I have been with my husband for almost six years. We've shared many intimacies, pleasant and otherwise. But until recently, I've never had the pleasure of eating from a plate that was four inches from his tube-sock-clad foot.
Your food's proximity to your dining partner's feet is one of the challenges that await if you plan to eat at Bed, the Miami transplant that's landed at the new Glenn Hotel downtown.
Bed's concept -- the meals are served in bed -- is likely to draw guffaws. I went expecting to have some decent food and to hate the beds. Oh, how wrong I was.
The original location, which opened in Miami in 1999, has no tables and chairs -- only beds. It's as much a lounge as a restaurant. There are girls dancing in cages and masseuses available to rub your feet. Bed New York, which opened last year, is much the same. Bed Atlanta is more restaurant than lounge: no dancing girls, no laser lights. Tables and chairs make up 70 percent of the seating, so you may end up eating at a table unless you request otherwise.
On my first visit, that's exactly what I did. I was informed that unless I ate at 6 p.m., there would be a $500 minimum to reserve a bed. So we arrived early. After being ushered to our bed, we were asked to remove our shoes, and we awkwardly climbed in. Then, we relaxed back into the pillows.
Once you get settled, you begin to wonder what all the fuss is about. The dark wooden tables and chairs in the non-bed part of the dining room could be in any swank hotel restaurant. And the beds aren't like your bed at home; they're just soft platforms. No blankets. Just some stylish pillows to recline on.
"I'll be joining you in bed tonight," our waiter greeted us, prompting nervous laughter. "Anything to drink?"
We decided against the featured cocktail -- the Pussy Galore -- and went for champagne. Once we got our bubbly, I started to really enjoy myself. I was comfortable. This bed thing might not be such a bad idea after all.
Then the food started to arrive. All three Bed restaurants share the same executive chef, Vitor Casassola. While he can't be everywhere at once, in almost every instance the food came out cooked perfectly. It's the recipes that were the problem.
Take the shrimp and grits appetizer. The smoked shrimp were big and delicious, with a true smoky flavor, but the grits were leaden, and a red miso sauce was just too salty and out of place.
A smoked salmon appetizer consisted of some overly fishy-tasting salmon mousse piped into a big, flabby cucumber. On the other side of the plate, a small mound of house-made lox was completely obliterated by the super-salty trout roe that topped it. The romaine heart salad looked and tasted like a Caesar from Wendy's, complete with pale, tasteless croutons.
The best appetizer by far was a grilled chicken empanada with Gjetost cheese and sweet corn, but the creamy cheese and crusty empanada shell pleased in a lowbrow kind of way, like a tasty microwave snack.
Vying with the smoked salmon for the prize of worst dish on the menu was the Miami-style ceviche, a pretty dish with serious problems. The first time I had it, a plume of maiche covered up large hunks of raw sea bass, mahi mahi and salmon, marinated in enough citrus to make their color pallid, but not enough to impart any flavor. The fish looked like scrap meat, and the mahi mahi in particular was chewy and full of sinew. That delightful combo was served over some old-looking guacamole, and surrounded by a cloying chili sauce and balsamic syrup. Huh?
I tried the ceviche again on a second visit, and it wasn't quite as unpleasant. The avocado was fresh, and the fish seemed to come from a more prestigious part of the kitchen than the scrap box. But the mahi was still chewy. If that fish is ever meant to be eaten raw, this isn't the place to try it.
Casassola's signature dish is a generous lobster tail with coconut ginger cashew sauce. Think cashews and coconut thrown in a blender with hunks of raw celery mixed in afterward.
Sea bass and mahi mahi entrees both came out of the kitchen piping hot and with a satisfying crisp. But the mahi's passion fruit beurre blanc with grilled onions and peppers was bland. And the sea bass's wax beans, pureed apio (a root vegetable), and vermouth sauce lacked any kind of harmony of texture or taste.
Meat dishes were more successful, cooked as well as the fish and with less muddy, conflicting tastes. It's hard to mess up a filet and potatoes.
For dessert, servers will push you toward the tiramisu bed (shaped like a bed), or the chocolate mouse (mousse shaped like a mouse). Once they've explained the gimmick, there's no need to see the pun on a plate. I recommend the Key lime tart. The graham cracker crust and silky lime custard are hardly refined, but it is tasty.
Eating in your bed is an interesting quandary. If there are just two of you, you can try the full-stretch-one-elbow method but are likely to lose something on the way to your mouth. The only real option if your bed is holding more than two is to sit up. But then you have to face the feet-close-to-the-food problem, requiring you to question how intimate you really want to be with your friends and lovers.
I would have been happy to lounge all night, sipping champagne, forgetting the food, and avoiding the feet and flavor problems altogether. The best thing about Bed is actually the beds. Who would've thunk it?
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