The first restaurant using this test drive context is Bloom, a casual Asian/Latin small plates venue in Wynwood. And in keeping with the Four Courses theme we'll look at four aspects of a restaurant experience: SEE (layout), DRINK (wine list, cocktail list), EAT (self explanatory) and FEEL (service, vibe).
Bloom is on North Miami Ave. in Wynwood, taking over north end of the retro cool Dorissa of Miami building. Signage is very discreet, if non-existent, but the rustic aesthetic of Bloom separates it from the main building enough to draw attention to it. Enter a small parking lot from the north side of the building and you're greeted by a Lebo mural which foreshadows the artsy and laid back vibe you'll find once inside.
Bloom's aesthetic is a mix of laid back, artsy and playful. Banquettes along the walls are made from repurposed, whitewashed wood giving the place a rustic feel. Along these same walls hang clean, vibrant photographs ranging from flowers to ice cream vendors - a great contrast to the "rusticness" of the clapboard. The rustic vs. clean contrast runs throughout the restaurant to good effect.
A full liquor license will be a draw as neighbor Jimmy'z Kitchen relegated its offering to a great beer and wine selection. Bloom's specialty cocktails lean towards the strong and sweet. La Pacaya, a play on two of the cocktail's main ingredients, papaya and Ron Zacapa 23 year old, fit the strong and sweet mold, unfortunately the papaya, along with the cilantro and bitters were overwhelmed by a honey syrup. The Golden Buffalo, served in a oversized glass that reminded me of the champagne glasses favored in the 70's that are now relegated to cruise ships for flowing champagne tower shows, was strong from Buffalo Trace bourbon and sweet from maple syrup. I appreciate Bloom's use of quality ingredients as both of these drinks were made with excellent liquors. On the flip side, the chosen liquors are at their best when served straight so using them in cocktails may put off some purists.
A great addition worth tackling on another visit, when a stressful day at work doesn't force you to stick to alcohol, are the aguas frescas. Traditional flavors like tamarind and jamaica (hibiscus) are perfect for Miami summers. A small wine list focused on the usual suspects and a selection of about five craft beers round out the drink menu.
|Cod Kimchee Fritters|
|Pork Belly with congee|
One of the great categories on the menu is the Shaken dishes. The components are mixed tableside in large plastic bag. If you were in Bangkok you'd just grab this at a street vendor and eat on the go. At Bloom the bag is placed in a mason-type jar with the lid screwed on, sans inner seal. The result is a slightly kitschy and easily shareable presentation. The combinations are either octopus with a yuzu granite and citrus salsa or, as the one we ordered, shrimp with green mango and a spicy soy. The dish hit all the notes of a good Thai snack - sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy plus it was refreshing for an inordinately hot Miami summer evening. Kitsch aside, this dish is a winner.
We finished off in our usual obscure way, with a raw fish dish (just as refreshing and lighter than most desserts). The choice was tuna yuke tacos - a tuna tartar served with nori and jicama which you roll into your own taco. The tuna was well seasoned, a little sweet but could've used a bit more soy or salt.
Bloom's vibe is perfect for the sort of diner that can only make it to Wynwood at night or on weekends. On the surface it's laid back and casual but the dishes, while fun, are complex. Service for a newly opened venue is good and we lacked nothing the entire night. Soundtrack is on the lighter side of the XM Alt Nation spectrum.
Bloom's vibe is similar to already popular places like gigi and Sugarcane so it needs to find its niche quickly in order to fill a fairly big space. Foodwise, the menu is inventive and eclectic. I didn't expect to be challenged with innovative and sophisticated textures and flavor profiles at a place like Bloom, but it was a welcome surprise. After one test drive Bloom has made its way into the rotation.
|Outside bar and patio area|