When Michael Schwartz visited Singapore this fall, he skipped all of the fine-dining restaurants for hawker stalls and mom-and-pop joints. It was in the streets and night markets of Southeast Asia that the James Beard Award-winning chef found the inspiration he sought for his new concept inside the Como Metropolitan Miami Beach.
Along for the adventure was chef Jorge Negrón, who helms the kitchen at the Traymore, Schwartz's restaurant at the Como. "I wanted to get the bright, vibrant street-vendor genre down — what locals eat late at night after bar-hopping — which is an essential element of the essence of any country," Schwartz says. "The idea was to have Negrón take the experience beyond with our group's ethos of high-quality products and his own Latin American touch."
The result is Sling Bar, which opened last month, sharing Como's lobby with the Traymore, Schwartz's Asian-inspired eatery that debuted earlier this year. The small-plates spot joins the chefs growing portfolio of concepts including Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Ella in the Design District, the waterfront Edgewater restaurant Amara at Paraiso, the delivery-only Genuine Miami Deli, Tigertail + Mary in Coconut Grove, and three pizzerias.
Schwartz says that among local Asian-inspired restaurants, the majority tending toward Japanese, the Traymore's and Sling Bar's offerings represent an evolution, eschewing a typical menu of sushi and robata for more daring fare that straddles the gastronomy of India, China, and Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia — the blend of cuisines that makes up Singaporean street food.
At Sling Bar, bold flavors stand out, such as the nam jim dipping sauce of fish sauce, cilantro, palm sugar, Thai chili, and lime accompanying a dish of cured scallops with peanuts served on a shell ($12), and sambal Thai chili paste with basil and mint cilantro served over chicken salad and accompanied by cassava chips for scooping ($12).
The exotic flavors, Negrón says, balance one another perfectly. "A distinctive element of Singaporean food is that there isn't one particular spice or taste that stands out," explains the chef, who's working with local suppliers to obtain some of the many types of chili, ginger, and basil distinctive to the cuisine grown locally. "Every dish is an exotic mingling of textures, colors, and taste, yet everything comes together in perfect harmony."
Also on the menu are the Indonesian specialty sate lilit — minced fish and shrimp, Balinese paste, and Thai chili molded around three lemongrass skewers ($15) — and Negrón's take on the Indian samosa, stuffed with potatoes, mustard seeds, chicken, curry paste, and sweet chili and then fried ($9).
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For dessert, the chef's Latin heritage shines in miso flan with rice tuile, banana brûlée, macadamia nuts, and soft cream ($9); warm chocolate cake with passionfruit ($9); and black sesame pound cake served with coconut custard and tropical fruits ($9).
The beverage program comprises "culinary cocktails" — Singaporean-style libations meant to be strong and filling. Curry colada replaces pineapple with passionfruit mixed with Havana Club rum, Velvet Falernum, curry syrup, coconut crème, and lime ($17). The floral SB Sling combines Bombay East gin, Benedictine, PF orange curaçao, pineapple, lime, and cherry cordial ($16). Another standout is Secret Remedy, blending Aberfeldy 12-year Scotch, Bacardi 8 rum, Angostura bitters, orange bitters, Chinese Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa syrup with honey and natural ingredients, and calamansi.
Schwartz, who debuted six concepts this year, says the only thing he has in the works now is a Harry's Pizzeria location slated to open next spring on Meridian Avenue. "Now with so many places to go," he says, "Miami Beach residents have many good reasons not to leave the neighborhood."
Sling Bar. 2445 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-695-3555; traymoremiamibeach.com.