Kaori by WM 1250 South Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida 33130
Kaori isn’t just a restaurant, it’s this incredible kaleidoscope of food, art and technology fused into a beyond-surreal dining experience. It’s so amazing and unusual — it’s like nothing I’ve ever encountered before.
Before Spotlight, I had heard A LOT about Kaori, but I couldn’t really wrap my mind around what some food critics were calling “a culinary theatre.” Deco Drive even did a whimsical feature on it, but the television camera only captured a fraction of its magic, which I wouldn’t fully understand until I dined there myself.
I arrived (with my crew) around 9pm on a Friday evening. I was tired from a busy week at work, but when I walked through the door, I felt strangely energized and incredibly interested in what was going on around me.
At first, Kaori comes across as pristine and intimate with colorful chairs, sleek glossy tables and white walls; but as you begin your dining experience, it transforms into something much, much bigger…
It’s a full journey of the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and most importantly, taste. Kaori is the brainchild of Executive Chef Walter Martino A.K.A the “Million Dollar Chef” (he’s called that because he created the most expensive plate in the world). Chef Martino uses “alchemy, beauty and 360-degree cinematography” to serve-up one helluva luxurious food adventure.
Usually, I start Spotlight with a few different drinks, but at Kaori my “rules” were quickly thrown out the proverbial food blog window and Chef Martino who, by the way, has the coolest laid-back personality, took complete charge. No doubt about it, he’s the ONLY chef in the kitchen.
I was told to sit back, relax and handed a (non-nicotine) vapor stick filled with a smooth lemon flavor to cleanse my palette. I puffed away, doing my best old movie star imitation.
The first thing to arrive at the table was a jaw-dropping presentation of White Tuna Ceviche and Stracciatella topped with Caviar and edible gold and silver flakes. Along with it, our first cocktail arrived, too, called the Celery Pepper (made by master mixologist Nick Nistico) with gin, celery, lime juice, simple syrup and peppercorn. It was tart and sophisticated.
Our next appetizer was a smashing presentation of two sushi rolls. The platter itself reminded me of a giving tree, with branches serving up a Tuna Tartar Roll (yellow fin, mango, iceberg, Kaori sauce and cilantro) and the Bresaola/Jamon Ibierico Roll (basically salted beef and cured ham).
The next dish was by far my favorite — I mean, what fashionista doesn’t love Veggie Tempura served-up inside a sassy shoe & matching purse!? The tempura was so succulent it practically melted in my mouth (it was a mix of green and white asparagus, scallions, baby beets, zucchini and carrots).
While devouring the fashionable veggies, the Spicy Pepper Caraway cocktail arrived and it was EVERYTHING. I love a strong, spicy drink and this one (made with infused Bacardi Maestro Rum, orange bell pepper, Sriracha, lime juice, simple syrup, cilantro olive oil and pepperoncino infused olive oil) was unusual perfection. This is a must-try if you like a kick in your cocktail.
For dinner, I dined on the Saffron and Black Squid Ink Risotto with Scampi and Carabineros Shrimp. I’m told the type of shrimp served with the risotto is some of the best in the world. The plate was indeed exquisite and even though they didn’t say salmon was in the recipe, it was. I think the Chef may have thrown it in for good measure and wow, it was nothing short of spectacular.
A beautiful plate of Ravioli was next, each different and intriguing. This dish really mixed unusual flavors; showcasing Chef Martino’s incredible talent. The first was filled with Gorgonzola and Pear, topped with Bronte Pistachio. The Second was stuffed with Osso Buco and topped with a fresh white nut sauce. Last, but not least, a raviolo Lobster, topped with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Scampi. Honestly, it’s impossible for me to pick a favorite, but the Pistachio was a complete winner for everyone at the table.
After our pasta, Nick arrived at the table with all the ingredients to make a Kaori Smoked Old Fashioned (bourbon, simple syrup and a pre-smoked glass with cherry wood). Right before my very eyes, he whipped up one of the most savory, rich and smokey cocktails I’d ever had the pleasure of drinking. It was a fun visual and the taste was excellent, too.
As I was drinking and eating my way through the delicious journey, colors, images and art work appeared and disappeared from Kaori’s walls. All of it seemed to be in harmony with whatever I was feasting on at the time. Even the music matched the visuals. All of it together heightened my senses and enriched my dining experience.
Even though, Chef Martino wanted to keep feeding us (because that’s just the kind of guy he is), we reluctantly asked to wrap up, so he sent out the Kaori Coconut Chocolate Cake topped with strawberry gelato and grated pistachio. Decorated with fresh flowers, it was beautiful, rich and refreshing.
Our last drink was a coffee aperitif called Perfect Carajillo (made with Zafra Master Reserve 21-year-old Rum, Licor 43, an Espresso Shot and Edible Silver Flakes). It was rich, buttery and strong.
At the end of dinner, I took a quick photo with Chef Martino and said my good-bye’s but the funny thing is, I didn’t want to leave. After three hours of mind-boggling delicious food and gorgeous visual accoutrements, I felt inspired and a part of something really special, but alas, the weekend beckoned me. My experience at Kaori was nothing short of extraordinary and that’s why it’s one of my favorite things.
Kaori is downtown Miami on Brickell. There’s street parking, but your best bet is the garage right across the street from the restaurant. It’s roomy and reasonable, which is hard to find in Miami these days. If you fully wanna enjoy the evening, though, I highly recommend Uber’ing it. Cheers!
Tuesday – Sunday open for Dinner 6pm -12 midnight
Book a table: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 785-805-6006