Bazaar Meat – Las Vegas, NV
Both regular readers of my blog know that I adore José Andrés, the Spanish celebrity chef who is also the founder of World Central Kitchen, a stellar organization that provides healthy meals to folks in need all over the world. I love his work and his food, and have been lucky enough to sample it all over the US.
The Bazaar was José's flagship chain for a long time before he opened the fantastic "é" at the Cosmopolitan, and has outposts in Miami Beach, NYC, and Chicago––the Beverly Hills location recently shuttered, despite it being the OG Bazaar. The brand has been associated with the SLS Hotels, and when a new SLS hotel/casino was opened in Vegas back in the early 2010s at the site of the old, demolished Sahara, they also opened a new branch of The Bazaar, this time, appropriate for Vegas, focused on meats and steaks. I had never been to a José restaurant until a debate tournament back in 2015, when the expense accounts of my employer, Harvard-Westlake, sponsored a sprawling meal with my colleagues and students.
Bazaar Meat (and not "Bizarre Meat," as I thought when I first heard the name), despite being a ways away from the main action on the Strip, is still one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas. When it came time to make a decision for dinner in Vegas, and more important my friend Kayleigh's first meal in Vegas, it seemed like a perfect choice.
The Sahara was one of the original casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, and when they rebuilt it into the SLS in the early 'tens, it struggled to get much attention. Recently, seeking to reclaim some of the caché of the old Sahara name, they renovated the property to beautiful results, though the location still seems to keep the crowds a bit slow.
Bazaar Meat is tucked in the back corners of the Sahara, and resembles the most ridiculous hunting lodge ever. With wallpaper that would be right at home in Downton Abbey, taxidermied animals including crocodiles with Mardi Gras beads hanging from their mouths, and the most clashing collection of chandeliers ever, it's an absolutely ridiculous, over-the-top space, and in Las Vegas, it works perfectly.
Kayleigh was quite tired and avoided alcohol, but I settled in with one of José's signature "salt air" margaritas, made with the classic ingredients of a margarita, but instead of including a salted rim, topped with a salty foam. Delicious, and refreshing during a very hot Vegas summer evening!
We started with a smattering of José's signature bites from the Bazaar collection––first, cotton candy foie gras, a piece of foie terrine with crispy amaranth surrounded by cotton candy. Classic and delicious. Next, José's incredible "bagel and lox" cones stuffed with dill cream cheese and topped with cured salmon roe. Salty but delightful. Added a glass of classic cava, Spain's claim-to-fame in the sparkling wine world, to wash it down.
Another classic bite inspired by José's time working with Ferran Adrià is a juxtaposition of two types of olives––the first is a classic olive stuffed with piquillo pepper and anchovy, and the second a "liquid" olive, a molecular gastronomy take on the same ingredients using the spherification technique made famous by José's mentor and still used extensively (though falling out of style) in José's food.
The "Giant Chicharron" holds fond memories for me at Bazaar Meat, and it it giant indeed! Served with a greek yogurt dip with za'atar spice, it's a very tasty little snack, though it was beginning to become apparent that were eating a bit too much...
Ora king salmon is the greatest salmon in all the land, and José, under his "meats from the sea" section of the menu, offers little sashimi slices of the beautiful fish simply prepared with wasabi, soy, and seaweed. Magnificently fatty and rich, raw king salmon is one of my favorite flavors in the world.
Bazaar Meat also has a very impressive selection of charcuterie, much of it Spanish and made from Iberico jamón. We asked our delightful server for an ounce of his favorite jamón, and he brought us beautiful, rich slices of capa negra with José's classic pan con tomate. A perfect combo, but uh oh kids, we were already full, and the big shit was still to come.
We originally ordered a 20 oz washugyu shortloin, but they 86'ed it halfway through our meal, leaving us with less compelling options in the "not-so-biggies" department of the menu, or more compelling options in the "biggies," 32 oz chuleton ribeyes. Ribeye it was––American wagyu cross from Texas, and it was a beautiful steak. Only issue was that is definitely wasn't medium rare, and while rare is preferable to overcooked, I find the more marbled ribeyes speak better at medium rare (or even a few steps closer to medium) because the fat has a better chance to render. Still, the steak was delicious, and paired with an always-wonderful glass of Gran Reserva Rioja, demonstrated the unbelievable quality of the meat in this place.
Alongside, we ordered a side of potatoes with a stupid amount of butter (so good) and also some piquillo peppers "confit" style in a hot cast iron pan. We didn't eat much of the peppers, which was a shame because they were so good, but managed to polish off the butter.... errr, potatoes. Saving the peppers and leftover steak, we were far too full for dessert, and found ourselves insanely tired. I guess my "rager" night in Vegas would turn out to be a bit of a snooze!
No matter––the next day, I had one of my best, most favorite days in Vegas of all time. Peak serotonin. Vegas is definitely a place for friends, and being with Kayleigh, one of my fave people ever, and meeting some new friends who were visiting Kayleigh in Vegas, made my day. What a great trip!!