The Goods: Famed chef Jose Andres brings his unique gastronomy skills to South Beach with a mash-up of cuisines at The Bazaar at SLS.
Ambience: The restaurant straddles the SLS Hotel upon entering, with a more modern dining area by the front doors, and a more playful setting by the back doors. We suggest the back area, which is lined with couches and chairs, different styles of tables, a giant chandelier and plenty of art to lose yourself. (Think the living and dining area of someone’s large mansion all squeezed into one room.) The setting allows you to find something new each time you dine, and we’re including the people-watching factor, too.
Backstory: Andres, who hails from Spain, is a chef who likes to do his research before creating a menu. With Miami, he was struck by the preservation of Art Deco styles – even the SLS Hotel had to keep portions of the previous hotel’s style intact. With that in mind, Andres discovered a similar Art Deco connection from Singapore where they embraced the architecture in the 1930s, and that provided the inspiration for his menu “Miami Meets The World” – a combination of Singapore favorites with a Miami-twist. The restaurant has two menus to choose from, one with more traditional Spanish selections. Each menu is extensive, with a combined 70 selections, but don’t feel overwhelmed, and when ordering trust your gut – or rather, your tastebuds. We recommend jumping head-first into the Asian-Latin combo.
The Grub: This is where Andres’ creativity comes through, at times forcing you to take small bites to make sure you savor every flavor. Start off with the Bao con Lechon ($18 for 2), a Chinese bun stuffed with pork belly that will leave you craving for more. The Japanese Tacos ($10) feature grilled eel, shiso, wasabi and pork chicharrones, but it’s the thinly sliced cucumber that serves as the shell. Smoked oysters ($15) come in the shell but with a smoked apple mignonette that just melts in your mouth. Other impressive choices included the Empanada a la Gallega “Spring Roll” ($14), a plate of the Cuban Escabeche “Estefan’s Way” with hamachi, pickled onions and sour orange ($19) and the ‘Cubano’, a small sandwich of Iberico ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickle that looks like a small Cuban sandwich but when you bit into it feels like it dissolves and vanishes into thin air. Cocktails are a must at dinner (make sure Edwin makes your drink) as even the Cuba Libre is made with Coca-Cola imported from Mexico to allow for a sweeter soda. And for dessert there are two ways to go – the deconstructed Key Lime Pie, which has taken all of the elements of the pie and separated them in presentation, or the Banana Mojito, which is not a drink but rather something the looks more like a banana split but tastes just like a cocktail.
Verdict: A must-dine spot for couples or groups of four who are looking for that unique, creative and special-occasion experience at a must-see hotel.