When dinner's $225 person, chances are the person footing the bill isn't afraid to invest in some elaborate cocktail and wine pairings to boot. And at the revamped Minibar, now open again in a bigger space in Penn Quarter, the high rollers lucky enough to score a reservation there have plenty of options to choose from, as well as special methods for procuring unique and exclusive wines to have with their adventures meal. Lucas Paya, wine director for José Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup, walked Eater through the restaurant's various beverage pairings and programs.
Minibar watchers may be familiar by now with the four different pairing options the restaurant offers. The "Virtue" ($45) features about 10 different non-alcoholic drinks, and the "Experience" ($75), is a multi-beverage package with a mix of different wines, beers and cocktails (wines are dominant, he said). Climbing the scale, the "Celebration" ($125) which is focused on bubbly wines. "We believe that champagnes and sparkling wines are really a good complement for this complex and diverse meal," he said.
The big-ticket pairing at Minibar is the "José" ($200). Like the "Experience", this pairing is a mix of cocktails, wines and beers, but the selections are a bit higher-end and obscure than what a customer gets with the other pairing. Right now, these drinks are featured on the José menu:
Krug G Cuvee
Huet Vouvray demi sec
Movia Sauvignon Blanc (a personal favorite of Paya's)
Carillon Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes
Clelia Romano Fiano di Avellino
Vareij Brachetto Hilberg-Pasquero
Estrella Inedit Damm
Nicolas Rossignol Volnay Chevret
Faux Thai Beer (cocktail)
Corn Hot Toddy (cocktail)
Prum Wehlner Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
The "Experience" pairing is probably the top seller right now at Minibar; the non-alcoholic "Virtue" has been surprisingly popular as well, Paya said.
But if pairings are either too excessive, or not what a customer is looking for, Paya has plenty of other options for them to explore. Minibar has a partnership with Georgetown's Wide World of Wines. That store allows Minibar to stock more wine options than the space at the restaurant would allow, and the restaurant offers it to the customer at close to retail price. Some of the high-end wines that customers have purchased through this program include the 1990 Saint Julien Leoville Las Cases ($405), the 2002 Henri Boillot Chevalier Montrachet ($270) and the 1998 Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne ($810). The list leans towards older bottles and wines from Burgundy and Spain.
"If I want to get a bottle of the 1998 [Guigal], it would cost me a fortune. Instead of that, I can partner with the wine store," said Paya. The program requires a few weeks' advance notice.
Paya also is willing to go on a personal quest to find a particular wine that a customer desires, and he usually has the connections to pull it off, using the Internet, local distributors, wineries and other connections. This isn't an option customers have frequently demanded, and it does require a few weeks' notice, but it's something for high-rollers to keep in mind if they're planning an upcoming trip to the restaurant.
When in doubt, a customer can always just order a glass. Minibar has a by-the-glass menu but those options usually reach beyond it due to the various wines used for the different pairings, he said. "We might have 25 different bottles open on a daily basis," he said.
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