Barton G. Weiss of Barton G. The Restaurant is South Florida's most ambitious restauranteur, constantly working with his chefs to develop outrageously clever menus and eye-popping presentations, only to revamp and start again the next season with newly brilliant concepts and concoctions. So it seemed like a perfect pairing when Richard Blais, molecular gastronomist extraordinaire, took over as Barton's culinary creative director on July 24th.
Blais has the enviable background of having worked at two of the best restaurants in America, Daniel Boulud's Restaurant Daniel and Thomas Keller's The French Laundry, and emerged as a nationally recognized talent on his own while helming Atlanta's One Midtown Kitchen. Weiss's plan was to have Blais foam and gel the menu not at Barton's enormously successful Barton G. The Restaurant, but at Weiss's newer dining venue at 5061 Biscayne Boulevard. Unfortunately, things don't always work as planned: Barton and Blais have split.
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Blais told New Times, "I'm sad that I never got to cook for the foodies of Miami because it's such a metropolitan place that loves its arts. I gave Barton some ideas that they are profiting from, but it wasn't the right culture or environment for me. It just wasn't a good fit." Blais is still in Miami, "But due to a non compete clause, I'm not sure if I can stay."
Which isn't to say he isn't keeping busy. Blais recently competed against Mario Batali on Food Network's Iron Chef (ingredient: garbanzo beans); he is working with an industrial gas company on a home and restaurant delivery system for liquid nitrogen; and is looking for funding for Food Grade, a mobile cooking school that most likely will launch in Atlanta.
Out of curiosity, I asked Blais what he thought of Karu & Y, the molecular-based dining establishment west of downtown. "I think they have the best restaurant in the city in terms of creativity, and ambiance as well. My meal there made me wish I could be in that environment. Michy's also is a great restaurant. I hope to eat a few more meals at both those spots before I leave." He also added, "If any of your readership is interested in any of my projects, or think I could be of any help in their work, please have them contact me."
Barton, needless to say, is keeping pretty active himself. He recently launched a new wine list at his restaurant, with six reasonably priced ($48 to $60) Barton G cuvees: two Merlots, a Chardonnay, a Cabernet, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pino Grigio made exclusively for Barton G. by boutique wine producers in France (such as Chateau de By in the Medoc area of Bordeaux). And that new restaurant at 5061 is due to open on October 18th, a date that will mark the original Barton G.'s fifth anniversary. The name of the place hasn't been decided yet, but the working title is Barton G. On The Boulevard. Regardless of what they call it, diners should expect Barton's new digs to showcase his usual whimsical, push-the-envelope culinary aesthetic. -Lee Klein