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Occasional Dining at The Villa by Barton G.; Zuma: No Passing Fad

This week, Lee Klein swanks it up at The Villa by Barton G, "stunningly gorgeous," where "waiters don't wear tuxedoes, but they do don jackets and ties. It's all quite romantic." Menus arrive in wax-sealed envelopes which made Klein "feel like an awards presenter about to discern the winner." And was this restaurant a winner? In some ways, yes. "The wine list is an awkward affair." Dinner for two was "a five-course journey from soup to nuts--or amuse bouche to petits fours." The menu is "a concise and appealing compilation of two soups, two salads, three appetizers, and eight entrees." Fast forward to the two "giant double chops of Colorado lamb," which were "the best chops I've had since, well, I really can't recall." Desserts were very good, but at $19 each, "they should be beyond very good and beyond excellent; they should be extraordinary." About those prices. "The Villa will be a killa to your pocketbook," Klein warns. Bottom line: "Thoughtful gestures such as [a post-meal plate of petits fours], along with meticulous attention to detail, make dining at any of Barton G. Weiss's three restaurants something special (Barton G. and Prelude being the others). The Villa is the one to turn to when you want something really special." [MNT]

Cutting to the chase, Victoria Pesce Elliott loves Zuma. Enough to give it 3.5 stars. "Sure the name makes it sound like the latest Latin dance craze or some high-tech video game," says VPE, "but make no mistake, Zuma . . . is no passing fad." In addition to the "consistenly excellent quality of ingredients," staffers have been "thoroughly trained." Hostesses smile. And "waiters know the menu from the hand-grated wasabi down to the last rock chive sprout." But this is not your budget conscious Japaneserie. "Here, the concept is most definitely upscaled, perhaps a bit too much since dinner and a few drinks can easily top $300 a couple." After trying half the menu, VPE notes that "The pacing of the dishes, the quantity and quality were like the perfect first date." Ambience is described as "gorgeous," and "the effect of the natural stone and wood elements is spa-like, albeit a loud, hip spa." What worked: a laundry list of 12 things including "exquisite" calamari, "pristine" yellowtail, "flaky, rich and golden hunk of oily black cod," and pretty much everything else. Well, except the price. "For everyone else, Sugarcane just a few miles away does a fine job with less at about half the price." []

Zuma Japanese Restaurant

270 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami, FL 33131

Barton G The Restaurant

1427 West Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 672-8881 Visit Website