Saturday, May 19, 2007

Style over substance

One thing we'd wondered before coming down to South Beach, home of the beautiful people: does the idea of style over substance hold true for restaurants as well as for everything else?

So far, the jury is still out.

We checked in to
The National, spent a little time hanging at the "Tiki" bar near the pool (in quotes because it wasn't particularly Tiki) and had $30 worth of drinks--that is, one G&T and one mojito. Youch.

Nice pool, though.

And then to the day's big decision: what to do for dinner?

At the salon last week, the client in the chair next to mine, who had just returned from SoBe, recommended
Table 8, the hottest new spot with the hottest new chef (all reviews make sure to mention that he started working for Wolfgang Puck "at the tender age of 13"). It seemed promising, and he makes use of local ingredients, so we figured maybe it was Craigie Street transported to Miami and therefore worth a shot.

The fact that we couldn't get a table until 9:30 meant it was popular; another promising sign.

Of course, this was all decided by 5--there was no way we could go hungry for another four hours. So we wandered out to Lincoln Road, the pedestrianized street lined with boutiques, sidewalk cafes and restaurants. I realized it was vitally important to return when I wasn't so hungry; many cute shoes!

Oh, and also a store selling The. Most. Horrendous decorative items: six-foot-tall rampant onyx dolphins and majestic eagles on dodgy faux-marble plinths and "authentic eggs" (whatever that means). I must go back and laugh some more.

And finally we came across SushiSamba, a hip blend of Japanese and Brazilian cuisine, and got a table outside. (Apologies for the link; the site's all Flash, so there's no direct access to the Miami resto. But you get the picture.)

People watching on Lincoln is the best anywhere. In the space of 20 minutes we saw:

  • A fuschia-spandex-clad bantamweight Hispanic on rollerblades

  • A crazy-haired old lady pushing a stroller containing three white bichon frises in pink hats

  • A middle-aged guy (who looked a lot--a lot--like Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs) in a folk-style hippy dress and Cuban-heeled shoes, dancing down the street with a boombox.

Nothing better than watching the parade with cucumber-sake cocktails and sushi tiradito: yellowtail with japaleno and lemongrass; kanpachi with truffle oil; salmon with chimichurri and ginger; tuna with green apple.

And then the rain came.

It started with high winds that blew salad off nearby plates. Then it was as though someone turned the shower on full--fat drops of water, bouncing off the sidewalk, making diners run for cover and waiters rush to collect plates and drag tables under awnings (which quickly lost their waterproof capabilities).

We stood in the doorway and watched as the half-empty water glasses on our abandoned table filled to the brim. Though the sky lightened, the rain kept stotting it down, and we realized the only sensible thing to do was wait it out at the bar with a couple of mojitos.

After about ten more minutes, the skies cleared and we made our way back outside, splashing through two-inch-deep puddles. Such is Miami.

Deluge aside, the dining was great--interesting and thoughtful combinations, fresh ingredients, awesome floor show.

And so on to Table 8. The space is ultra-hip--a long rectangle, dimly lit, the wall at the far end shifting colors from orange to blue to lilac to green. Our reservation was pushed back a half-hour for no particular reason, but we were happy to hang on the low, simple couches and watch the beautiful people watching each other.

The cocktails were interesting; I had what was essentially a basil mojito, spiked with lime juice--very refreshing. The Boy had a black cherry caipirinha, which was just cough-mediciny enough to satisfy him.

And then the food. As it was so late, we decided to stick to apps. The Boy did a much better job of ordering than I; his sweetbreads were melt-in-the-mouth fabulous, and his scallops came on a bed of perfectly creamy risotto.

I probably shouldn't have gone all-salad, but still. The duck prosciutto salad with green beans was pretty good, though a little stingy on the meat. And the second dish involved thin slices of flavorless heirloom tomatoes hidden under an amorphous glop of bland mozzarella.

Eh. Maybe I was just tired. But the fact that all this--two cocktails, two glasses of wine and four apps--came to $175 wasn't cool either. I assume this is an example of style over substance; that one doesn't go to these places to eat, but rather to see and be seen.

But if that's the case, then where does one go to eat really good food at reasonable prices?

(Oh, walking back we saw another only-in-SoBe vision: a guy looking something like this, with one of these around his neck).

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Blogger Kyle said...

Go back! You must get a picture of the onyx dolphins. Sounds like the perfect thing to pair up next to the front gates of my palatial estate.

12:51 PM  
Blogger LimeyG said...

You only say that because I forgot to mention the thing we thought of getting for you: the lifesize MARBLE STALIN. I kid you not.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

Can you ask the "artist" for a custom piece? I'm thinking of a Stalin figure (bare-chested with rippling pecs and flowing Fabio hair to go along with the bristly mustache) astride two gamboling onyx dolphins, rampant. With frickin' lasers.

6:49 PM  

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