Superstar chef/World Central Kitchen founder/humanitarian José Andrés opened a restaurant in Washington D.C. today. This isn’t usually news; he has a number of other restaurants there already along with many others around the country and internationally. But it’s in the Old Post Office building, recently reopened as the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC. So there’s a history to it.
Eight years ago, Andrés was supposed to open a restaurant in this building when it was the Trump International Hotel but the chef, incensed by Trump’s offensive comments about immigrants, pulled the plan. (Trump sued for $10 million and the chef countersued; the case was settled out of court in 2017.) But now, Trump is gone, the Trump hotel is gone. And Andrés is finally here with The Bazaar by José Andrés in this venerable building, a location he’d had his eye on for decades.
“I am thrilled to introduce The Bazaar in the Old Post Office – this debut has been a long time in the making and marks a tremendous celebratory moment for the great city of Washington, my team, and me personally” the chef explained. “It has been thirty years since I first came to DC, and to have The Bazaar open in this beautiful, historic building that has always held a special place for me, is an American dream come true.”
The Bazaar, as a restaurant concept, made its debut in Los Angeles in 2008, later expanding to Miami’s South Beach with another location set to open in New York where the chef’s Mercado Little Spain in Hudson Yards and DC import Zaytinya are also in residence. (The Bazaar’s carnivore spinoff Bazaar Meat is also in Las Vegas, Chicago and due to open in Los Angeles.) The underlying idea is a sensory, culinary voyage based on Andrés’s Spanish roots with inventive improvisations. Each location has a local focus with dishes prepared specifically for that city using ingredients native to the area.
Among the offerings on the D.C. menu are nods to politicians. Butifarra Senator Moynihan, dedicated to the late New York Senator Patrick Moynihan, a customer of his at his restaurant Jaleo who apparently mentioned to him that the Old Post Office would be a good setting for a hospitality development, is a dish of house made pork sausage, baby cuttlefish and white bean stew; Beef Cheeks “Eisenhower Stew” goes further back to the former President’s favorite dish utilizing braised beef cheeks, carrots, potatoes and demi sec tomatoes. Regional specialties are represented with Philly CheeseSteak comprised of airbread, cheddar and Wagyu beef and Maryland blue crab She-Crab Soup; blue crab also turns up in Ensaladilla de Cangrejo mixed with potatoes and mayo espuma and Croquetas de Cangrejo, blue crab bechamel fritters with smoked trout roe.
A nod to another of his restaurants, Conch Fritters “Café Atlántico, conch fritters with bonito flakes, onion jam and a liquid center, also makes an appearance. There are classic Spanish tapas such as Rossejat Negra-paella style pasta with squid ink, uni, sepia sofrito and shrimp and modern spins such as sweet potato and persimmon ceviche and a Japanese taco with bbq eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi and chicharron (fried pork belly.) Breakfast creations include several dishes with Jamón Ibérico from the Jamón Bar and mashups such as waffles with smoked lox, whipped cream cheese, everything bagel spice and fried capers.
Located on two levels in the Romanesque Revival building dating from 1899 that served as the city’s General Post Office until 1914, the restaurant serves breakfast and lunch on the lower floor and dinner upstairs. The design by Spanish firm Lázaro Rosa Violán Studio takes its inspiration from the grandeur of the building mixed with avant garde elements from the menu exhibited in touches such as emerald velvet banquettes, black marble tables, floral fabrics inspired by Salvador Dali and a gleaming orb at the entrance to make diners feel that they’re dining under the moon.
The restaurant took awhile to get here, it seems to say, but it definitely wants to make an impression.
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