In South Beach, at a restaurant lushly embraced by breeze-swept palms and fruitful plantains, an outrageous gastronomic runway show is staged nightly. It's a place renowned for whimsical entrées such as Samurai Tuna - plated with a side of full-size samurai sword, the Boarnie Madoff’s Bucket of Bones - assorted meats accompanied by an incarcerated pig in prison stripes, Mouse Trap Mac & Cheese - carefully delivered within the springy clutches of a giant steel mouse trap, Lobster Pop Tarts - served in a toaster, and high-octane specialty cocktails gushing with liquid nitrogen vapors...this is Barton G. The Restaurant.
After twelve heralded years of food-fantasy theater in Miami Beach...proprietor, chef, and innovative party designer Barton G. Weiss is launching in California, fittingly in the sexually liberated, though less tropical island of West Hollywood. The expansion has met with delays since the announcement two years ago, but current target for the debut is June 19 - in a space on La Cienega where the failed (and some say misguided) Rosé restaurant was located.
Barton G. Weiss, South Florida event conceptualist extraordinaire, may be best recognized as the operator (not owner) of The Villa by Barton G. Hotel and Restaurant, better known as 1930's era Casa Casuarina and former Gianni Versace Mansion. Versace bought the Ocean Drive property in 1992, spent $35 million expanding and renovating, then was brutally murdered on the front steps by a spree-killing gunman in 1997.
The mansion, sold by the Versace family in 2000, has since had multiple owners and suffered a deluge of financial challenges. Recently it was listed in 2012 for $125 million, and sold last year via bank auction for $41.5 million. Weiss has operated a restaurant as a tenant in the mansion for years and endured a litigious relationship with the landlord owners.
The latest buyer ( the Nakash family) has retained Weiss as operator and namesake for the hotel, restaurant, and private functions. Prior to this recent sale the mansion's future was the topic of lively speculation, including the prospect of converting it to retail space featuring a Disney Store, Footlocker Shoes, and Hot Dog on a Stick.
Weiss's life outside of an inventive food and hospitality world is exotic as well - at his South Miami estate the former pro ice skater keeps giraffes, zebras, and orangutangs, and touts the importance of the creatures to his character, “They are an inspiration for everything I do. I’m like Dr. Doolittle on steroids,” he told Forbes. At the opening of his restaurant Prelude (which closed last week) he assigned Sabrina the Chimp to mix martinis.
Barton G. The Restaurant
1427 West Ave., Miami Beach 33139
861 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood 90069