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
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."
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.
As so often does not happen at such events, all the promised celebrity wattage glowed. Rivera gamely posed for photos, looking elegant and charming following a long day declaiming her reign's special cause, AIDS awareness and testing, throughout Miami.
The Suenalo Sound System guys and an entourage of clingy girls arrived early around 9:00 p.m. hogging the spotlight for an unseemly amount of time. Then Tainy strolled in, though The Bitch had to get up on the furniture to see him. Tainy is tiny!
A surge in energy swept the crowd of about 200 when at last the two gents who make up the Tunes entered the club. The childhood friends were born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in Boston, and moved their production studio to Puerto Rico in 2000, where they have presided since as the Neptunes of reggaeton. Víctor Cabrera (Tunes) has always assumed the Pharrell role, the publicly charismatic sometime-performer cavorting with costars Zion and Daddy Yankee.
With Mas Flow 2, though, and the events and appearances attendant to its release, Francisco Saldaña (Luny) has quietly but forcefully seized the spotlight. He sprinkled Eurythmics and Missing Persons samples throughout Wisin y Yandel's "Rakata," and Latin rapper Héctor El Bambino is basically Saldaña's creation.
At Thursday's party, Saldaña exhibited a Corleonic force of personality, which portends not only continued studio success but also some significant crossover visibility.
So did you get to meet Miss Universe?
"No, I'm shy. Is she here? I saw her on TV, that she was in town."
She seems really nice. So are you forming a sort of union of DJs, producers, rappers? Is the single-artist album dead?
"No, no, there'll always be albums by strong individuals. Look at Tego [Calderón]. We're just trying to make a place artists can get together. We brought the DR to the PR.... Who would have thought of that?"
Not me! Good luck with that. So what if you collaborated with Nelly? Would you name the club "The St. Lunytics"?
Saldaña could not be budged from his own character, but smiled faintly and demurred, "Well, I'd probably stick with one of the East Coast crews...."
Make It Internal
The Miami Herald's "Scene in the Tropics" gossip and nightlife columnist/blogger, Lesley Abravanel, sure gets around. It almost seems she is possessed of the ability to be in two places at once. Or maybe she has a double to accomplish her intercontinental surveillance of Madonna and the Lances, Armstrong and Bass.
In any case it's difficult to account for Abravanel's postings July 23 on her blog (blogs.herald.com/scene_in_the_tropics). They describe hobnobbing with Mrs. Ciccone-Ritchie and witnessing a cold-shoulder catfight next to the La Perla catwalk.
She wasn't there. The Bitch, who knows Abravanel and was at those same places at the same times, doesn't remember seeing her. Abravanel herself told The Bitch on August 30: "I haven't really been going out much. In fact I've been out of town and just got back."
Explains Herald features editor Shelley Acoca: "Lesley was out of town for a couple of weeks in July and didn't write columns from July 9 to July 29, when 'Scene' returned. She got back to town on July 25."
But, um, how about July 23, when items about the Madonna concert and the La Perla fashion show appeared on the eponymous blog?
"[Lesley] attributes items to sources when she's not at them," Acoca says.
But she didn't do so in the items in question.
Abravanel did not return the hound's solicitations for further comment. She sent an e-mail to Acoca asking her what to say, to which Acoca responded. But instead of sending the e-mail reply to Abravanel, Acoca forwarded the note to The Bitch!
"I wouldn't bother to reply [to New Times]," the editor advised the writer.
Maybe Abravanel gets reporting assistance from Chloe Chan. Who's that? In spring 2004, Abravanel described Chan as "my alter ego, Hello Kitty-loving, indie-rock-meets-Barry Manilow freakazoid night crawler," in a letter to The Bitch. Back then New Times was seeking a nightlife columnist.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Indeed Chan's byline recently popped up on the Website Category305.com, under the headline "We Listen and We Are Amused." That piece was a trashing of former Miami Beach party guy Tony Miros, who now covers celebrity news and does casting for the MTV show The Real World in Hollywood, California. Chan said Miros "used to make his rounds on South Beach under the unfortunate moniker of Mr. Nightlife."
"I'm shocked," says Miros, who describes himself as a friend of Abravanel's. "Wow. I never thought she would go there with me. It's sad, really very, very sad."
A Herald columnist freelancing for a local Website? That's apparently no problem for executive editor Tom Fiedler: "Lesley's contract allows her to write for other publications and Websites as long as they are not in direct competition with TMH."
So, is Chloe Chan actually Lesley Abravanel? Celeste Delgado, Category305.com publisher (and former New Times staff writer), declined to comment.