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Where to get Your Super Trendy Drinks These Days
New style dirty martini with brine foam and sphericated olive | Photo by John Oliver
The recent opening of the SLS Hotel on La Cienega added another super-trendy bar and restaurant to the scene in Los Angeles. Although the under-age Chris Brown hung out there until about 3 a.m. a week after the Rihanna incident, it hasn't turned into one of the celebrity charade bars (at least not yet). So, what is it like?SLS with its main restaurant The Bazaar by Jose Andrés and the accompanying Bar Centro are decorated by Phillippe Starck. This is not the best design job Starck has done. Still longing for the finesse of the Royalton in New York, Bar Centro comes across as cluttered and a rather hodge-podge assembly of older Starck themes. A few things are engaging, like the black and white screens embedded at each spot on the long bar table, which does encourage conversation with people who are sitting across from you. The right side of the area is a ‘dessert bar’ intermingled with items from the über-design store Moss.
Back to the bar. Dimly lit, of course. Fairly crowded, of course. Service tottered on abysmal, of course. (Though to be fair, the wait staff tried, I just don’t think there were enough of them).
The bar menu has assorted expensive tapas, a few of which are borrowed from the gastro-chemical El Bulli style of The Bazaar.
The Philly CheeseSteak comprised “air bread” (a delightful thin hollowed out roll, that consisted of only the faintest crust) that was filled with some aerated white cheese (that had the taste of a liquified cheeto. I mean that in a nice way.) and was topped with two paper-thin slices of raw Kobe beef. This was $8. It took two bites. Engaging bites, but only two bites. It was about the size of an elongated lime. The steamed crab buns were wonderfully delicious and arrived in a dim sum bamboo container appearing like little white hamburgers. The three tiny buns (about the size of a 50-cent piece) where sliced horizontally with a bit of fresh cool crab in the middle. Extremely delicious. One bite each. For $15, that is $5/bite.
The drink menu has ‘special’ drinks that carry through the emulsified, foamed theme. Fortunately, this approach works very well on the drinks I tried. The ‘new style’ dirty martini is a martini with olive brine foam and a sphericated olive. I have a picture of that one (too dim to get other pictures....). You sip the nicely blended drink and then have a slight burst of olive brine from the foam. Very well executed. The olive? Well, I wondered about it until I got to the end. The green round ‘olive’ is actually olive juice encased in a curious coating. When it pops in your mouth there is an explosion of olive taste that is surprising and, well, fun. The margarita with salt foam is well done also as a nice margarita with a very salty foam sitting on top. Each of these drinks were $16. Frozen drinks that are blended in front of you with liquid nitrogen are $20.
Bar Centro is fun, but the Starck decor didn’t really work for me and I hope the service improves. The prices prevent it from being a weekly stop, but those cocktails sure are creative.
By John Oliver, Special to LAist