Restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow made waves in Miami’s food scene in 2012, when he closed his long-running China Grill in Miami Beach and promised its speedy relocation to mainland Miami. Three and a half years later, Chodorow’s restaurant is at last readying for a November opening at 801 Brickell Ave.
But it won’t be a China Grill. And Chodorow has brought on a partner who knows a thing or two about making waves in Miami: nightlife impresario David Grutman, founder of Miami Beach clubs LIV and Story.
Grutman, with the backing of Chodorow’s China Grill Management, will open Komodo: a three-level, indoor-outdoor, Asian-inspired restaurant that will seat about 275 people.
“I’ve been planning on opening a restaurant at this location for several years,” Chodorow said. “Originally it was going to be a China Grill, but when presented with the opportunity to collaborate with David, we decided on the new concept and name.”
Komodo will be the first restaurant owned and operated by Grutman, 41, who lives in Miami Beach and who last year ranked 11th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 50 most important people in electronic dance music.
Grutman’s name frequently appears in celebrity-gossip columns whenever he’s hosting visiting DJs and entertainment moguls at Miami restaurants like Seaspice, Hakkasan and Nobu.
In a lunch interview Friday at his home — Grutman’s personal chef prepared a veal scallopini with grainy mustard for him and penne with tomato sauce garnished with homegrown basil for Grutman’s girlfriend, model Isabela Rangel — Grutman said Komodo is a step toward evolving his business into a lifestyle brand that may one day include hotels.
“I don’t want to be known forever just as the nightclub guy,” Grutman said. “And, look, I’m a chubby Jewish kid at heart. I love, love, love food. I’m in the hospitality business. A restaurant makes sense.”
One of the foods he loves, loves, loves is traditional Peking duck. At Komodo, the first thing customers will see is a room of hanging ducks and a special wood-fired oven to get the skin just right (“The trick is to puff air into the skin,” Grutman said. “Did you know that?”).
Diners also will likely see a 15-vegetable chopped salad, a fried-chicken salad prepared tableside, dumplings and other dim sum, and perhaps a tuna “porterhouse” and tempura lobster onion rings that Grutman and Rangel recently sampled and raved about.
Chefs from China Grill Management, which includes a flagship China Grill as well as an Asia de Cuba in New York and other concepts worldwide, will oversee Komodo’s kitchen.
The restaurant’s massive, 17,000-square-foot space includes two levels of indoor dining as well as suspended outdoor “bird’s nests” that overlook Brickell Avenue.
A third floor will feature a lounge that Grutman said he’ll unveil a few months after Komodo’s lunch and dinner services get underway.
“I want Komodo to be a restaurant first,” he said.
He acknowledged that some people will be skeptical of his decision to enter the restaurant business with an ambitious, expensive, 275-seat project. But he said he welcomes the challenge.
“People said I couldn’t have a successful club at the Fontainebleau, or South of Fifth, or in Sun Life Stadium, so I know they’re going to say I can’t do a restaurant,” Grutman said, standing on one of Komodo’s outdoor nest pods. “But I know the great potential Komodo has. I think it’s going to change the face of Brickell.”
Evan S. Benn is Miami Herald food editor: @EvanBenn