There are some people and places that have an undeniable charisma. Something about them shines a little brighter than other, possibly more technically perfect, specimens.
The original It girl was silent film star Clara Bow back in the 1920s. Though beautiful, she wasn't the most gorgeous woman in history, but she had "it." What is "it"? It's an undefinable quality that just makes people gravitate toward the subject. Possessing an internal magnet, the "it" object draws people.
The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel just opened a few weeks ago. The paint is almost still wet. All the pictures have yet to be hung on the acid-yellow and fresh white walls. But already the people are coming -- in droves.
As my husband and I walked into the restaurant, having secured a 9 p.m. reservation, we were gently asked to wait a mere moment. Deciding to get a drink at Bar Centro, the outdoor patio lounge, we walked through the dining room and ran into Belkys Nerey, who had just finished dinner. She was shaking hands with none other than José Andrés, who was in town to watch over his new creation.
A hostess came to tell us our table was ready, and as we sat down under the monolithic seashell chandelier, we spotted Chef Andrés again. He was working the room, stopping to chat with delighted diners about their meals. When he reached our table, he asked how we liked the restaurant. After chatting a few moments, he was off to the kitchen.
The meals at the Bazaar are long -- prepare to spend two to three hours
dining as the plates continue to pour out. Eel tacos encased in
paper-thin shells, shrimp served on a teeny skillet, a cone filled with
cream cheese and salmon roe, steak with espresso foam -- as we ate, it
seemed like all of Miami walked by.
Jim Heins of Latin Burger was
there, talking food trucks with Andrés, who owns his own truck,
Pepe, in Washington, D.C. Overheard: something about the chef wanting to
take a food truck to the Caribbean.
Chef Allen Susser was dining at the restaurant too.
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"Is this a special night?" my husband asked me.
we left, we thanked both Chef Andrés and chef de cuisine David Thomas,
who showed no signs of wrapping up for the night even though it was
almost midnight. We then ran into my husband's friends and clients,
who, in turn, ran into friends.
It seems the Bazaar, like
its chef, has "it." Yes, the food is wonderful, the cocktails are
innovative, and the décor is beautiful. But there's something else
about this space that's attracting people: It has an energy to
it, as if something could happen at any moment. It's almost a scene out of
The Great Gatsby -- a touch of what Miami Beach used to be in the '60s,
when Frank Sinatra could walk into the room at any time.
Clara Bow would approve.