I set this familiar scene to illustrate the dichotomy alone. For after driving an hour south on the turnpike last Saturday morning, we might as well have gone through customs. A brief vacation from our non-vacation, a day in Miami feels nothing like home.
We eased in slowly, beginning our day in Coconut Grove, a neighborhood south of the urban turmoil associated with a major city. Our college friends purchased a home there, just in time for the birth of their first baby boy, and we had yet to see either. Another of our newlywed friends from college happened to buy a loft down the street, so they were sure to squeeze in a quick tour of their new place, as well. (Are you noticing a trend? Visiting friends, new real estate, not in New York City? The joke continues to be on us.)
Our friends wanted to take us to Lokal, for what would have been awesome burgers. But that fine Miami hospitality quickly displayed itself, when the hostess dispassionately mentioned she didn’t know when another table for six would become available. Uh…so…should…we…leave? Friends may chastise me for writing this, but I have always found the Miami mantra to be one of the worst in my domestic travels. That “I don’t know what you want me to do about it” attitude reigns supreme in the hotels, restaurants, and other service-driven establishments I’ve visited; yet it never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps because we New Yorkers have our own stigma of being rude, which I vehemently disagree with (we aren’t rude – we are efficient). So, we instead popped into the GreenStreet Café, which appeared to serve full entrées of pastas and skirt steaks for lunch, but wouldn’t serve flatbreads until after 5:30 p.m. We split dijon brussels sprouts and a light salad (the equivalent of sulking through a meal), and left. Thankfully, the company far outshined the food.
That evening, we drove to Brickell, an urban neighborhood and the financial district of the city. Doug’s best childhood friend lives in one of its many chic, full-service high-rises, so we stopped by for a glass of scotch before dinner, just so I could bank another apartment-envy moment in the brain. But we were focused on the task ahead; one that would require a wardrobe change, a small fortune, and patience.
Southern California boasts four outposts of Katsuya, an uber-trendy sushi and Asian fusion spot, presumably because there are enough beautiful people to fill them all. When South Beach acquired its own in the redone SLS Hotel, the restaurant’s reputation preceded itself. After three nights of living like retirees, we desired a taste of the big-bill-and-bandaid-dress scene. Quality fish would be a bonus.
The club-steraunt featured an impressive selection of artisanal sashimi-style dishes and sushi, Asian-fusion hot entrées, and traditional robata grilled bites. The choices were daunting, so we heeded our waiter’s suggestion to do the omakase tasting menu, which essentially meant the chef would provide little bites of their very best. He did. Course one, the Katsuya ceviche, combined thin ribbons of sashimi with tangy citrus ponzu. For the second course, we received pops of fried rock shrimp in creamy sauce, halibut sashimi with a dollop of heat, and crispy rice with spicy tuna, good enough to make a meal out of alone. We all agreed that after savoring the complex yet clean flavors of the raw dishes, the third course, featuring skewers from the robata menu, paled in comparison, except for the sweet and sticky crab and rice hand roll. The kitchen went right back to business for the fourth course, however, by serving a sampling of their freshest sushi, plain and simple. Vanilla, green tea, and mango mochi (jelly-filled ice cream balls of sorts) capped off the meal with a refreshing chill.
With a bachelorette party of twelve wobbling in, we finished at the perfect time. Standing outside waiting for our car (for a long time), we counted three more bachelorettes, not including many six-plus-lady-gangs dressed to impress someone. But who? Justin Bieber on another neighborhood joyride? Flo-Rida? We too have trendy hotel restaurants in New York, but attire-restricting weather aside, they don’t feel quite like that. Like being noticed was more important than the company kept. Perhaps my observation of this small sample size cannot be applied to Miami as a whole, but I’ve yet to experience a reason to correct my sentiment. I am sure there will be a next time, though, and maybe I’ll be proven wrong.
Our car finally arrived, and we started our long drive home to Boca – long because of the absurd-for-after-midnight traffic, and several wrong turns. While feeling thankful and nostalgic about our day with great friends, I welcomed the end of our “vacation,” and our return “home.”