This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of the hottest and hardest-to-get tables in Miami.
Eater sat down with Giancarlo Pagani, general manager of The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel South Beach. A wonder in design by Philippe Starck and cuisine by José Andrés, The Bazaar has been one of the most sought-after spots since the hotel's opening earlier this year. Giancarlo lets us in on just how it is running things at a place where service and style are key at this impressive South Beach restaurant where everyone is given VIP service.
It's 8:30 on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table?
We keep waits to a minimal, and we have a lot of options for guests who are waiting- we have Bar Centro with our signature food items and cocktails. Hyde lounge and Dragon Lounge are great too. We love walk-ins, we'll show them to Bar Centro for a cocktail and get them seated as soon as possible.
What about earlier or later in the night?
Like any restaurant, we encourage guests to book reservations in advance. the earlier the better to eliminate a wait.
Is there anything one can do to make the wait shorter? How about if you're slipped some cash or gifts?
The only way to make your wait shorter is to book a reservation.
How many seats are available on a given night?
Anywhere from 250 to 300 reservations a night
Who are some of your favorite customers?
What we provide is fun and unique to Miami, so we like guests who want to experience something new and let us take over that experience so we can create it custom for them.
And what about celebrities?
We have had celebrity customers. We respect their privacy and treat them like any other of our VIPs. Since every guest is a VIP, there's no differentiation. They fit right in.
If the restaurant is full and there aren't any tables available, can you ever not accommodate a VIP?
We get them cocktails at Bar Centro and accommodate them as soon as possible or check to see if Katsuya has a table available.
Have there been any outrageous requests?
Yes. We had a guest come in and order everything on the entire menu and wanted to see how fast we could get the food out. That guest happened to be José Andrés and he came twice and did it. (laughs) We actually filmed it the second time.
Speaking of, how often is José Andrés around?
Very often. We're lucky that his home office is in [Washington] D.C.; he's able to come see us as soon as possible. Anytime he makes a trip to Haiti or Puerto Rico, he always stops on his way out and on his way back. It's fun for us.
What about the challenges you face managing a hot spot like The Bazaar?
We're perfectionists, so we strive everyday to exceed the expectations of our guests. Our challenge every single day is to "bring it."
What's your favorite night at the restaurant?
I like Friday nights. It gets the weekend started right. It's an incredible vibe, you have the energy from Miami's people and the excitement from all the food and cocktails moving around between the venues- us, Bar Centro, Katsuya, Hyde- having us all under one roof.
When you're not working at The Bazaar, where do you go to eat?
Katsuya. I'm from LA; we love sushi. I'm also a big fan of Michael's Genuine. And I'm dying to try Harry's Pizzeria but haven't made it there yet.
What's your best gatekeeper tool?
My iPhone. I take pride in responding to requests for reservations on my phone if someone emails me. It's my lifeline. I probably get 20 to 30 reservation requests a day and on the weekend anywhere from 75 to 100. I take pride in that, and I always respond yes. I'm a Yes Man.
[Photo Credit: Adeline Ramos]