MiniBar & BarMini

Minibar & Barmini, Washington D.C.

 

I really should separate these two as they were two very different experiences, but they blended well and I try to keep these reviews to one per occasion. To explain further, if you are able to snag a reservation at Minibar for your meal, the final dessert courses will be just on the other side of the wall at Barmini. If you think about it, it’s quite the production. They must ensure that each group of 6 has seating timed perfectly with their dessert courses. Now we know why reservations are a must at both establishments. The execution was seamless, but more on that later.

All the best gastronomy restaurants with phenom reviews have one thing in common:  they are usually slightly hidden and give taxi drivers that aren’t familiar a bit of a hard time. Minibar was no exception. Our cab driver dropped us at the proper block, but we were all stumped as to where this place was. We walked up a block and asked a doorman at another restaurant. He laughed and directed us to go back and look for the first door from the corner of the block. Sure enough, there it was, and “Minibar” was etched in the same concrete as the building just beside it. We entered to a host stand, where we were then escorted to a small reception room to the right. There was a beautiful marble chair, cushioned loveseats, chairs, and a center coffee table.  We were offered a complimentary reception drink of our choice (champagne & bourbon for us!) and puffed Japanese seasoned rice paper served in a wooden chest. This area is a must for a restaurant with only two seatings. (6 people at 6:30 and 9 people at 9:30.) Everyone gets a chance to arrive and get comfortable before being escorted to the dinner room. We chatted with the two other couples that would be at our 6:30 seating. We were all escorted and welcomed into the dining bar. It is wonderfully open and clean. The kitchen is a half circle presented in front of two long bar-style tables. We were given a short introduction and welcome from one of the chefs and our first beverage accompaniments were poured. A great feature here is the 4 levels of beverage pairings to choose from. One non-alcoholic, and three tiers of alcohol by price. We chose the middle of the road alcohol beverage pairing since the top level consisted mostly of bubbly. A woman in our group ordered the non-alcoholic pairings and they looked like delicious and colorful cocktails! They don’t dial it at any point for their guests.

A double digit course count has a huge potential for failure with the wrong pace. Too fast and you don’t get to savor the bite…too slow and suddenly your watch dial encompasses your attention in between yawns. Minibar gets it right on the money. Below is our meal breakdown:

  • Oaxacan Marshmallow – delicious frozen themed cocktailish gulp of sweet goodness!
  • Asian “Coco de Vidrio”- delicate paper-like texture with flavors of anise and spice
  • Parmesan Leaf- Beautifully crafted and just crunchy enough to crave them in a large Costco sized chip bag.
  • Popcorn Empanada- Sweet and savory, perfectly seasoned and in a portion that makes you want more.
  • “When Pigs Fly”- A perfectly shaped pink pig molded from bacon ice cream and filled with meringue. The portions were in perfect harmony in every bite.
  • Foie Bomb- Um, yeah. Nuff Said, right? I say to those of you who are turned off by a creamy, fun
  • Churro Tendon –beef tendon perfection of sweet and savory
  • Almond Tart with Blue Cheese-almond puree molded into a circular shell and filled with blue cheese.
  • Chicken “Shawarma”- The texture on this was amazing…like an air puffed stick of herbs and savory meat.
  • Thai Soup- baby cylinders of peanut and coconut milk float in the broth. They are gel-like in texture, but the taste pairs beautifully with the broth.
  • Baby Carrots with Coconut & Curry-The sweetness of these carrots was amazing. It’s really a liquefied carrot with drizzled olive oil and spices.
  • Beech Mushroom Risotto with Black Australian Truffle –this was served in a plastic cooking bag they cut open while served in front of you. The aroma burst out was the true star of the dish.
  • Smoked Oysters with Escabeche-The prize on this dish was the aroma that comes off the dish. They clearly know this because the dish comes out covered in a glass dome. All at once, the servers lift our domes to release the most savory and pleasing scent of apple wood. Mixed with the chicken broth (the oyster was sitting in), the dish was just amazing. I wish I could get a candle of it.
  • Fabes con Almejas- (Beans with Clams) – Once again, the beans are actually pureed and shaped to look like regular beans. It gives a great overall texture accompaniment to the suspended clams.
  • Espardenyes with Bone Marrow- Put bone marrow with anything, and I’ll happily eat it. This was like a surf and turf spin. Sea (urchin?)…I googled it and it said “sea cucumber”, but it is definitely creature of the sea.
  • Roast Squab with Oysters & Seaweed-This was most like a traditional presentation, only in a one bite portion. The squab was tender and perfectly cooked.
  • Dragon’s Breath with Hot Toddy Shot-This was a lot of fun. Curried popcorn dipped in liquid nitrogen. We were asked to pop the bite into our mouth, turn to the person next to us, and breathe out of our nose. Yes, you looked as if you were dragon breathing smoke out of your nostrils. It tasted great too!
  • Christmas in J
  • Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango- coconut flavored rice pudding with mango sorbet. The mango sorbet was made to look exactly like a real mango, even with a ruby colored skin.
  • Pina Colada Tablet-Frozen pineapple bite covered in a coconut milk outer shell.
  • Sable Bon Bon- Another one-biter of apricot filling inside a sweet dough. By this time, I was on the cocktails, so it did not impress enough to beat out the flavor of my Veruka Salt.
  • TerraMisu- Chocolate shell with liquid center. It did a good job of getting the flavors of tiramisu, but I missed the soaked ladyfingers.
  • “Jurassic Park”- a dusted dinosaur bone shaped two-biter of chocolate. It was “hiding” under the previous dish and had to be “dug” out with tweezers.
  • Matcha Mochi- self explanatory
  • Chicarron- A dish of dipped pork rinds and apricot.

 

 

Barmini- The last few courses (from Terra Misu on) are served in the bar area (which you also need a reservation to enter). Sounds pretentious, but it is really to get a handle on the seating for the guests enjoying dinner at Minibar. There is seating along the wall and only three “lily pads” if you will of actual bar top seating. The Décor of whites, creams, and beiges was the perfect backdrop for the star of the show…the cocktail. All liquor is kept below the waist, so the shelves that are eye level are filled with vintage glassware pieces. Walls of hands holding citrus fruits line a side wall. Coincidentally, there is a wall of toilet paper rolls jutting out on spindles of the unisex bathroom wall.

We had read reviews on the best drinks and started with those. I got a Veruka Salt, which sounded scrumptious with peanut rum, Drambuie, pineapple grog, and simple syrup with peanuts and salt for garnish. It was harmonious in the glass and made me think of a gourmet peanut butter pie with a touch of pineapple upside cake. Our bartender was making my second Veruka Salt when he told me that a customer once told him the drink “tasted like Vietnam”. And moving on…

Mike had a Maple Leaf…bourbon, lemon, and maple syrup. These are three of his favorite items rolled into an alcohol package. He was thrilled and also ordered a second.

There are a few items on the Barmini menu that we happened to see going out of the kitchen while enjoying dinner. They were too good to miss. Grilled cheese and truffle sandwiches. Oh yeah! Grilled and filled to perfection with shaved truffle. We also got the Foieffle. This, ladies and gentlemen, is worth going for just on its own. A waffle injected with foie gras, topped with drizzled peanut butter and honey. It was so good that we still talk about it months later. It’s worth the trip just to experience the Foieffle.

 

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