It’s cute but confusing, the naming scheme that distinguishes José Andrés’ high-end but lowercase experimental gastronomic boutiques. There’s minibar, which originally launched from the bar at Andrés’ long gone downtown destination Café Atlántico before moving a few blocks to its own digs, discreetly tucked inside an office building on a nondescript Penn Quarter block — a kind of secret hideaway for a small group of in-the-know gourmands with deep pockets to enjoy a multi-sensory theatrical show starring scientifically enhanced food and drink.
Andrés conceived of the now Michelin-starred minibar as a kind of laboratory where he could test out some wild culinary experiments. He then expanded on that a few years later by opening a second venture in an adjoining space with just a simple flip of the name, a subtle way of distinguishing barmini as a liquid-forward operation.
The distinction has naturally blurred beyond recognition during the pandemic, a time when bars that never previously offered snacks started popping corn and mixing nuts with abandon just to stay open under regulations mandated by the city. The larger and airier barmini has pivoted to become a pop-up collaborative space for the sibling venues’ chefs and mixologists to partner on themed multi-course food and drink experiences, such as the current “One Night in Tokyo.”
Led by minibar Chef Ruben Mosquero, the Japanese-inspired special includes bar bites like Breakfast in Hokkaido, a concoction “made with goat milk aerated ice cream, hay-infused goat milk sauce, and puffed wild Japanese rice with makrut lime powder, hay caramel, and fennel flowers,” and Matcha Doughnut, a dollop of matcha ice cream and matcha powdered sugar.
The food flight is $70 per person, with wine pairings selected by Master Sommelier Andy Myers available for another $75. Or you can spring for one of the classic barmini concoctions available a la carte — ideally one served smoking out of a beaker, such as the Floral Cloud, a fruity gin-based beverage delivered in a hibiscus haze.
While the One Night in Tokyo special is available only to dine-in customers through March 31, a select menu of classic barmini cocktails and signature snacks is available to order for pickup or delivery — such as Big in Japan, a blend of Japanese whiskey, dry vermouth, salers, drambuie, and wakamomo ($50 for two) and barmini Grilled Cheese with gorgonzola, brie, and white cheddar and served with truffle butter and honey mustard on a brioche ($15). barmini is at 501 9th St. NW. Visit www.barminibyjoseandres.com.
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