Our Man in Miami: A ‘Million Dollar’ Evening in the Magic City

The night began, as many a dynamite Miami night begins, at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar [http://wynwoodkitchenandbar.com/], which, like its nearby sibling Joey’s and its adjacent Walls, is the kind of spot that puts the hot into any evening. This being but an early stop, we opted to back our booze with a swirl of chef Miguel Aguilar’s bar bites. Then it was over to the Arsht for the wham bam boom of Million Dollar Quartet. For some folks, a quick nosh and a crack re-imagining of the night four rock ‘n’ roll legends collided would be an eventful enough evening. Not us though. We’re the type to let our million dollars ride. Good thing, too, because it took us right over the causeway to The Setai, where we had a feast not even money could buy.

Yeah, I know the ol’ bromide: everything has a price, and pricey eateries are no exception. But that’s just numbers on a menu. When head sommelier Dwayne Savoie sends over champagne unbidden and executive chef David Werly comes to the table and proceeds to personally put together a special five-course meal, you enter a realm above and beyond mere numbers. See, that kind of graciousness cannot be bought — and neither can that kind of cool.

Just as there’s no figure large enough to encompass the multitudes conjured in Floyd Mutrux’s and Colin Escott’s magnificent Million Dollar Quartet. You know the story: one December night back in 1956, legendary star-maker Sam Philips somehow coaxed Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to come back into his Sun Records Studio for a little songfest. They sang gospel. They sang blues. They sang country. And they sang rockabilly. The rest, as they’ll always sing, made musical history.

There’s a damn good reason why Million Dollar Quartet is still running in Chicago three years after its debut, and why its 500+ Broadway performances have been followed by an Off-Broadway stint that continues to draw crowds to this day. It’s the very reason why the musical is now also pulling in full houses from Seattle to Miami. Yep, you guessed it: the show rocks. And it rolls enough legacy into 90-some-odd minutes to knock the proverbial socks off anyone who’s ever cared about the way the world sounds — now and then.

Rocking with royalty was a pitch-perfect prelude to the regal meal we were served in The Restaurant at The Setai. Like I said, sommelier Savoie started us off with a toast (of Tattinger’s), which set a stellar stage for chef Werly’s wily dine. The Alsace-raised Werly, who got his first togs at Paris’s Hotel Ritz and London’s Montes (under Alain Ducasse), made his North American bones at Le Cirque in New York (twice), Mexico City and, finally, Vegas, where he picked up his own Michelin Star and Five Diamond Award AAA. I’m still swooning from the sublime sate of it all, so I can’t accurately recall all the delectables that made their way to our table. But I do distinctly remember main coursing through The Restaurant’s fabled Peking Duck, which left me feeling like one of those privileged ex-pats who appear in the novels of Graham Greene or Somerset Maugham.

Mention should also be made of our server Marlon’s impeccable service, which came with no small amount of rightful pride. The cat was delighted to bring forth each and every course, something few staff members in any eatery seem to be able to honestly muster these days. I tell ya, it was almost as if he enjoyed the meal as much as we did.

Of course that’s an absurd and utterly impossible proposition. As much as all of The Setai staff delighted in our dining, no one could conceivably enjoy the experience as much as those doing the experiencing. Really. And while The Book of Cool might counsel a less breathless report, I believe the remarkable should be shouted about from rooftops. In some ways I almost wish we’d arranged to attend The Setai’s upcoming “Midnight in Marrakesh” New Year’s Eve Soirée, which is undoubtedly where the best of the jet set will be ringing in 2012. Then again, my gal pal and I were privy to pretty much the very same wine and dine ourselves, and we didn’t have to contend with any madding crowd either. So, as far as I’m concerned (and I’m sure Linda A will concur), we already got a million dollar hop, skip and a jump on what promises to be one platinum New Year.