Young and Hungry

The Mysterious World of Minibar

José Andrés' new and improved Minibar may be officially open, but unless you can snag one of the highly coveted reservations, what's inside is still somewhat of a mystery.

ThinkFoodGroup sent out a press release with limited details and a porthole-sized glimpse of the Gaudi-esque decor and avant-garde cuisine last week. The rest, it wants diners to experience for themselves.

What we know: The restaurant plays with contrasts between light and dark with lots of quirky furniture. Barcelona-based designer Juli Capella dreamed up the 3,140-square-foot space, which is composed of rooms for dining, drinking, cooking, and research. Local architecture and design firm CORE helped execute Capella's vision.

Guests first enter a vestibule with white-quilted walls, then move on to a lounge area where they're treated to aperitifs. ThinkFoodGroup isn't releasing photos of that space at this time.  "I can not describe it at all yet...I'm not allowed to say, but it's very cool" says CORE lead project designer Allison Cooke. "I've never experienced anything where they've been so tight-lipped about the whole concept."

One of the cool things we do know about is the furniture. Just as Minibar's dishes look like one thing but taste like another, the furnishings are also meant to be deceiving. For example, an armchair from Spanish designer Cerruti Baleri looks like marble but is actually soft, as is a cactus sofa with photorealistic fabric (see below). "It's almost like a furniture showroom playland," Cooke says.

The furnishings didn't come cheap, either. Cooke says the Cerruti Baleri furniture cost as much as a car—"and not an economy car."

The 12-seat dining room (seen above) consists of oak countertops curved around an open kitchen. Overhead are domes made from boat hulls. Cooke says Capella wanted domes over the counters, but it was very expensive to have them custom-fabricated and ready on time. Instead, the CORE team reached out to a Maryland-based boat builder, who had a friend with an old boat that he didn't need anymore. CORE cut dome shapes out of the hull and covered them with gold leaf. The dining room—the only space ThinkFoodGroup has released photos of—is surrounded by sheer curtains and blackboard walls, where chefs can scrawl the day's menu or write ideas.

After dinner, guests are invited into a lounge and bar area with a modern fireplace for desserts, coffees, teas, and liqueurs. Capella calls it "a place for physical and mental digestion."

If you want to find out what that means, be prepared to throw down a minimum of $225 for the 20-plus course menu.

Minibar dining room photo by Greg Powers. Furniture photo via Cerruti Baleri.