The wild and whimsical gourmet gimmicks are gone: Acclaimed restaurateur Barton G. Weiss considers his delicious new venture— Prelude by Barton G.—an overture of sorts to his next, subtler culinary movement. Located within the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the 220-seat, indoor/outdoor eatery is a much more refined sister to Miami Beach’s entertainingly over-the-top Barton G. In lieu of what we’ve come to expect from his eight-year-old West Avenue location (colorful cocktails bubbling over with liquid nitrogen, chocolate monkeys dangling from martini glasses, etc.), Weiss has introduced a simple, sophisticated prix-fixe menu ($39 for dinner) here at Prelude: Diners choose three courses from the 20 sumptuous appetizer, entrée and dessert offerings, or order off an à la carte menu at the bar. A foursome of toques— Ted Mendez, Justin Albertson, Anthony Dee and Art Lipner—orchestrates the roster of seasonal dishes, whose highlights include the pan-roasted yellowtail snapper and goat-cheese tortellini. Also on the menu: PB&J (grape-jelly gelato sandwiched between peanut-butter mousse pyramids topped with macadamia- praline glaze and chocolate ganache), as well as specials like dog-bone-shaped sugar cookies which will complement the shows running at the Arsht (The 101 Dalmatians Musical, in this case).
An early opening time (5 P.M., Tuesday through Sunday) and late closing accommodate both theatergoers and Downtown’s burgeoning population of locals. The warm, inviting space is awash in angles, curves and movement, but devoid of Barton G.’s signature purple-y glitz: The rust-hued décor is bedecked in mahogany and wenge woods, ivory onyx and Venetian plaster. A mere three months after its debut, it seems Prelude is already worthy of a standing ovation. “No, the chicken isn’t flying around the room and the fountain’s not spewing chocolate,” says Weiss. “But it’s still clever and innovative. The wow factor has changed, but it’s still there.”
Shine without the dazzle: “Anybody who looks at Barton G. on the Beach thinks of sparkles, smoke and sizzle. The expectation of our guests is that Barton G. is going to come up with something that will make their heads spin, but honestly, I don’t want to compete with it. We’re moving in a completely different direction.”
Pristine pizzazz: “It’s all very architectural, clean and simple, and the ingredients are the same way. Take the heirloom-tomato and watermelon salad: We sous-vide the watermelon with an olive oil vinaigrette and serve the tomatoes at room temperature. Then we drizzle some purple and green basil and sea salt over it, creating a very simple, clean dish. It’s an amazing experience in your mouth.”
Wine, anytime: “We’ll have the largest by-theglass wine list, with prices ranging from $6 to $400. We’re using a special system called Bermar that keeps wines at the temperature they need to be housed, taking the oxygen out of the bottle so it doesn’t oxidize.It forces carbon dioxide into the Champagne so it doesn’t lose its fizzle. Bottles last for four weeks.”
Divine reinvention: “Of course there’s an economic downturn. We feel it and everybody feels it. But it makes you go inside yourself and look out, and use your creative juices to really reinvent what you already have. If you think inside the box, you’re going to stay in the box. These days, we’re going in a direction of ‘less is more,’ not ‘more is better.’”