Bazaar Meats by Jose Andres at SLS Las Vegas
December 14, 2014
I’d dare say by now we are Jose Andres aficionados. My husband words it a little differently and calls me a stalker. While that sounds harsh, it’s probably hard to deny. Particularly since we have been to most of Jose’s restaurants around the world. Except for his new restaurants in Miami and Puerto Rico, I have been to ALL his restaurants in his home town of Washington DC (Café Alantico, minibar, Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, and America Eats), LA (The Bazaar), and Vegas (Jaleo, e, China Poblano, and now The Bazaar Meats).
When they opened the new SLS in Las Vegas we were there the week of it’s opening, just after Labor Day. We had a ‘Truffles & Bees’ drink at Bazaar Meats bar that was so devastatingly good, it was a destination drink. It made me want to come back just for this amazing pear vodka, honey, truffles and champagne cocktail. It made me swoon. But at that time we had reservations at Katsuya next door. So we begrudgingly left and promised we’d be back.
So when we thought about doing a Christmas jaunt to check out the lights and decorations in Vegas, The Bazaar Meats by Jose Andres was top on our list, as was that yummy ‘Truffles and Bees’ cocktail. Unfortunately, as things go, nothing is as good the second time around. The ‘Truffles and Bees’ cocktail was terrible. It tasted like a muddy champagne drink with no flavor. I mentioned it to the bartender, and he explained that they had to cut back on the truffles and honey to calm patrons who sent it back as they didn’t like the taste. In my mind, if you don’t like truffles you shouldn’t order the drink. If you have a drink that is called Truffles & Bees, it ought to have truffles and honey in it. Take it off the menu if you can’t make it a decent drink the way it should be made. What a shame. It would seem this would be the theme of the evening.. appease the patrons at the cost of the food.
Having been to the The Bazaar in LA (a MUCH different restaurant experience, and one I would highly recommend, by the way), we skipped the very few Jose signature appetizers like Olives two ways and Foie Gras cotton candy. We concentrated on the things that this restaurant was trying to make it’s namesake… the meat. Their menu had a large section for carpaccio’s and tartar’s (each around $25 each). So we tried their classic tartar to start. It was the stand out dish of the evening. It was partially frozen (a little tooth numbingly so), served in a large onyx bowl with chives, capers, mustard, and egg. It was bracingly refreshing, meaty, and delicious. Yum!
We ordered the Veal chop (for us to split), and a side of piquillo peppers and mushrooms. We were told that the plates came out as they were completed, not necessarily all at the same time. We asked that they come out together so that we could have them with the steak. The waiter promised to do what he could. Just to take pause… doesn’t every other fine restaurant in the world have all the sides come out together! Isn’t that what Gordon Ramsey yells at his chefs about all the time?? Hmmm.
We were served this puny veal chop that was no more than 2-3 very small bites apiece. It was embarrassingly small, and lonely on a single white plate with no accompaniments. I have become accustomed to paying 40 some dollars for a big monster steak that while expensive, is a meaty masterpiece of tender charred goodness. But this $42 minstrosity was none of that. It was not big, it was not tender, and it was not charred or good. Instead, while it was done perfectly, it was tough, bland, and small. For a place that professes Meat, and a namesake for Jose Andres, it was more than disappointing, it was an unapologetic let down.
The piquillo peppers and mushrooms came a painful several minutes after our steak sat getting cold staring at us on our stark table. The peppers were delicious, but very strongly flavored and overpowered the drab veal. The mushrooms were a bit of a mystery dish, large caps filled with garlic, parsley butter atop a smear of gray matter puree. They surprisingly lacked flavor and appeal.
If this is the kind of restaurant SLS wants as it’s draw to be a destination for Vegas stripsters, it may be a short lived venture. We have now eaten at both SLS’s big name draws, Katsuya and Bazaar Meats, and both will have us running the other way, away from SLS, not toward. Such a shame to have my hero, Jose Andres, associate his name with such a loser in Vegas. With all the steak joints in Las Vegas, The Bazaar Meats needs to step up its game if it hopes to compete. For our money Carnevino is the clear winner in this category, and Bazaar Meats… you’re no Carnevino.