A Review of Barton G restaurant

Friday, August 29, 2008

Miami is famous for many features--South Beach (and topless sunbathers), playground to rich, famous jetsetters, sultry summer heat, seductive winter nights, Hispanic rhythmic music, gorgeous women and then there's the food that embraces it all. Miami is famous for many exclusive restaurants. One such restaurant is Barton G.

Tucked away in a grove of a corner street in a residential neighborhood in South Beach, a customer does not typically have to fight traffic to reach this west end restaurant.

To begin, Barton G offers both indoor and outdoor dining. The enveloping and low hanging, mangrove and vines with white Christmas lights and square, alabaster colored umbrellas, set a romantic tone.

The inside lined with narrow tables, low dim lights, and sheer metallic, floor -to- ceiling curtains, dutifully serving dual purpose as decor and dividers, exudes Miami chic.

My friend John and I had reservations one Wednesday evening for 7:30pm. We were immediately greeted by a small entourage --my guess is hostess, manager, and a waiter--and then seated. Scanning the room, there were five other tables with customers, a couple of two-somes and a party of five and two mothers and their children to our immediate right. The restaurant filled up the rest of the evening. By the time we left at 9:30pm, Barton G was filled to the brim.

Barton G, if you do not already know, is famous for its presentation. As my friend John would say, "over the top". This was our first time and I wanted to introduce John, who was visiting from the state with the best crabs (blue crabs from the State of Maryland), to a popular, exclusive- to -Miami restaurant.

Eyeing the food of our neighbors, we noticed the "presentation" was double the size of the food. The children to my right had a red fire truck and dalmation sitting on their plate. What were they devouring and licking their fingers from? "Fire Alarm Ribs". That explains it. I asked how much they enjoyed their dinner and the mothers responded, that the ribs were an appetizer. I made a mental note to skip appetizers so I would have gastronomic room for the main meal.

The waitress asked for our drink order. Oh yes--the drinks. A shortcut here would be a disservice. The introductory five cocktails on the menu is followed by a barrage of "Liquid Nitrogen" drinks priced at $27-$29 a piece. The Nitrogen drinks reminded me of those horror movies where the villain concocts poisonous liquids with vapors streaming out. Barton G made it glamorous.

Not convinced by appearances, I chose a Miami Cosmopolitan (a fan of cosmos but not a heavy drinker, I wondered what made this cosmo "Miami-ish"). The waitress answered, "Sorry we don't have that drink." "What do you mean?" I asked in bewilderment. "We ran out of some ingredients," the waitress responded. Strike one for Barton G. My first visit, and they were out of liquor at 7:30 on a Wednesday evening. Not the best way to start but since alcoholic drinks is not primary or secondary for dining experiences, I settled on a "B Breeze".

For the main entree I chose the "BG Sea Monster", a 2-lb Australian cold water lobster tail. John ordered the New York Strip Steak. Sipping on my drink in a tall s-shaped glass the size of a kid giraffe, I wondered what hyperbolic props would upstage the meal. Would my lobster be fished out of a simulation ocean. Would a cowboy figure ride atop John's steak, spurs spinning in air?

The food arrived void of any fanfare or eye-popping presentation. "Not all dishes are created or presented equal" at Barton G.

However the portions are enough to feed two people, at least my monster lobster tail lived up to its title. But my hunger out-monstered the lobster and I devoured the tail, mashed potatoes and petite squash and zucchini. Sadly I could not order wine with my meal as I had just begun nursing my mesmerizing, Cancun blue-colored drink. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.

Dessert. A colleague of mine, a regular customer at Barton G, offered one strong recommendation--leave room for dessert. Upon opening the dessert menu, the prices jumped out like a children's pop up book. They were more costly than the entrees! A chocolate fountain spewing 4 pounds of chocolate was $89.00. Why? Well we soon discovered Barton G was really a destination restaurant for groups --to celebrate a birthday or entertain clients, although there were plenty of couples. Maybe they skipped dessert. We did. One day I would return with a sizable group just so I can order the "Big Top Cotton Candy with Over-the-Top Popcorn Surprise". Love the marketing names! We saw a few "big tops" bobbing around that I was tempted to reach out and touch the sticky cotton.

Overall on a scale of 1-5, I would rate:

Food - 4 My entire meal was enjoyable; My lobster may have been slightly overcooked but I was craving for lobster for months, that I was probably more forgiving.

Presentation - 4 Only certain menu items have the "wow factor" ie. Firehouse Baby Back Ribs and Popcorn Shrimp are both appetizers to please the audience along with the Cotton Candy.

Service - 3 The day of the dinner, a representative phoned me with a "looking forward to seeing you this evening". Nice touch. Our waitress was attentive but the seating was tight. A little too close for comfort, my elbows could knock the fork off my neighbor's plate. "Personal space" was replaced with Bohemian proximity. The next day a rep phoned me to ask about my dining experience and asked if the manager stopped by the table. No, he or she never did.

Ambience - 4 The website is a true reflection of the chic decor and cozy ambience. Everyone was enjoying their meals and groups were laughing and admiring the presentations.

Value- 2.5 Entree prices are in line with high-end restaurants but desserts priced higher than entrees is a disconnect for me. What did John think? (John readers await your comments!) Barton G is not about value. It's about size and presentation.
Would I return? Absolutely. With the insight on which meals to order to impress guests, share for a value, and for the fact that I love cotton candy.

P.S. I did return one Friday night with Cecilia for a drink at the bar and to share a chopped cobb Salad which met expectations. No dessert this night either. However, one Cotton Candy order was waiting for a "stylist" to add sparklers for a birthday celebration. To get an accurate reference of the size of this "Over the Top Cotton Candy" Ceci stood next to the light blue glob.

If you have visited Barton G, share your experience and how it may differ with Christine's first-time visit.

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