I know, I know – I just posted about how I’m not a fan of fancy restaurants – too hoity-toity, pretentious and expensive.
But there’s one restaurant – an expensive one – that I can’t get enough of.
And the food isn’t even that great.
Why on earth would one go to an expensive restaurant that doesn’t offer an elevated “foodie experience?” Why would I pay through the nose for food and service that’s just okay, but not outstanding?
Because I love the TOTAL EXPERIENCE – part food, part art, part fun, part drama – and part nonsense (but in a good way).
I’m talking about Miami Beach’s BARTON G, a one-of-a-kind restaurant (that now has a second location in Los Angeles), located in a quiet neighborhood on West Avenue, away from the madness of Ocean Drive.
Barton G Weiss is the owner. I’ve never met him, but I know I’d love him based on how much fun he has with his menu. It’s pure theater, pure fun – it’s SURPRISE & DELIGHT.
First of all, book your table outside in the tropical “jungle” and gear up for a wild ride with a couple of cocktails. I recommend the Martini Flight, which comes in four test tubes, or a nitro-infused smoldering martini with an ape dangling from the rim (you may be able to keep the ape).
What follows is a series of over-the-top presentations that are guaranteed to turn the heads of your dining neighbors (Joanne and I have just as much fun watching others receive their food as we do receiving ours.) The menu changes from time to time so some of the dishes that you see here may have been replaced – but by equally jaw-dropping additions. By the way….KIDS LOVE THIS PLACE!
ACT 1….The appetizers and salads…..
Your bread arrives masquerading as donuts. They’re actually savory pretzel-style bread, with one “donut” napped in cheddar cheese, the other with basil spread. We ordered the Lobster Pop Tarts, which were delivered for table-top toasting with our own personal toaster…..quite good actually….filled with lobster, Gruyere Mornay sauce and tarragon, for $25. The Salmon Pinwheel was next…..like a giant lollipop – a little difficult to eat – perhaps due to the giggling.
Next came the Chicken Cordon-Bleu Nuggets: crispy chicken breast stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese, teed-up in a tiny shopping cart, with a miniature Barnes & Noble book light spotlighting them in the dim nighttime lighting.
Grilled Octopus and Salt & Pepper Calamari arrived next – the octopus protected by a cast metal octopus sculpture (probably from Marshall’s or Gordman’s) hovering over the dish; the calamari accompanied by a salt shaker the size of a 2-quart milk carton.
Salads served in wheelbarrows? Ceviche in a shoe? But of course, especially when it’s served with deep-fried, salted plantains.
Getting the idea? The food is not worth a Michelin star, nor is the service. It’s just fine, and oftentimes good. But this is dinner with a show – a helluva show. And it simply trumps everything else.
ACT 2…..the main courses….
Country Fried Chicken: 1/2 a bird with jalapeno cornbread, maple carrots and mashed potatoes. Orange Glazed Duck – quite good – with crispy skin, priced around $30, including onion straws served in a tabletop pickup truck. There’s actually a method to that particular madness, though. Because onion straws cool easily and can become limp and greasy as your meal progresses, you need a vehicle that can keep them hot, and this metal toy truck did the job perfectly.
Next came the Bucket of Bones – barbequed ribs topped with an onion ring. This was good barbeque, but I couldn’t quite figure out why the horseshoes came with.
If seafood is your thing, why not try the Swordfish, served impaled tableside on a sword.
Most tables, when it came to side dishes, opted for the Lobster Mac & Cheese Mousetrap ($19). It’s meant for sharing. And by the way, it was loaded with lobster – not claw meat, but decent chunks of tail meat.
ACT 3 Dessert….
Warning: DESSERTS ARE EXPENSIVE at Barton G – some up to $40! However, the scale is such that one dessert could feed the Russian army.
Our table began on one occasion with the Humpty Dumpty Chocolate Treasure (where does he scrounge up this shit?). It consisted of countless scoops of varied chocolate ice creams generously strewn with cookies, tuilles and other crunchy treats. Another time, we shared an Apple Crisp that came in a dog dish, surrounded by little ceramic pooches.
Then there’s Pies for the Table – served in little flower pots. It’s a delight, whose flavors vary. On one of our nights, we got Mud Pie, Cherry Pie, Key Lime, and a delicious rendition of Banana Cream ($27).
So there you have it……well almost. I nearly forgot MARIE ANTOINETTE – with her John Waters-inspired Baltimore beehive bouffant cotton candy hairdo!
I simply don’t know what to say…….
OH WELL…..how about W.T.F.?