There's been a lot of buzz about Jose Andres bringing his Los Angeles tapas restaurant, the Bazaar, to Miami at the new SLS South Beach hotel. The place replicates much of the West Coast flagship's cool. Not only is it paired with Katsuya, the wildly popular upscale Japanese mini chain (which we will feature tomorrow), but it also offers stylish service and innovative drinks.
Even before the "official" mid-June opening, there's a lot going on in the restaurant and adjoining outdoor space, Bar Centro. The Bazaar is divided up into two rooms, with rojo to your right as you enter the hotel (on a red carpet, no less). Rojo, as the name implies, is decorated in red and white, with an oversized bar and large bull head the focal points of the room. Walking past rojo, peek into the open kitchen before entering the blanca room. This is a stunning space, complete with a mirrored tapas bar, acid-yellow murals by designer Philippe Starck's daughter Ara, and a massive chandelier made from seashells.
The Bazaar's menu, as our server explains, consists of both traditional and modern tapas with some interesting world influences. Chef Andres also tweaked the menu (which has yet to be finalized) to include some dishes with Cuban/South American influences. The chef calls it "Miami meets the world." We call it slightly overwhelming.
Luckily, the fact that the Bazaar is a tapas restaurant means you'll be able to try more than a few dishes. Your server will recommend three to four plates per person. We took her advice, but the portions are generous, so light diners will be easily satisfied with two or three selections per person.
A young lady with a cart asked us if we would like the house
caipirinha. Made with liquid nitrogen, these libations are potent lime-flavored granitas and, at $5 per shot, a perfect way to start
Cocktails, by the way, are also given the whimsical Jose Andres touch.
The margarita ($16), for example, is served with salt air, which
translates to a bit of sea foam floating in the glass.
The Cubano is served on river rocks. A puff of a Cuban sandwich, it's crisp on the outside, filled with melted Swiss and mustard on the inside, and topped with Iberico ham and pickles ($12).
Creamy coconut rice, with seared scallops, tamarind, and ginger is served in a warmed coconut half-shell (and presented on a porcelain pillow). Scrape the inside of the coconut to get some of the soft, fragrant meat along with your rice ($18).
Yuca churros are served with a tube of peanut butter ($9).
Beef sui mei, served in a traditional bamboo steamer, is part of the Asian section of the menu ($14).
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"This dish is time-sensitive," our server told us. Blue cheese ice cream sandwiches served on raisin bread toast with lemon marmalade are a bit of a brain tease. Upon first bite, you're expecting sweet vanilla, but instead get cold and creamy blue cheese. You need a second bite to try to figure out what you're tasting. Then another bite to confirm your suspicion -- that it is quite delicious ($13).