The newer, sleeker and more expensive Minibar by José Andrés dropped from 3.5 stars to 2 in Tom Sietsema's eyes. While that will surprise many restaurant-goers, what's more surprising is that Sietsema chose to visit the restaurant only once, which goes against the critic's convention to eat at a restaurant at least three times before putting a review in print. Sietsema directly addressed the choice briefly in the review.
A note about process. I typically make multiple visits to a new restaurant before assigning star ratings. In this case, I made a rare exception and dined just once, partly because Minibar by Jose Andres is the world-famous chef's second incarnation of his avant-garde concept, the first having opened in 2003 with just six seats at a small counter on the second floor of his late Cafe Atlantico.
Clearly the choice displeased Andrés, who fired back at the critic with the response above.
Eater reached out to Sietsema to get a little more context on the decision. This is what he had to say:
If there's one detail I wish I would have added to the review, it would be this: I think of minibar by jose andres as an old concept in fresh packaging. In other words, I didn't see it as an entirely new establishment, evinced in part by the name it retains.
A spokesperson for Andrés declined to provide any further elaboration on the chef's comments. Andres is currently in Puerto Rico tied up with opening his new Mi Casa restaurant, which is scheduled to debut next week.
Sietsema's review isn't a pan per se, but it clearly longs for the restaurant to provide more of a "wow" factor, particularly for the increased price (dinner is now $225 per person, and that's before alcohol comes into the picture). As it concludes:
I've paid lots for a night out in the area before, but I've always left the modern Greek Komi, the romantic Inn at Little Washington and the omakase experience at Sushi Taro feeling warm and fuzzy, exhilarated and elevated. Dinner at the second Minibar is like watching a bunch of trailers when you're hungry for a movie. It's not that I'm against novel approaches to cooking but, rather, food that places the intellectual above the delicious -- the head before the heart.
Update: Andrés fuels the fire with this Tweet: "People of Tweeter! My team #minibar needs your love today! We got a hard review @washpost."