Friday, September 15, 2006
Red Cross Young Professionals @ Karu & Y
I really wanted to like Karu & Y. Really, I did.
But the resto-bar/megalounge/great-white-hope of the Miami nightlife vortex did not capture my heart, nor did it cause me to swoon. Maybe it is because the place loves itself much too much anyway. And in a city brimming with optimism that sometimes verges on the delusional, an overabundance of self-love can go a long way.
Set to officially open in October (after many delays and rescheduled opening dates), the restaurant has been hosting several invitation-only tastings, one of which was transpiring as we filtered in for the Red Cross YP event, a lovely shindig offering an unlimited open bar and lots of friendly pretty people. First, the space. A cavernous warehouse property in (where else?) Wynwood, Karu and Y's neighborhood is rough. While that hasn't stopped the Pawn Shop and other clubs from proliferating in the unsavory district, there's no guarantee Miamians will brave the streetwalkers no matter how badly they crave duck prosciutto lollipops.
The decor is wildly ambitious without being imaginative. A dramatic touch in the dining room of the restaurant, Karu (the bar/lounge is the Y, don't ask me why), is the Chihuly glass chandelier (pictured left), stunning and menacing, a fine greeting for the overwrought design throughout. The Y bar (pictured above) feels like something from the New York meatpacking district circa 2001. As I looked up at the undulating plastic panels covering the duct work on the ceiling and stared at the far wall covered in multiple plasma screens arranged at different angles, I yearned for the old days when Philip Starke injected some humor, a patronizing gaudy touch, that reminded club goers, that no, you are not all that, and yes, let's look at the world in a joyous irreverent way; sit on that Aunt Jemima chair, you're not too good for it. Even the staff uniforms which only hinted at playfulness are designed by Miami firm Dulce de Leche (though a tulle-encsconced employee said they were designed by Valentino). The gray-vested ensembles for the guys, frilly choker-collared black dresses for the gals can only be described as Matthew Barney meets Barnum & Bailey.
As patrons at the bar eagerly ordered and reordered from the cocktail menu which featured creative concoctions using fruit foam, green tea, and marshmallow cream, anxious food runners carried trays of delicately-plated small-portioned food to the diners encased in the private tasting room. Some lucky patrons at the cocktail party were priveleged enough to taste from the tapas menu, and each arrival from the kitchen was greeted with much ceremony and even applause at one point. When others asked for tastings they were told the kitchen was backed up, a fact that was reinforced when several patrons left the private tastings, complaining that the dishes were taking too long to come out.
A leisurely stroll to the restrooms offered a glimpse into the frantic and overburdedned kitchen, churning out thier scientific creations one flavor syringe at a time. Requests to see the menu of this other-worldly cuisine were futile; apparently there is no menu at Karu but the food is really good, one hostess assured me. Called "alta cocina," it's based on the masterful methods pioneered by Spain's superstar chef Ferran Adria. But Adria's restuarant, by comparison, is a simple place on a coastal town with only 50 seats. A place, I imagine, where the food provides enough dining drama to last a lifetime.