If you are a member of the trendier-than-thou crowd (or of you think you are), you’ll feel right at home at the Design District’s newest restaurant-cum-lounge, monosyllable-named spot called Grass.
Once past the muscled bouncers and black velvet ropes guarding the otherwise unassuming entrance (reservations required), the space itself is quite decadent. A grass-thatched, pitched roof covers a central lounge area in the otherwise uncovered space. The larger booths have their own pitched roofs, inspiring a feeling closer to Polynesia than downtown Miami. The tables are of dark woods, lit by candles that fill the space with a yellow glow. The lounge area, filling half the restaurant, has low couches and tables, again of dark wood, while grass grows in planters on some of the tables and on the bar.
My dining companion and I arrived at precisely the time of our reservation and were directed to wait at the bar for our table. We enjoyed a cocktail and waited. Now, some wait for a table is understandable, but to be made to wait 45 minutes past the time of our reservation was not, especially as the restaurant seemed empty and I could see many open tables. In fact, the couple waiting next to us at the bar grew tired and annoyed at the wait, and left.
While we hung around (and waited, and waited), we enjoyed a live DJ spinning ambient house. Grass attempts to be both a restaurant and a lounge, with the kitchen closing at midnight, but the lounge open till three. My companion remarked that this would be a better experience if we had come only to lounge.
The crowd was typical Miami see-and-be-seen; waif-thin models hanging off the arms of too-tanned, potbellied middle-aged men old enough to be their fathers, an assortment of hipsters, well-dressed and groomed; these folks fit in here at Grass as they would at B.E.D., or Nobu, or any of Miami’s uber-trendy hotspot-of-the-moment places. The bartender told me to come for Happy Hour on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m.
When we were (finally) seated, the menus were presented with small reading lights and four sections: appetizers, salads, ceviches and main courses-all Asian-fusion cuisine. I started off with the Lemongrass Coconut Roast Pumpkin Soup, which was spicy, but the flavors combined were each so subtle that they overwhelmed each other. My companion chose the Merida Ceviche, and here was an outstanding choice. The fish was very fresh, combined in perfect proportion with avocado, red Bermuda onion, and other vegetables. The presentation was colorful and inviting, with crisp wonton-skin crackers.
For our main course, I ordered a Shitake and Edemame Bean Risotto.
This was prepared with truffle oil, and served with a furikake parmesan
waffle placed on top. Here too I questioned the chef’s choice of ingredients. The flavors of the mushrooms and the soybeans were undetectable because of the richness of the truffle oil. As a fan of truffles however, I enjoyed my truffle-flavored risotto.
My companion chose a salmon steak, prepared with a ginger sauce, and served with asparagus. This was delicious-the salmon a generous portion, flaky and moist, with crisp asparagus. Other items on the menu that we wanted to try included Cumin-seared Beef Tenderloin served with Jerusalem artichokes, rostoi potatoes and an Aji panko sauce. Also sounding yummy was a Shitake Ginger Lamb Ossobucco.
The ambience more than made up for any minor culinary disappointment, and I didn’t mind spending the $7 – $15 per appetizer, nor the $15 – $30 per entr