Awkwardly located in the center of the SLS Hotel, Bazaar was an amalgam of high tops, long tables, funky coral chandeliers, and high hopes. Bazaar’s highly anticipated opening has sparked contradictory reviews and I had been anxious to try it since spotting the black-and-white banner stretched across the hotel’s construction site last summer.
We went the first opening Saturday night, yet Jose was nowhere to be seen.
From the start, service was fantastic. The manager, running around like a chicken with his head cut off, tended to each table, ensuring everyone was fat, happy, and cocktail-laden. Before diving into the oddly constructed menu, we ordered drinks. My pisco sour was good, typical, but next time I’ll try the “Salt Air Margarita”. The “Clean & Dirty” martini was strong. Strong. A tiny, green olive sphere floated at the bottom of the glass amidst the Grey Goose. Only after dinner did we realize the martini was pure vodka, the sphere aching to be popped to release its briny liquid and thus, complete the martini. Whoops.
Cone of La Serena Cheese (membrillo, walnut dust) & ‘Bagels and Lox’ (salmon roe, dill cream cheese). Meh. I do not like bleu cheese, and I definitely do not like weak bleu cheese. The frail wafer shell crumbled beneath my tiny bites, revealing creamy, muted bleu cheese. If I’m going to endure it, it better be a damn good, malodorous bleu that triggers my gag reflex. Go big or go home. Jamie liked the bagels & lox cone, but at $6 per each microscopic cone, I’d rather have two actual bagels with lox from Bagel Emporium.
Baby Japanese Peaches (fresh burrata, hazelnuts, arugula). When I asked the waiter how the peaches arrive (I envisioned it being similar to lychees in a shell, or in a bunch resembling grapes), he replied, endearingly “they come in a can!” Oh, ok. Either way, this was by far one of the most interesting dishes I’ve ever had. The small, bite-sized, sweet-bordering-savory peaches perfectly complimented the creamy burrata. Complying with our waiter’s instructions to take a piece of each component in every bite, they hit it out of the park with this refreshing, elegant twist on a seemingly typical combination. I would order this again and again.
Brussels Sprouts (lemon purée, apricots, grapes, lemon air, banana). Great dish, love brussels sprouts, but far too much lemon. I didn’t even realize there was banana until I re-checked the menu for this post. Or apricots. The sprouts were light and fresh, compared to most restos who char the shit out of the sprouts and mix with bacon (no complaints there). I would order this again, but maybe not for a couple of week when the chefs actually taste every dish on the menu and ease up on the lemon “air”, which more closely resembled a spritz (or six) of lemon Pine Sol.
Not Your Everyday Caprese (cherry tomatoes, liquid mozzarella). Similar to the japanese peaches dish, the waiter instructed us to grab one of everything in each bite. The flavors obviously worked, and the liquid mozzarella resembled super fresh burrata. A good, solid dish to order with a group.
Dragon Fruit Ceviche (tuna, pecans, lime, hibiscus). This dish was “pretty”, as one smitten Assault & Pepper follower so sardonically reiterated. I quickly learned, however, pretty ain’t tasty. Served in a halved dragonfruit, the tuna ceviche was so bland that no amount of hot pink, flavorless foam could have fixed. A little salt may do the trick.
‘Cubano’ Secreto de Ibérico (Ibérico ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles). Technically, this dish impressed me the most. Pork, check. Swiss, check. Mustard, check. Bread, check. A warm, airy baguette-esque bread filled with swiss cheese foam, slathered slightly with spicy mustard, topped with pork. One bite and swiss cheese air fills your mouth, followed by the porky goodness, and crisp watercress to cut the heaviness. The dish should have been hotter, but I got the picture. A must-order at Bazaar and a nice tribute to Miami cuisine.
Secreto de Ibérico (Ibérico potato puree, Catalan-style toasted bread, tomato). The waiter sold us on these creamy potatoes infused with Ibierico ham. Thanks for nothing. Although they maintained a super creamy and rich consistency, I thought they tasted more like cardboard than fat-speckled mashed potatoes.
Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes, spicy tomato sauce, aioli). Crowd-pleaser. Stacked like the polenta fries at Harry’s, these little bites were fried to perfection, accompanied by smokey and creamy sauces. For three people, it was a lot of potatoes, but we munched away and killed the whole dish of delicious, salty, crunchy nuggets. For $10, it was one of the more substantial and reasonable dishes on the menu and I would definitely order this again. I would also enjoy it at 2am at La Moon.
Cuban Coffee Rubbed Churrasco (passion fruit). Delicious in theory, but epic failure in execution. I don’t even remember how the steak was prepared because bitter, gristly coffee grounds were the only thing I could taste (both before and after I spit the steak into my napkin). Not quite sure what happened to the alleged passion fruit, but it had the right idea of slinking off the plate before becoming involved with this burnt-tasting dish. Lucky passion fruit.
Librito of Ibérico (loin Ibérico ham and San Simón cheese). The loin was cooked to perfection. It was tender, smoky, and rich. Just beautiful. I only wished we ordered this before the taste bud-numbing, coffee-rubbed churrasco incident of 2012.
Key Lime Pie. Piped key lime filling and sprinkled graham cracker crumbs on a plate does not a key lime pie make. I need a hunk of dessert to end my meals. But fine, this was good. Really good. Really fucking good. The whole was better than the sum of its parts, or whatever. The key lime custard was tangy, with flecks of lime green zest speckled throughout. The scorched meringue pillows turned to light, sweet, marshmallowly cream in my mouth. The dense graham cracker crumbs were substantial enough to help my attempt at reassembling this deconstructed treat by taking a spoonful of each component in every bite. I’m indubitably loyal to Joe’s key lime pie, but this was an impressive deconstruction that succeeded in flavor, presentation, and cohesiveness.
Overall, Bazaar was fun. Minus the hightop tables. Similar to Eating House, Bazaar takes traditional, familiar dishes and turns them on their head. The waiters are knowledgeable and passionate about the menu (minus the peach snafu) and the service was spectacular. Much like most South Beach hotel restaurants, the scene was super shwanky and ran the gamut from young spenders to business associates, families keeping their babies out far too late, and gold-diggers clinging to their far-too-old men in fear that they’ll face dive right out of their acrylic heels. Go to Bazaar before the service and scene fades into the Miami abyss. Just don’t forget to pop the olive sphere.