Minibar by Jose Andres Triumphs
I discovered something about myself this week. I'm not quite sure that I enjoy eating food as much as I enjoy creating it. If I go to a restaurant and there's a wonderful dish complete with new techniques and flavors, I usually can't wait to get home and try to recreate it myself. That happens most every time I eat out (at a notable spot) and I love trying new things as a way to further my own skills and palate, all the while inspiring me when I am faced with creating that next menu for a client or am feeling stumped at the grocery store. The joy of eating is tangled up with the joy of creation and the challenge to my skills. Shockingly, I think I'm a practical diner.This realization was yet to be had as I drove to my dinner extravaganza at Minibar by Jose Andres in Washington DC on Friday night. However, I was prepared for it to not be my favorite meal ever. In spite of being over the moon thrilled at the prospect of my last-minute reservation at this el Bulliesque temple of molecular gastronomy, I knew it wasn't food I loved to make, was inclined to create or really even savored. That all said, I was prepared to be wowed and bow forth at the altar of these creative culinary geniuses and shell over the $225 it costs PLUS the $55 for the non-alcoholic drink pairing option PLUS tax and tip.As the six of us in the first seating of the night pulled up stools to the counter for our three hours of eating, the head chef welcomed us and then very pointedly watched each of us to see our reactions to the first bites of food we experienced. It was like he wanted to see what he was dealing with: a young Australian couple on their honeymoon, three friends celebrating birthdays and me. Frankly, I was glad to be alone and be allowed to absorb all of the intricate work going on just a foot in front of me. A small brigade of chefs moved seamlessly, around the pristine kitchen, pulling mis en place after mis en place out of lowboys and onto trays. Brightly colored gels and sauces were painstakingly piped from disposable pastry bags, herbs arranged just so with chef's tweezers, hushed tones as what was happening here was different from cooking, it was a chemistry lab.
Somehow, as I paid the staggering bill, I wasn't bursting at the seams. In fact, I was quite intrigued by the posh toasted sandwiches and sliders that I could see being prepared in the kitchen for the Barmini crowd. And although I will not be taking white beans, pureeing them and then reconstituting them in the shape of beans using calcium any time soon, it makes me happy to know that there are nutty people out there who do. It wasn't my favorite meal of all time, but it did make me realize something about myself and let's face it, it was delicious.