Most but perhaps not everyone knows about Jose Andres. A true genius and one that truly cares about the well being of the citizens of this world. YES, I admire the man a whole lot. For those of you that need a small intro here we go:
José Andrés is a native of Spain and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup, the team responsible for Washington’s popular and award-winning dining concepts Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, Café Atlantico and the critically-acclaimed minibar by josé andrés, as well as Los Angeles’ exciting destination, The Bazaar by José Andrés, part of the SLS Hotelat Beverly Hills. ThinkFoodGroup oversees all of José’s creative endeavors such as cookbooks, television programming, concept consulting and project development.
One of GQmagazine’s 2009 Men of the Year, José is credited with introducing Americans to both avant-garde and traditional Spanish cooking. Born in the northern region of Asturias and raised outside of Barcelona, José chose cooking as his life’s work at the age of 15. He attended the School of Restaurants and Hotels of Barcelona and trained in Michelin-starred restaurants including El Bulli with world-renowned Master Chef and friend Ferran Adrià. He made his way to the U.S. and then to DC to work with Rob Wilder and Roberto Alvarez’s Proximo restaurants. Heading up the kitchen at Jaleo, he helped create one of the first critically and commercially successful tapas restaurants in the country, setting the standard for other Spanish restaurants for the next 15 years. José next took over the kitchen at Café Atlantico, a popular DC hangout, transforming it into one of the city’s most exciting dining destinations. Zaytinya followed soon after and then Oyamel. With the opening of his innovative minibar by josé andrés, Food & Winehailed José as the “hero of the Spanish revolution,” who “helped create the Spanish food boom in America.” And the New York Timescalled him “the boy wonder of culinary Washington.” In 2006, José and Rob transformed Proximo restaurants into ThinkFoodGroup.
I think one of the keys of his succesful operation is that he inspires the people that work for him and ENCOURAGES innovation. Maybe encourage is too soft…he demands it 🙂
Enter center stage my friend Mr. Emil Rivara. Emil was recently tapped by Jose Andres and his Think Food Group. Emil a talented young sous chef, was ecstatic at the opportunity to be part of one of THE premier restaurant groups in the world. He left beautiful Naples and headed to Washington D.C. about 9 months ago. I was sad to see him go, but knew from the moment he mentioned the exciting news to me, that this was a huge leap in his professional career. Wise beyond his years and truly passionate about his profession, I knew he would fit in well in D.C. and that he would make his mark quickly and effectively.
A few weeks ago I had some business in D.C. and Emil and his lovely girlfriend Megan and I spent the most amazing night together restaurant hopping. We ate and drank the night away. The stuff of dreams folks. Fantastic friends paired with incredible food and drink. and a warmer spring night in a wonderful city.
Our first stop of the night was ZAYTINYA. This mediteranean eatery is just superb. Zaytinya offers an innovative mezze menu inspired by Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisines served up in a sleek and modern setting. We ate the least amount of food here but had a nice drink to start the evening off. All of the Jose Andres restaurants pride themselves on serving the best possible made drinks, all made with freshest ingredients (just like the food).
EMIL & MEGAN.
For some reason the pics I took did not come out well. We sampled a bit of hummus with home made pita bread, which was “puffed” full of air and deflated once you tore into it. We also had a home made spanakopita which was unlike ANYTHING I’ve ever tasted. Emil proudly told me that the phylo dough was homemade. It was delicious. Just a few bites like I said, there was much more eating to be done.
We took a walk and I had the pleasure of entering one of the most unique restaurants in the country.
JOSE ANDRES MINI BAR
It’s a tough reservation to get for the 2 seatings per evening at the small upstairs restaurant, but the bar is available to all and the little tapas are phenomenal as are the drinks. The bartenders are amazing and passionate mad scientists that concoct cocktails far beyond the scope of “drinks”. They won an award recently for their “leather infused tequila”. They scoured the country and found an original saddle maker in Texas that still cures leather the old fashioned way with out any chemicals. This was the leather they needed to soak their tequila in. Like I said…passionate mad scientists. 🙂
I tried a small sip and it was truly one of the most intricate alcohol tastes that I have ever experienced. Taking intricate one step further, they serve a few martini’s with their “reconstructed olive”. They basically make a mousse of olives, they then treat it with some “gas”, and work the foam/mousse into a small round shape that now looks like a green olive. I tasted it and it was out of this world. The “olive” instantly disappeared in my mouth almost like a cloud of smoke and left me tasting the most delicious olive experience you can imagine.
We had a vegetable and octopus dish;
I really have not a clue how they made the octopus so incredibly buttery, it melted in your mouth. The veggies were par boiled and sauteed in good butter. We also sampled some lamb empanadas that were decadent.
Next we went on to OYAMEL. This Mexican restaurant is plain fu…. amazing! I can’t wait to take my girlfriend there as the Mexican food is truly the very best I have ever had. From the home made chips and salsa to the guacamole. It’s just at a whole other level. This is the time to enjoy that corn chip in my opinion…not from a bag at the store but from a super restaurant that uses home made lard to fry their chips.
The Guacamole had a tiny bit of queso blanco in it and it made it delicious.
Next up CEVICHE! I really have no words to describe this dish. Maybe the best way to come close is to let you know that they used surgical grade tweezers to assemble the ingredients. Tuna ceviche and snapper ceviche:
Both ceviche plates had a crunchy topping. It was some type of crushed nut mixture, but I can’t remember exactly what. It was so good.
Lastly a little something different;
Yes folks that is a GRASS HOPPER TACO. It was a tad on the salty side, but the flavor was remarkable and I would bet a few bucks that you could serve this to anyone, let them enjoy it and they wouldn’t believe you afterwards that they ate a grasshopper taco.
For the final stop we went to Jaleo where Emil oversees the kitchen. This restaurant serves TRUE Spanish food. Simple, straightforward and yet wonderfully sophisticated. A real neat combination if you ask me.
Tiny potatoes with octopus and homemade mayo and paprika. We also sampled some chicken croquettes and another potato dish. I have to admit I was getting really full 🙂
If you find yourself in Washington D.C. go and visit one of these restaurants. If you love Mexican food…my pick would be to make it to OYAMEL.
As I’ve said, my new job is keeping me busy so sorry for the infrequent posts. I have been enjoying all of the wonderful writing from all of you that I learn so much from. Thank you.
My sister has adopted a full fledged feelgoodeating/primal/paleo/real food M.O. After her high blood pressure scare which is now under control, the Doc told her that her liver was a tad fatty. He told her NO alcohol, but I made it clear to sis that it’s not actually the alcohol as she doesn’t drink enough at all for that to be the cause. After sending her some blogs and info to read, her analytic mind got stimulated and she is starting to experiment. It makes me very very happy.
Lao-tzu: “In order to eliminate the negative influences, simply ignore them.”
Smile a lot and be nice….that helps a lot too.