Klima executive chef David "Rusti" Rustarazo is a simple guy. The Catalonian honed his skills at the acclaimed Coure in Barcelona before making his way to South Beach. He doesn't want to complicate himself or his menu. "This isn't NASA," he says. "Our food isn't meant to be cryptic, just simple and worked -- made with love."
Indeed, at first glance, the menu at Klima might read like many others in town. But take a closer look and you'll see that Rusti is letting ingredients speak for themselves. And when they do, you'll go from Eh, I could get this anywhere to I need to come back and eat my way through the rest of the menu. New Times was invited to get a taste of Klima's Barcelona-inspired cuisine.
First thing, this place is stunning. Inhabiting the space formerly occupied by Talula and Tosca, Klima has done a real number here.
Upon entry through the gigantic doorway, you'll instantly feel as if though you're no longer in South Beach but rather the home of your millionaire art collector friend. Sculptures and other artwork throughout dress up the space. There's no hostess stand, but a well-dressed host greets you upon arrival and asks where you'd like to sit: lounge area, dining room, or outside. It all really depends upon your mood.
The lounge is outfitted with leather couches and handcrafted rugs from Turkey that were designed by Klima's managing partners Pablo Fernández-Valdés and Yago Giner.
A beautifully illuminated red maple wood bar boasts plenty of spirits.
No private home is complete without a bar. At Klima, design and ambiance are all about details such as this bar.
The dining room features a cobweb of modern Italian light fixtures, wooden tables, and a center service station that feels a bit like a kitchen island. Speaking of the kitchen, though it's not the traditional open variety, there's a clear-cut path into the spot where all the magic happens. "We want it to be as seamless as possible."
The roofed terrace has been outfitted with more psychedelic Turkish rugs and low-hanging rattan orbs that create just the right amount of glow. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows make the transition between indoors and out feel almost nonexistent.
Open not even a week, Klima has already gained some Spanish clientele. On my visit, the tables surrounding mine all shared a familiar accent.
While Klima is still working on developing its cocktail list, your server will be happy to tell you what it's mixing up, which in our case included all the usual suspects (mint julep, Moscow mule, old-fashioned, ginger and cucumber martini, and mojito). A sucker for mules, I opted for one, and my dining companion went for the martini. The ginger and cucumber martini was the clear winner of the two.
In terms of menu items, Rusti wanted to pay respect. "Treating the product right is most important," he says. "Any chef will tell you that.
"If you're cooking lobster, you need to think about the fisherman who woke up at 5 a.m. to catch the lobster, kill it, and then bring it to all of us. To disrespect that would be unacceptable and would stop me from sleeping at night."
Though Rusti hails from one of the world's leading culinary countries, he remains humble. "Miami restaurants have their own history. Joe's has been around 102 years. There's a reason for that. Our job is to study that reason, the public, its preferences, and accommodate."
And apparently people don't want gazpacho. "The idea of gazpacho today has been taken a bit out of context." Instead, Rusti has opted for a salmorejo ($18), which is similar to gazpacho except it lacks cucumber, uses less bread and onion, and instead relies heavily on tomato and olive oil to give it a creamier texture. He's also added a quail egg and bits of jamón ibérico as a garnish. The only complaint: It would've been nice if the quail egg had been diced and sprinkled atop the dish like the ham so you could spoon bits with every bite.
Half-cooked egg, potato parmentier, and Iberian ham ($20) all find their place in a bowl. The correct way to eat this: Make it into a delicious mess. While this was probably the highlight of the meal, Rusti confesses there's not much to it. "This is a dish that doesn't require anything but good ingredients. It's like pan con tomate, where you have bread, tomato, and olive oil, and that's it. But if you have bad tomatoes, the dish is no good. This is the same philosophy."
Oysters are offered for $3.50 a pop and with your choice of either ceviche sauce or ponzu sauce and salmon roe. Go for the latter.
Beef carpaccio with foie and truffle ($30) doesn't come cheap (actually, nothing at Klima does) and is similar to the egg dish in the sense that "you don't need to find the mystery in it," Rusti says. "The ingredients stand on their own, are strong, and it's pretty to look at." Yes, it is, and also to eat (the more I ate, the more I liked it). "That's what we want."
Four salads are offered, and though we sampled none, the item of which the chef is proudest is the fennel, burrata, kalamata, and sun-dried tomato salad. "It's a dish anyone could make. I could show a housewife to make this and she'll have it every day. I like to show that cooking isn't difficult. It just takes dedication."
For entrées, we noshed on what our server pitched to be the house specialty -- rigatoni stuffed with lobster and stew ($30). But if you go to Klima tonight, you'll find that item is no longer on the menu. "It didn't convince me," Rusti explains. "It was a dish with a lot of faults -- the lobster didn't fit well with rigatoni for some reason -- and it's important to find the why in things. If we can't explain why it didn't work, then it didn't work." As a substitute, he's now whipping up fettuccine in a stew sauce with chunks of lobster.
Alaskan black cod with vibrant spinach pesto and haricots verts ($34) was delicate. The fish was perfectly cooked, flaking at the touch of a fork. It was another dish that the more I ate, the more its flavors unfolded with each bite. "Our approach isn't going to be to import fish from Spain, although working with a red snapper is not like a lubina, but that's where we come in to make it fun. What makes the difference are the hands that touch the fish."
Almond trifle with chocolate mousse ($12) was oh so delicious. We could have easily had another. Guess we'll just have to go back and try the rest of Klima's offerings.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha
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