What happens in South Beach Miami stays there.
But I’m going to share a seductive secret.
Behold, after midnight in Miami.
The air is a mix of salty sea water breezes, luxury candlelit luminescence, and a voyeur-esque, promiscuous fervor.
In the glitzy dark of the night, my footsteps took me to the renowned neighboring hotel on Lincoln Street, Hotel SLS, with prominently silver mirror letters protruding from a pile of grass. Seeing an S, my letter of obsession, a returning stance mandated a photo. A few seconds later I was in the tiled and dimly lit lobby, being led into the restaurant that was also very omnipresent in the lobby itself, marked distinctly only by a gigantic, swooping chandelier constructed of coral and shells.
Not even a year old, The Bazaar is brainchild of James Beard award-winning chef José Andrés, who is touted as responsible for introducing America to avant-garde Spanish cooking. The cuisine itself owes to playfulness, and even borrows from the Latin American whimsy of South Beach. Combine this with its late night opening and attraction to high profile guests, and I had a perfect match.
The Bazaar couldn’t have been any different from my favorite middle Eastern restaurant tucked far away in Holland which shared its name. menu was ingeniously global in relaying a sense of inspired cuisine, ranging from pages like Spain Yesterday and Today, or Miami Meets the World. Being a Spanish style eatery, everything was in manageable portions, one of my favorite traits about any place, for it enabled me to try many things without creating an explosion of abdominal buttons or emptying out the wallet.
It was a pleasure to have a hospitable server who was as charming as her curly locks, and offered sparkling advice on the truths and pitfalls of the menu, resulting in the best of choices for a rather late meal. Equally odd were the seaters on neighboring tables, from a casually dressed woman obviously worried about being alone on a Friday night, to the long-haired philandering man in a suit gazing at the legs of every passerby, or the walking wardrobe of jewelry who sipped on her wine glass without a stain of her glossy lip color transferring off her Angelina lips, or the odd man who decidedly took it upon himself to take secret photos of yours truly.
The first edible arrival was an escalivada with blue cheese, which was my relative least favorite, but probably the most balanced as a meal platter. Artisan bread with spicy sauce was laid with semi caramelized sweet onions in sardine plank style, intermingled with tomatoes and mushrooms, and topped loosely with blue cheese and greens. I slurped it down gladly after an evening of cocktails, making way for the intriguing looking second platter which had already arrived.
My favorite was the five skewer structure of watermelon and tomato, a grilled dish made fresh and luxurious. It came looking like art, with sliced watermelons rejoined with whole and half tomatoes doused with mint leading up to tall skewers, which despite looking empty, were reminiscent of New York’s towering structures. Pickling the watermelon with bitters, lime, basil and mint packed a punch. I even detected hints of mustard and sesame, balancing the spice so well with the sweetness of the fruits. Each bite was a burst of citrus flavor that immediately refreshed the mouth and could be felt all the way down the digestive tract to its destination.
The most whimsical of all was the yucca savory churro with a side of honey to remind us of the origins of this savory dish was actually in the realms of dessert. It arrived in street style brown paper cone, which fortunately absorbed some of the oil. I love yucca from my African culinary origins, and while an offbeat starch component, was meltingly delicious despite over-frying. The best of all was the homemade peanut butter that arrived in no less than a miniature toothpaste tube lookalike! Knowing my addiction for peanut butter, this one not only tasted perfectly fresh, but was a heavenly marriage with the yucca, making this a truly savory dish masked in the veil of a dessert.
And so, way past midnight and into a lusciously glittering Friday night of Miami, I stepped out of the wide and enigmatically reflective stairs of Hotel SLS.
And the night embraced me with open arms.
It foreboded that sunrise was only a few hours away.
And of course my footsteps took me in a direction opposite to my neighboring hotel.