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.