Wynwood Kitchen & Bar a feast for the eyes, a disappointment for the palate

One of the edgiest and most stunning additions to the Miami dining scene, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar is a magnet for a young, artsy crowd. Soaring ceilings and concrete floors frame dramatic murals by boldface-named artists, and the colorful facade splashed with sherbet-haired moppets and mischievous kittens by Brazilians twins Os Gemeos makes me smile.

Every inch of the bar is covered with looming red and black graphics by Shepard Fairey of Obama “Hope” poster fame. Abstract paintings by Christian Awe, Dearraindrop and Kenny Scharf brighten the main dining room, making it feel more like a funky, modern gallery than a restaurant.

When it comes to real estate and art, owners Tony Goldman and daughter Jessica Goldman Srebnick are indeed visionaries.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the food, I just don’t see it. My meals ranged from mediocre to barely edible.

Chef Marco Ferraro, who also cooks at Wish, another gorgeous Goldman property, can’t seem to focus his talents. Here the menu (the same at lunch and dinner) is a disparate collection of salads, burgers, skewers, omelets, sausages, clay pots and lots of fried bar food. It’s printed on a vinyl-coated sheet the size of a tabloid newspaper that, frankly, could use a good wipe-down between customers.

At least it’s easy to love the bar—if you can handle the off-the-meter decibels. With more than 40 artisanal beers listed by flavor profile, experts and novices alike will be intrigued, especially since selections start at only $4. A rich, complex, mocha-hued Nostradamus Brown Ale was a treat.

Wines – some 70 bottles and a dozen glasses – are moderately priced, though the young staff hasn’t got a clue what’s what. Cocktails are poured large and strong.

It’s a perfect fit for the crowd that flocks here, especially on weekends, for the club-like vibe. We watched tables of 20-somethings pawing champagne flutes like 7-Eleven Big Gulps, tossing back tumbler-sized shots and guzzling fruity cocktails with their meals.

A signature plate of chili-powder-dusted artichoke hearts with a yuzu mayo, though a bit floppy and over seasoned, goes well with a frosty brew or a crisp-peachy rosé from Provence.

Salads, too, can work. The arugula and beets topped with raw walnuts and Gruyère foam—yes, foam—seemed pretentious but was fresh enough, and a retro iceberg wedge with a chunky blue cheese dressing and toasted almonds was simple and satisfying.

And it is hard to resist warm slices of crusty baguette served on a pretty wooden platter, though I’m still wondering why ours was served with a demitasse spoon alongside the nearly frozen butter.

I’ve also got to wonder how a kitchen can send out a platter of undercooked calamari ringlets stuck together in fist-sized clumps by their gummy tempura batter. Bloated potato croquettes with a thick-as-cardboard coating were equally inedible. Most egregious of the fry-basket offerings was the fish and chips, a single plank of dried-out cod the size of a deck of playing cards served over plain-old potato chips.

Baby back ribs in a grainy, mahogany-tinged wet rub overpowered by cough-inducing five-spice powder are a chore to chew. Ridiculously tiny lamb pops are only slightly better.

The hot pots – petite portions of stewy curries served with rice – seem to be a favorite with the late-night drinking crowd, but by the light of day, at lunch on the shaded patio, our chicken curry looked like the morning after. Hunks of breast meat with matchstick-hard edges shared the gelatinous sauce with flaps of pale, dimpled skin that seemed to have been boiled for hours.

Mussels in a tinny tomato sauce were as gritty as a windy day at the beach, and even a basic burger was overcooked and served on an over-toasted bun. Macaroni and cheese was soupy, green beans were studded with bitter garlic and a side of chanterelle and oyster mushrooms was overly seasoned.

On both quiet lunch hours and slammed weekend nights, the wait staff in their paint-splashed black T-shirts and jeans seemed frantic and anxious, never inquiring about barely picked-at plates. Not that we could have heard them over the soundtrack of cool blues, retro rock and shrieking customers.

Homey desserts might provide some comfort. A chewy, sweet and very chocolate brownie with ice cream, cheesecake, bread pudding and an oversized Oreo cookie sum it up.

While my eyes were treated well on every visit, I can’t say the same for the rest of me.

If you go

Place: Wynwood Kitchen & Bar.

Address: 2550 NW Second Ave., Miami

Rating:★ 1/2 (Subpar)

Contact: 305-722-8959, wynwoodkitchenandbar.com

Hours: 11 a.m.- midnight daily; bar open until 1 a.m.

Prices: Appetizers $8-$14, salads and sandwiches $12, entrees $21-$24, sides $5-$6, desserts $5-$6.

FYI: Reservations suggested; available at opentable.com. Full bar; corkage $15. Valet parking $5. AX, DS, MC, VS.


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