A few weeks ago, when I went to visit my family in Florida, I re-read Frank Bruni’s Top 10 Restaurants Outside of New York and excitedly told my parents that one of those restaurants was right near us in Miami. That place, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, was, unfortunately, booked for that whole weekend (I had to stop my mom from saying, “My son, The Food Network star,” to try to get us a table) and all dressed up with nowhere to go, my mom suggested Barton G.
You may recall Barton G. from the Miami season of “Top Chef.” Barton is a flashy, famous, Florida caterer who makes theater out of food, with outlandish presentations and over-the-top prices. “Sure,” I said to my mom. “This’ll be good for my blog.”
Well, reader, you can be the judge of that. For the best part of the meal was not the food (food that was less F.C.I. and more T.G.I. as in T.G.I. Friday’s) but the razzle dazzle presentation. Let’s start with my drink:
Yes, that’s a chocolate monkey hanging from the glass. And dry ice is making it steam. In the drink (which was a cloying, horrible, signature watermelon martini) was a champagne popsicle, frozen with the help of liquid nitrogen so that, instead of ice, the frozen champagne melts into your drink. That’s a nice touch, if only the drink were better.
Here’s calamari that’s somehow been straightened into french fries:
Not much flavor, but fun to crunch through.
Here are stuffed coconut-crusted shrimp served in a giant glass with more dry ice to make it steam:
And here’s a shrimp up close. Admittedly, it was pretty tasty.
A chopped salad was served in a giant goblet:
And here’s my dad with his entree–fried chicken served, naturally, in a rooster:
Mom’s lamb came in more modest trappings:
As for my monkfish, well it was served with an actual monk on the plate!
(I almost get the impression that Barton serves monkfish only so he can serve it like this; if it weren’t called monkfish but, say, fish fish, I bet it wouldn’t be on the menu.)
All this whimsy is, undoubtedly, delightful; however, the prices take some of the fun away. Check out some of the dessert menu presented, rather strangely, on a Blackberry (yes, they bring a Blackberry to your table to read about dessert):
$32 for Creme Brûlée. That’s outrageous! Even in Paris, that’d be outrageous. In fact, I can’t think of any place in the world, except this place, where that would be ok.
We settled on an ice cream sundae that was served quite subtly. With sparklers:
To its credit, Barton G. has a sense of humor about itself. Here’s how the check comes:
So I would say, if you’re in Miami, if you like good, campy fun, and you have lots of money burning a hole in your pocket, Barton G. might be a good choice. If, however, you care less about style and more about substance, plan ahead and call the place Frank Bruni recommended: Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. My next trip to Florida, that’s where I’m headed.