Dial. Wait. Busy signal. Dial. Wait. Busy signal. Dial . . . . That's the drill if you want to score reservations at minibar (405 8th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 202-393-0812), the restaurant tucked into a corner of José Andrés's Cafe Atlantico. With only six stools at its counter, and only two seatings per night, weekend slots are usually gone within 15 minutes of the reservation phone line opening. (Call at 9 a.m. a month to the day before you want your table.) But it's worth all that fuss to experience Andrés's little love project. The chef (who also owns the well-regarded Jaleo and Zaytinya) did a stint with Spanish master chef Ferrán Adriá at El Bulli, that epicenter of the "molecular gastronomy" movement, in which individual ingredients are de- and reconstructed to create entirely new foodstuffs. Minibar is Andrés's interpretation of those lessons, and he's learned well. The young chefs he's trained present diners with some 30-plus tasting courses that mix equal parts moxie and skill: a drop of peppery olive oil encased in a fragile, crystalline shell of spun sugar; rich cubes of foie gras wrapped in fluffy clouds of vanilla cotton candy; "sun-dried tomatoes" that turn out to be made of dehydrated Campbell's tomato soup. Much of the preparation is done before the diner's eyes, making this food-as-theater moment that much more spectacular, and the chefs are eager to answer questions about what you're eating. All this artistry doesn't come cheap; dinner is $120, plus an additional $40 (worth it!) for wine pairings.
Issue date: November, 2007