If you are a seafood lover like me you will be delighted by Bazaar Mar at the newly opened SLS Brickell hotel at 1300 S Miami Avenue, in downtown Miami. Seafood is the star at the James Beard award winner and Michelin-starred Chef Jose Andres newest outpost, and his second in Miami. He is one of the biggest names in fine dining, winning numerous awards and has over 20 restaurants worldwide in his empire. He is known for groundbreaking and Avant Guarde cuisine. At Bazaar Mar he serves responsibly sourced top quality fare ranging from sea snacks, cured seafood, raw bar, ceviches, tiraditos, oysters, lobster, fish and even a few dishes for the meat eater. He presents them like no other, creating the ultimate stage presentations that show off his supreme talent.
He has again partnered with master Philippe Stark to design his restaurant. The restaurant is 7,200 sq. ft. and holds 210 seats indoor as well as out. You will see three open kitchens and a long raw bar. The interior is more whimsical and casual than modern and sleek. The design features all white furniture, with blue and white, handmade Mediterranean style ceramic tiles, located within the new luxurious SLS Brickell Hotel. When you first walk in you will see long rows of saltwater tanks filled with an array of prized seafood.
The restaurant fills up quickly – full of lively, sophisticated diners with large bank accounts. The dishes are creative and innovative and don’t come cheaply – you may want to splurge for a special occasion … or dine here when you can put it on a business account. Our meal was $350 with just two glasses of alcohol. However, what you will be getting in return for the big buck are thoughtful, exquisite, fresh and delicious preparations that are unlike anything you have had before. Chef Jose seems to know how to balance molecular gastronomy and traditional Spanish food. This brings to mind the old Barton G restaurant that was great at the theatrical but not as good in refined gastronomy. Here the chef’s dishes may look over the top, but they are not just culinary entertaining but also food that makes you feel good. Chef Jose takes a familiar ingredient and flavor and reinvents them in colourful and new combinations. They are really something to behold. With the help of chef de cuisine, Manny Echeverri and sous chef Daniela Romero, he has a dream team that keeps things running smoothly.
The fish and seafood prepared here take things to new heights. Our waiter Trevor was a big help with suggestions. He is so passionate about the food and makes everything sound delicious. We started our meal with the marinated “Ferran Adria” liquid olives, taught to the chef by his mentor at el Buli. We loved having these while in Spain. Here they came a close second to the flavor and texture of how the Spanish dish. The California Funnel Cake is a standout dish and a must order. Made with seaweed cake, avocado, blue crab, tobiko, mayo and cucumber. You may have to order one for everyone at your table as you may not want to share this dazzling dish. Next up was Neptune’s Pillow, a tuna sashimi with air bread, stuffed with spicy tuna, rocoto mayo and a sea lettuce powder. Another wonderful and playful presentation is the bagel and lox. Apparently, the chef researched until he found the perfect bagel – from Russ and Daughters in New York. They make him an air bread version shaped like a fish, in which he stuffs a whipped cream cheese and serves it with a pickled onion. I loved the dish, but I found it a little too rich, which could be helped by cutting down on the amount of cream cheese. The rose Cobia “Classic” Ceviche is a stunningly beautiful presentation and another culinary spotlight to be noted. The dish was comprised of Open Blue Farms, Panama “rose” of leche de tigre, with a nasturtium leaf, sweet potato and dusted with corn nuts. I loved everything about this but the center of the rose, which for me tasted too fishy. We had a little intermezzo break and a nitrogen show with some Aruba cachaça rum and fresh lime with liquid nitrogen. Next up was a lobster salad that was refreshing and sublime. Dotted with citrus and tobiko on a beautiful turquoise dish, and then had fresh hearts of palm grated over top. Next up we tried a dish under the big guys from the sea section. Trevor suggested substituting snapper for the lion fish. Be careful when the servers make suggestions as they can be expensive. Don’t be shy to ask the price or you may get a nice surprise when the bill comes, just like we did. But, I must say the whole crispy skin snapper was outstanding and was another show stopper. I even remarked on how delicious the homemade tartar sauce was, which even enhanced the dish to another level. To finish the meal we had the Japanese baby peaches with Mimmo’s burrata, topped with hazelnut praline and zaatar.
It was a huge meal and there were so many other interesting choices that I would like to try on another occasion. The menu is quite extensive.
There is a nice wine selection of Spanish and international wines by a master sommelier. I would have preferred a few more high-end whites by the glass. They offered a chardonnay by Chateau Montelena that they called oaky, but was actually more tangy. There are a few signature, handcrafted cocktails and I was extremely happy with my “Ultimate” Gin and Tonic. Made with Hendrick’s gin, fever tree tonic water, lemon peel, lime wheel, juniper berries and lemon verbena, served with an oversized ice cube. It was gooood!
For dessert, we tried two options. The Key Lime Pie “Our Way”, a deconstructed key lime ice cream with graham cracker crumble and lime air. This is one of the better versions that I have had in Florida. We also had some pineapple granita dish that was so delicious and refreshing.
Bazaar Mar offers a vibrant overwhelming mix of sophisticated and whimsical cuisine, in a playful, Mediterranean interior. The emphasis is on fresh fish from local and Caribbean waters. It is a meal to remember.
To quote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “My soul is full of longing for the secrets of the sea, and the heart of the great oceans sends a thrilling pulse through me”.