Who doesn’t love Peruvian food? When done right it’s got style, substance, spice and balance. There is something for everyone from bright, marinated fish to earthy dishes that combine a rainbow of root vegetables and peppers.
Super-hot Wynwood makes a perfect backdrop for chef/owner Rafael Perez’s vision. Add to that a hip indoor/outdoor industrial setting and a creative pisco bar. The warehouse-like space is trendy and comfortable if a bit too brightly lit.
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Even the name was conceived with the help of a numerologist, who calculated that the number 9 (with corresponding letters G and K) would be most auspicious.
But, at least on my multiple visits, GK Bistronomie was a bit of a disappointment.
The menu, which includes lots of trendy ingredients — really, burrata? — does sound appealing. Foie gras empanads anyone? But the cooking is dramatically uneven. Still it’s the dysfunctional service that really brings it down.
We got stuck with a bubble-headed waiter who twice lost his pen and patted himself down looking for it. He double-charged us for drinks, wandered off mid-sentence and failed to come to our table even though we flagged him down several times and he seemed to catch our eyes. This was not a busy day. We were one of four tables, and there were at least three waiters working.
All the while, a maitre d’ stood at the host’s stand with a calculator, doing figures while we waited nearly 15 minutes for someone to bring us a check. On another visit the waiter seemed woefully ignorant of the menu and oddly impatient while we tried to parse it.
A classic lomo saltado is a good-enough rendition made with slices of organic beef tenderloin served with billowy jasmine rice and nice hunks of fried potatoes. Flavors are bold with some help from from the aji-spiced sauce. However, the meat was chewy and clunky slices of anemic tomato were as tasteless as tissues.
Likewise the aji de gallina — usually a favorite of mine — had all the right elements including gorgeous slices of boiled yellow potato, briny bits of olives and a velvety sunshine-yellow, spicy Peruvian pepper sauce that gives this dish its name. Unfortunately, the shreds of chicken had been cooked so long they were rubbery.
A lunchtime quinoa tabbouleh was missing parsley, mint, bulgur wheat, tomato, cucumber or anything vaguely related to the any version of the Lebanese salad. It did have delicate arugula leaves that had turned dark and transparent from too much dressing and time.
Classic ceviches fare better, including a traditional corvina with lots of lime, cilantro, red onion, sweet potato and fat nibs of choclo (juicy Peruvian corn). However, the Parmesan tiradito is a bad idea and badly executed. Who wants pastey, lumpy, rich cheese sauce with fresh lime-“cooked” grouper? It might work in some iteration but not here.
A pulpo al olivo, a staple of Nikkei cooking, here also had just a little too much going on. Sliced lozenges of leathery octopus are buried beneath an avalanche of thick olive puree and so many smatterings of red, black, green, white and purple sauces, caviars and sprouts that it was hard to keep track of the muddled flavors.
A so-called mushroom ceviche, highly touted by our waiter, consisted of a tangle of fragile enoki doused in a dressing with so much sour yuzu and truffle oil it overwhelmed.
A thick, moist and flavorful black quinoa burger has a nice bite and holds its own with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and a super squishy, sweet bun with a side of crackly delicious house-made potato chips.
A main course of light and luscious fresh snapper should have been fantastic, but a heavy, unctuous chorizo component overpowers the whole dish. And a sour lumpy malanga mash does nothing to lighten it.
At least desserts are more subtle, especially a stunning Nutella mousse in a jar. Its little merengue kisses and a surprise mound of chunky chocolate and hazelnuts buried beneath the cottony mousse prompted a battle of the spoons at our table.
The bar turns out fantastic cocktails with fresh-squeezed tropical fruit juices, a nice wine and beer selection, and iced teas made from local teashop Orteas.
Still, GK Bistronomie could be so much better if the chef tried a little less hard and the staff a bit more.
Follow Victoria Pesce Elliott on Twitter @VictoriaPesceE
Miami Herald reviewers dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense.