Tour de Stage: Washington, D.C. – Minibar
The cuisine in Washington, DC defies categorizing. It’s as cosmopolitan and diverse as any world capital or American city. It’s crab cakes, whoopie pies, kebobs, kielbasa, curries, kale salads and BBQ. It’s a mash-up of the city’s African-American heritage, the cultures of diplomats and immigrants, and the genius of restaurateurs and chefs that might be called mid-Atlantic “soul.” Chefs here say the city’s food scene is incredibly dynamic right now and the breadth and depth of the cuisines, formats, concepts, and experiences represented in the metro area are expanding rapidly. Not only is the city drawing in those with a political disposition but also cooks who want to develop their skills and careers in this dynamic environment. Michelin has recognized this as well and is bringing the Guide to DC starting this fall.
Jose Andrés is probably the one chef whose name has become synonymous with the DC. We staged at two of his restaurants, Minibar and Zaytinya. Chef and restaurateur Michael Mina’s team runs Bourbon Steak, one of the best steakhouses in the country. It’s in Georgetown, a restaurant epicenter in the city. We staged there, too!
Our Stage — Minibar
Think Food Group is the name of the organization run by Chef Jose Andrés and his business partner Rob Wilder. The group’s more than 15 venues are known for their impeccable service, delectable food, and hospitality. The influence of Ferran Adrià and elBulli can be felt across the organization from the Minibar menu to work space organization and from the emphasis on structure for business processes to the importance of knowledge for creativity.
Minibar is Chef Andrés molecular gastronomy-themed, 12-seat restaurant in Washington, DC, with a menu designed by Andrés and managed by executive chef Joshua Hermias. Serving a maximum of 44 people per night, guests are served from 23-30 dishes, depending upon season and availability of product. During preparation of dishes in front of the customers, aromas, textures, and history are share—making for a unique experience.
Spheres are delicate, olive-colored, briny, and bold with the flavor of olives
For me, staging at the restaurant was nostalgic. Spheres, savory meringues, and foams are techniques that I’d used before at Mugaritz in Spain, where I once staged for a year. I could relate to the energy of the cooks who try to push the limits of the impossible every day. At Minibar we all huddled around the cauliflower and shaped our perfect florets until the task was complete—one hour, five cooks. Then we picked bones from braised rabbit, assembled the bar’s truffled grilled cheeses, and cleaned langoustines. During service, I was part of the team plating in front of the guests. Techniques and excellent produce combined to make for a one-of-a-kind experience. High standards are set and mistakes are corrected. Sous chefs check the mise en place and plating every step of the way—during prep as well as service.
The 2-hour experience at the communal table is complete after the main courses and a small introductory dessert—a deep-fried Krispy Kream ice cream in a donut shape are served. The guests are transferred to Barmini—the restaurant’s bar—to finish the selection of desserts. The communal seating is again prepared to greet the second seating of guests.
Wagyu Beef Bahn Mi
Besides our amazing experience during the stage at Minibar, we got a chance to experience Barmini the next day. We tried almost all the dishes on the menu like olive spheres, Wagyu bahn mi sliders, grilled cheese with black truffle, and our favorite Philly steak cheese waffle. We love to experience unique ingredients and dishes, and be surprised during the process. Barmini and Minibar, with their incredible cocktail program, food, and kitchen experiences has blown us away.
Super thin waffle filled with cheese and topped with sliced steak
For more food photos, adventures and stories from the travels, visit Sayat and Laura’s instagram at @LauraAndSayat.