Crudos, the Fun House 

Crudos ArtHouse is Not Your Typical Dining Experience in the Gables

At first, I did not think I would enjoy dining at Crudos ArtHouse. The music seemed too loud, the colors too brazen. It felt more like a night club in Saigon than an upscale Gables restaurant. But, by the end of the evening, I changed my mind. As one of my dining companions put it, “This is a really fun place.” 

Experience is the key concept at Crudos. The restaurant, launched in May, is on the edge of “experience-based hospitality,” the latest trend in eating out. Their self-declared mission: to deliver “an immersive dining experience.” That means lighting, music, art, and food all cast in a theatrical mold, from the servers to the soundtrack. “In everything we do, our goal is to stimulate all the senses,” says co-operator Andres Monroy. 

Let’s start with the décor. The space that formerly housed Swine has been transformed into a wild mix of color, sculpture, and paintings, blended into a kind of art madhouse, with feathered chandeliers and back-lit wall panels that could have been designed by Piet Mondrian. Over that is pumped a soundtrack which, in the early evening at least, is updated disco funk with a DJ at the helm. It is more enjoyable than it sounds (think Billy Ocean meets vintage Madonna) especially if you eat upstairs on the balcony overhanging the main room. The servers, meanwhile, are dressed in black jump suits that bring to mind 1) ninja warriors 2) Star Trek crew members 3) Mrs. Peel in the Avengers. 

Crudos ArtHouse, the Fun House 
Crudos ArtHouse, the Fun House 
Crudos ArtHouse, the Fun House 

All of this might be merely pretentious if the food was not any good. But it is very good, concocted by Chef Edixon Hernández and served with panache. We started with three appetizers: the crispy lobster rice, the cloud pork belly, and the yuzu lamb chops. The lobster rice was our first taste of Hernández’ Japanese-Latin fusions, a deft contrast between the crunchy, salty rice (Japanese) and the soft, sweet lobster salad, with a hint of lime (Latin). The pork belly was hidden under a cloud of delicate, foaming cotton candy, dramatically cut through by the waiter’s pour of warm ponzu sauce. Again, layered flavors, with the soft, marinated pork belly crisped at the edge and contrasted by a knoll of pickled cucumber. The lamb chops, marinated in yuzu sauce and topped with ito togarashi, a shredded Japanese red chile, were balanced by a bed of small, sweet fingerling potatoes. 

Cloud Pork Belly

This is the game at Crudos, fusions of sweet and sour, soft and crispy, salty and savory, with artful plating that includes heavy, black-metal cutlery, super thin- stemmed wine and water glasses, and ceramic plates with a bronze glaze. We were pleasantly surprised by the Vegan Roll, which blended shitake mushroom, crispy quinoa, avocado, sweet potato, and black garlic. Satisfying enough to quit meat. The House on Fire Roll went down another road, with blue crab, shrimp tempura, avocado, scallions, crispy rice, tuna, and eel sauce, but only after a waiter roasted the top with a hand-held blow torch. Did someone say theatrical? 

Crispy Lobster Rice
Vegan Rolls

For entrees we sampled the churrasco and grilled sea bass, further takes on the Japan-meets-Latin palate. The tender churrasco was marinated for 48 hours in orange juice, soy, cumin, ginger, sugar and paprika, then enhanced by black garlic ponzu. The grilled seabass, served on a raised hot plate, evoked a new flavor envelope with a ginger and sesame glaze. Crudos is also inventive with their cocktails; we sampled the refreshing Kandinsky White Russian, which came with coffee beans and a tiny glass of Kahlua. Crudos takes this a step further with its Aka upstairs lounge, specializing in Japanese whisky “highballs” mixed with soda water that has tiny Dom Pérignon sized bubbles. 

Marinated Churrasco
Kandinsky White Russian

The décor is as inventive as the food, with dramatically contrasting blues and reds. On one wall is a mural of famous artists, from Picasso to Salvador Dali, as well as historical figures (Lincoln, the Queen) and musicians, whose music is transmogrified by the in-house DJ. The furniture is covered in plush velvet, which feels wonderful to touch. “We designed Crudos ArtHouse to be an energetic space,” says director of operations Daniel Materan, who is also CEO of MoonMat Hospitality, which launched the Crudos brand first in Wynwood. Now the only question is whether it’s too edgy for the Gables. 

Crudos ArtHouse

2415 Ponce De Leon Blvd