Nonapparent Servitude

A splashy new eatery north of downtown, then reggaeton on Lincoln Road

 Maitre d': Your usual table, Mr. Christopher?
Carlo Christopher: No, I'd like a good one this time.
Maitre d': I'm sorry. That is impossible.
Christopher: Part of the new cruelty?
Maitre d': I'm afraid so.

L.A. Story, 1991

Francisco Saldaña has the gravitas to become the 
Jay-Z of reggaeton
The Bitch
Francisco Saldaña has the gravitas to become the Jay-Z of reggaeton


The delays have been so delicious, the denials so cruel, the expectations so elevated, that no matter what lay behind the waterfall-carapaced walls of Karu & Y, the setup for disappointment was firmly in place.

Yet Cesar Sotomayor's downtownish restaurant/nightclub/art space is not so much a letdown as a miscalculation. Poised somewhere between L'Idiot in Mick Jackson's 1991 movie about Los Angeles pretensions, and the equally fictional Dorsia of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho from the same year, Karu & Y actually achieves the sort of hectic humor The Bitch thrives upon.

Before its opening, there were three years of near-openings, tasting menus at the ballet, and test dinners at Indian Creek Drive mansions. Then there was chef Gerdy Rodriguez's bolt for Café Sambal last spring and his replacement by Alberto Cabrera. Finally, at the beginning of September, Sotomayor's designated flacks at Brustman PR began circulating invitations to soft-opening dinners at K&Y.

When The Bitch, who was originally only mildly curious about the opening of another nightlife mall, RSVP'd, Susan Brustman herself intervened. "To be honest, these openings are only for friends and family and the food critics at New Times we are working with. We will let you know when Karu & Y is open to the press."

Suddenly, magically, The Bitch was aflame with desire, and she began a series of stealthy visits to the K&Y fortress (amounting to about a dozen sorties as of this writing).

But first, what about those apparently complicit "food critics"? Well, NT does not in fact conspire with the area's dining establishments to ensure the successful launch of their ventures. This might be news to Brustman, though, who boasts to prospective clients on her Website: "Recently SB&A garnered ... the cover of Miami Herald's "Tropical Life" for The Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida...."

But on to the main course: Karu, the restaurant part of K&Y, resembles a casino like the Bellagio or the Venetian. The absence of windows and timepieces, and the abundance of polished, refracting surfaces recalls that weird, Lotus-eating quality.

Some of the food — inasmuch as the dog knows only about very simple fare not containing meat — was really tasty, especially some coconut panna cotta with an unexpected scattering of cilantro leaves. There was a vast reserve of wines and liqueurs, but The Bitch found it quite difficult to obtain a cup of coffee or hot tea.

"I'm sorry...," a tall, impeccably dressed and barbered "menu guide" named Julian told the hound as he bowed over her zebra-wood table. The nervous attendant was flanked by a pair of servers, one holding a white china cup, the other a platter of sugar, cream, and various spoons.

"You seem really to want this espresso, so I am going to ask if it would be okay to serve you this beverage while your companion is still enjoying the entrée, even though that is a breach of manners and our protocol," Julian continued earnestly. This earned peals of laughter from the thirsty hound, who had thought he was there to eject her from the premises.

Yes! I'm sorry to disrupt the NASA-rocket-launch-like precision of your 'protocol,' but I would like the coffee!

"It's espresso," Julian corrected softly. The Bitch laughed harder, which, finally, like the Buckingham Palace guard challenge, caused Julian to begin laughing himself.

"Omigosh! I'm so sorry! We're not supposed to do that!" he erupted.

Not supposed to laugh?

The Bitch suddenly appreciated that Julian was playing a role far more difficult and tedious than her own. When pressed, he admitted, "Yes, we are very highly trained. Very highly. Lots of memorization and etiquette. No humor."

The Bitch decamped to Y. The long, narrow space lighted too brightly in deathly greens and blues possesses no natural circulation pattern. The only space for a break is in the adjacent private dining room, where The Bitch encountered another kindly K&Y minion, this one named S.B.

So, what's up with your gig here?

"Well, they offered me a $1200 suit, and I get to stand around in a nice building, so I was like, 'Why not?'" S.B. offered with a shrug. (Karu & Y's uniforms are designed by small Miami Beach couturier Dulce de Leche; they include black Elizabethan-collared tulle for the girls, and earth-tone doubled-breasted striped suits with matching ties and oxfords for the boys.)

S.B. showed The Bitch a wall of glittering Murano glass ... vases ... or something, and a horrifying ten-foot-diameter blue-and-white exploding sea anemone sculpture by Dale Chihuly.

Um, isn't there an outside part or something?

After explaining the "alfresco terrace," as it's described in the Brustman literature package, wasn't finished yet, S.B. walked The Bitch and her friend to the actual outside, the corner of NW Fourteenth Street and Second Avenue. "Be careful," he advised. "It's kind of an up-and-coming neighborhood."

St. Lunytics

Marlene Maseda of reggaeton-repping firm Glitter Promotions insisted The Bitch attend a launch this past Thursday at Santo on Lincoln Road for the album Mas Flow 2, which includes work by various artists. At first the dog declined. But Maseda — a clever, resourceful, trilingual (English, Spanish, Blackberry) twentyish blond — dangled dog treats. Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera, from Puerto Rico, would be on hand, as would coproducers Luny Tunes. Then there was the host, producer Tainy, whose very name produced the fearful specter of a dare. And there would be food, music, and drinks. The Bitch actually adores reggaeton's faintly industrial tiki-tiki rhythms and especially likes LT's work, so at the last second, she relented.

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