Early on this year I made a visit to Minibar, the small six seat venue inside restaurant Café Atlántico in Washington, DC, and fell in love with it. Minibar is one of the forerunners of the avant garde new cuisine movement here in America, and the one with the most direct ties to its patriarch Ferran Adria of El Bulli in Roses, Spain.
Minibar won my heart with its sense of whimsy, by not taking itself too seriously and offering comfortably in the same flight both foie gras cappuccino and dishes garnished with corn nuts. Minibar strives and succeeds at using new technology and technique to reinterpret and reinvent, and offers a local spot to sample things like Ferran’s olive sféricas. After my first meal I knew I would have to go back soon, so I organized a trip for Wife, Bear, Soho, Thursday, Two, Bytwo, and myself to make the trek to DC for a dinner in late August, so that those who had had to listen to me, Thursday, and Bear rant about the place could finally experience it.
Then at some point at the beginning of June I got an email from the Minibar team that they would be closed for August. In the intervening months since my first trip to Minibar, I have managed to see José and Katsuya a couple of times – in Aspen, at their New York ham release – and Katsuya alone at a symposium at the Smithsonian about new plating service, with Grant Achatz and Homaro Cantu. Part of the charm of Minibar is how available its owner and its executive chef make themselves to interested diners.
Having struck up a dialogue with Kats during this time, I sent an email explaining my predicament and he arranged for a tasting menu dinner at Café Atlantico for our visit that would be an amalgam of dishes from Minibar and the larger restaurant.
As much as I stand by and am pleased with what I wrote on my first trip, I took the pictures with a cell-phone and that has always bothered me. So here’s some proper porn of my August hybrid meal in all its glory:
MARINATED “OLIVES” FERRAN ADRIA
LIQUID CONCH FRITTERS
CAPRESE SALAD INJECTION
PLANTAIN AND AVOCADO SANDWICH WITH CAVIAR
FOIE GRAS CAPPUCCINOS
HOT & COLD OYSTERS: WITH GINGER-MANGO-JALAPEÑO OIL AND PINEAPPLE-MISO SAUCE
PEACH GAZPACHO W/ YOGURT, VANILLA AND JAPANESE BABY PEACHES
COCONUT TUNA CEVICHE WRAPPED W/AVOCADO AND CORN NUT POWDER
SHRIMP “ELOTE LOCO”: CORN PUREE, COJITA CHEESE, LIME AIR, CHILE THREADS AND WARM
SCALLOPS W/ HOUSEMADE RICE CRISPIES AND INK OIL
QUAIL TWO WAYS: FRIED AND SEARED W/MANGO-ANCHOVY RAVIOLI, AND AVGATARAHO
BRULEED DUCK CONFIT W/LATINO STYLE CATALAN SPINACH AND PASSION FRUIT OIL
SOFT SHELL CRAB
BACON WRAPPED BABY PHEASANT BREAST, CONFIT LEG, SEARED WATERMELON, AND DECONSTRUCTED MOLE
ORGANIZED CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD
JERK PORK CHOP W/FEIJAO TROPEIRO
PASSION FRUIT SHOT W/ JALAPENO AND GINGER
CHOCOLATE CAKE W/ BANANA
it was basil infused Makers Mark in a shot glass, I shot it before i shot it, it was tasty.
BASIL HAYDEN IN DISGUISE
Deep in the summer doldrums of the hot, humid, repeat-visit restaurant scene that is late August, one of the two things I looked forward to most was this dinner at Café Atlántico. The meal straddled the line between traditional and modern, fine and fun perfectly. By being great at what they do, Minibar has made of its chefs people I consider friends, so I have nothing but praise. The peach gazpacho was amazing and the foie cappuccino was a little salty, but I can no longer claim objectivity. Each of the seven of us had a different favorite dish, and each left satisfied and impressed. Of course it all has to do with great, interesting food; the loss of whatever objectivity I am capable of has a lot to do with a restaurant that makes itself available to its guests, even if the most regular they can be is only twice a year, after a five hour drive.