen, food prepared in front of you - I came with high hopes and expectations for this place. It gets rave reviews everywhere you look.

I need to split this review in half. The first half is this as an isolated experience. The second is in comparison to é.

While the food is Japanese-inspired (instead of Spanish), Minibar has so many similarities. Youthful, vibrant, engaging chefs. Top-notch service. Flare and dramatic molecular gastronomy. Premium ingredients like truffle and A4 wagyu. (They serve A4 for the same reason as CTBF - it just tastes better than A5.)

Service is impeccable. As one example - I asked about "Aonori" (the taco). The chef explained it was sea lettuce and gave me the spelling, which turned out to be incorrect. A few minutes later, a server came up and clarified the spelling of the word for me, wanting to assure that I had the correct spelling. That level of commitment to assuring that each guest has exactly what they want is what makes dining at this level so special. 

While the food was beautiful and (mostly) delicious, I found much of it to be underwhelming when compared to é. It was half as many courses yet é makes you groan with each course. Not so much these dishes. There was a little more "kitchy for kitchy's sake" to me. The Toad In the Hole is a terrific example of this, coming off as a concept they tried to achieve, rather than focused on a more delicious dish. The cucumber dessert as well - terrific concept, but underdelivered on flavor.

Even the frozen "sesame tart" (the video of the presentation is below) should have been mind-blowing, and it wasn't - in flavor nor really in concept. Contrast that to é, where liquid nitrogen is used to present a frozen sangria. On point for the cuisine, inventive and completely delicious. Here was far more show for not nearly the result.

As you can see below, the dishes are gorgeous and generous. The chefs work with the coordination of a high-end sports team. Given that this is the flagship, I thought this would somehow eclipse é, and it doesn't hold a candle to it. If you have one place to go in DC proper, it should be Pineapple and Pearls. (By chance, I sat next to the girlfriend of their CDC here at Minibar.)

It's a solid 2 star experience. True - my expectations were through the roof. But it pains me to say that Minibar does not reach the heights it should. Would that it did.

Maize Butterfly. Corn Butterfly, grilled corn puree, toborachi, mirren
Parmesan Danish. Parm Danish, potato starch paper, lemon espuma, white truffles...
A look inside. Incredibly delicate and flaky.
Cocktail: matcha and gin sour, egg white, lemon. This was delicious.
Wagyu and caviar. Caviar, Australian wagyu tartare, flower petals...
A look at the full dish. How can you go wrong with this?
Shirako tempura. Cod tempura freeze dried soy and yuzu. So good!!! Melts in your mouth, perfect punch of salt. Amazing.
"Toad in the Hole." Tofu, jidori egg yolk, maple honey caviar, crystal caviar. Tofu was sugar glazed, like a creme brulee...
Together with the maple foam, I found it too sweet
Wagyu Aburi. A4 wagyu over white oak, beef consume sphere. Pop the sphere, pull the meat thru the sauce...
Phenomenal. They use A4 (not A5) for the same reason as CTBF - tastes better. (It does.) Paired with an outstanding Pinot Noir from Champagne and...
A kombu glazed parker house roll. "Break open and enjoy the rest of the consume."
This was the start of the next dish...
The chef was using this to shave something green. Next video shows them making the plate...
Frozen cucumber salad, black sesame, Meyer lemon, nisturtium. I love the concept, but the flavor here underwhelmed. I love cucumber. This just didn't have the freshness it promised.
"Strawberry milk", strawberry twille, milk sorbet, freeze dried strawberries, yuzu. Let it melt into your mouth like strawberry milk
Hojicha (green tea) donut
Handed individually to each guest straight from the oven.
The dining room (bar) seats 14 people. Not quite as intimate as e, simply because of the size.
A beautiful quote on the wall.

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Replying to Steven Smith