Bazi’s interior is sort of South Beach swank meets The Last Emperor. Touches of deep red are ever-present throughout (in the floor, the chairs, and the leather banquettes) while gold hanging lamps create a warm and loungy vibe. The piece-de-resistance, though, is the large and elaborate brass dragon hanging on the second floor wall.
Named after the pillars of destiny in Chinese astrology, Bazi comes from some of the city’s most well-known local restaurateurs. After the amazing success of their first restaurant — Italian outpost Macchialina Taverna Rustica — Pirolo and Chaefsky decided to go in a very different direction for their second opening. “We love this style of food and have been playing with the idea of an Asian concept for years,” says Pirolo. “But Bazi is not a traditional restaurant by any means. It’s our take on Asian cuisine but it’s not about replicating a classic dish in every way; it’s about taking classic dishes, honoring their traditions, and taking them in a new direction but never losing the heart and soul behind them.”
The cooking — which is technique-focused and full of abundant flavor — is meant to take guests on an “unforgettable culinary journey through the Far East.” The menu, executed by Pirolo and chef de cuisine Brett Collier, is divided into sections: raw, starters section, noodles and rice, vegetables, and the chef’s specialties.
Standout starters include the chirashi bowl with tuna, hamachi, king crab, and signature Bazi rice; the velvety edamame dumplings with sweet and sour shallots, mushrooms, and pea greens; Cantonese-style Florida shrimp dressed with ginger, chives, and shaoxing wine; and short rib buns with pickled vegetables.
The noodle dishes, such as the duck udon and peanut noodles with king crab and sweet shrimp, make for excellent compliments to the meal, while a fried rice of any flavor is a can’t-miss.
As for mains (the chef’s specialties), the chefs outdid themselves with the whole Peking duck for two finished tableside and served with duck lo mein, Chinese pancakes, pickled melon, and traditional Asian toppings. “We are obsessed with Peking duck and it had to be a staple here,” says Chaefsky (Note: reserve your duck as soon as you sit down, as only a limited amount will be available each night).
If duck (or ordering for two) isn’t your thing, head straight for the Emperor’s chicken — flash fried, topped with crispy chicken skin cracklings, and served with scallion pancakes and a shaved celery salad. This dish has the flavor of a deliciously cheap New York Chinese restaurant, without the greasy, MSG-filled vibes.
For those seeking some spice, try the “lobster, our fickle friend,” served with black rice, a mild “happy” butter, and spicy “angry” foam. The whole fried snapper is also an excellent choice — served deboned and caught fresh from an Islamorada fisherman on a daily basis.