The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide as No. 6 on Tom’s Top 10.
No. 6 Minibar
The more I eat in like-minded spectacles elsewhere in the country, the more I agree with Dorothy: There’s no place like home. Where else but Minibar does a chef instruct you to “eat” a margarita in the shape of a watermelon slice, or reach across a counter to feed you a tiny pumpkin seed tart off a slender spatula? For sure, this real-life fantasy from José Andrés is an expensive proposition: Dinner for two can cost as much as $1,200 if you splurge on the premium wine pairings. To get in the proper mind-set, think of the 30-course (or so) show as vacation or time travel. Because that’s exactly how it feels when you’re eating beet and yogurt transformed into stained glass; golden croquettes — tapioca cooked in ham consommé — dropped off in the palm of a hand sculpture; and “steamed mussels” that look and taste like the real deal, except their shells come courtesy of frozen squid ink. Only here would a person eat “corn on the cob” with a spoon. (It’s made with meringue.) Did I mention that the mind games are typically as pleasing as they are punny? A dozen people guide you through the evening, which starts with champagne in a snow-white salon, moves on to a futuristic food lab and concludes with dessert at the neighboring Barmini, the city’s chicest lounge. Minibar is many things. Most of all, it’s an exceptional blast.
Minibar: 855 E St. NW. 202-393-0812. minibarbyjoseandres.com .
Prices: Prix fixe $275.
Sound check: 73 decibels / Must speak with raised voice.
The Top 10:
The following review was originally published Oct. 8, 2015 as part of The Washington Post’s 2015 Fall Dining Guide. Minibar was not on Tom’s top 10 list last year.
Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a jumpy night. No two deliveries are ever the same at Minibar, the intimate restaurant from José Andrés that adds up to a comedy show, a science demonstration and one of the most original dinners staged in this country. Over the course of a few hours, everything you think you know about food is likely to be challenged. A snack that appears to be bark turns out to be dehydrated black garlic (it’s delicious), and a planter of fresh white carnations includes a convincing “flower” tweaked from fried rice paper piped with yogurt froth. One course you’re being fed a savory, one-bite pumpkin seed tart off a long spatula, another moment you’re lapping up rabbit with red curry and litchis. Come dessert, praline “peanuts” gush bourbon when cracked open, and asparagus turns out to have an affinity for white chocolate. Seriously. In lesser hands, Minibar might be an expensive gimmick. As served by Andrés and company, it’s a taste of the future in real time.