Owner’s Corner: Guests Choose Their Own Experience at Fabel Miami

In a city awash with outdoor “destination” restaurants and lounges, Matthew Rosenberg was not content with creating yet another fashionable hangout in a trendy part of Miami (Wynwood). Drawing from the resources and talent within his M-Rad Architecture firm, he set out to transform a 10,000-square-foot rooftop into an international destination shaped by the geography, culture, and cuisine of other places that have attracted trendsetters, high-rollers, and lots of curiosity. And so Fabel was born.

Wynwood was Rosenberg’s neighborhood of choice as he sees it on the verge of becoming its own city, with an unprecedented number of new residential and commercial units, as well as other destinations such as the Soho Pool House, Stephen Starr's Pastis, and the NoMad Hotel all moving within two blocks of Fabel. The building, which he calls a “perfect raw canvas” to “paint a new world,” meanwhile, is geographically at the epicenter of this "new Wynwood.”

The various stages within Fabel Miami, meanwhile, are set through décor and lighting that evoke the breezy chic of resorts in Southern France and the Greek Islands. Other sensory elements are factored in that allow guests to, “create their own fairy tale” once inside. Handmade furniture, artwork, tableware, and a custom aroma from a local fragrance house fully fill out the immersive environment. Uniforms designed by Tulum, Mexico-based Caravana underscore the locales’ shared association with refined resort fashion. Executive chef Ian Fleischmann ties the whole picture together with his pan-culinary Mediterranean menu, along with an equally ambitious cocktail program and Master Sommelier Christopher Miller’s hand-picked wines and spirits.

Under the watchful eye of Robert Delarosa, a respected hospitality veteran and Fabel’s general manager, 65 people make up the rest of the staff, and most have been there from the beginning. “We began with people we knew and expanded from there,” Rosenberg continues. The entire management team and I are fully invested in making this the most special and successful place in Miami,” Rosenberg says. “We don't just tell people how we intend to change the hospitality industry….we demonstrate it. Training [on the job] involves showing rather than telling. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty while clearing tables, cleaning restrooms, or folding napkins.”

Fabel was designed to, “expand and contract and be an organism that changes from night to day and from hour to hour,” according to Rosenberg, who notes different guests gravitate toward specific areas of the restaurant depending on what type of experience they are there for. Couples favor the terrace for its intimate Parisian cafe-style seating arrangement, as seats look out towards the DJ booth and out to the people passing by. The cabana areas, meanwhile, are designed to engage multiple larger groups together so that if one table starts dancing everybody in the cabana will have incentive to join in. Larger groups love the VIP room, not only because of its privacy and private bar, but also access to the wine room and prime views of the city. 

Fabel Miami
Fabel Miami offers a variety of guest experiences through its unique seating arrangements.
Photo: Fabel

“The soft, earthy palette of the furniture, plateware, and Fabel’s design are in place to set the stage for the guests to be the center of attention,” continues Rosenberg. “We encourage our visitors to think of Fabel as their own personal theater, where they can experiment with fashion and movement in new ways every night. It was critical that the staff uniforms, for example, deviate from standard restaurant attire and tie into our bohemian chic aesthetic while still allowing the guests to take center stage. We already have repeat guests making claims to their favorite tables, which we love!”

While Fabel’s eclectic setting is based in part on Rosenberg’s travels (“Scorpios in Mykonos was a huge source of inspiration for me,” he notes), he points out that the quiet months of the pandemic allowed him the time to dream up new restaurant/bar concepts and assess how those months fueled a desire for more travel and exploration among his clientele. Once some of his ideas were mapped out, he worked collaboratively with M-Rad to not only bring Fabel to life, but also find opportunities to bring the concept into other cities around the world. He adds that all of his travel moving forward will undoubtedly have an impact on how these future locations will look and feel.

fabel miami cocktail
Sumac Fields Cocktail 
Photo: Fabel

“[M-Rad] has grown into a dynamic firm with projects and team members working around the globe [and a] seamless integration between my personal developments like Fabel and Nawan in Joshua Tree, Calif. The M-Rad team is so important to the success and quality of design with Fabel and the others that it would not be possible without each of them. Some members of the team even relocated to Miami for the duration of the project to ensure that every detail was built to perfection. In the space of a year, my team and I met other makers and partners with whom we wanted to collaborate and tweaked elements and details (of the original plan) to make everything work together. The overall vision has always been an evolution, and it will continue to evolve even though it is open.”

Beyond design, Rosenberg wanted Fabel to become part of Miami’s culinary vanguard in terms of original menus with innovative combinations of international flavors that he says he finds more often in Europe. He tapped Ian Fleischmann as the Executive Chef and the man for the job, based on his approach to developing dishes by "drawing flavors out of emotions” and formulating complexity of flavors as direct extensions of memories. Those emotions and memories are stirred from eating while traveling combined with the memories of growing up in the U.S.

“The formula is simple for me,” says Fleischmann. “I take European and modern culinary techniques and manipulate them by changing the flavors into those extensions of memories. This provides a level of comfort for guests when they read ‘Butternut Squash Gratin’ when they order it, and then are whacked with the taste of Sambar from South India. That is the purpose of what we are doing. In some way, the entire menu carries emotional weight. They stem from my childhood experiences working in a kitchen and eating with staff from around the world more often than with my own family.”

Continuous training is necessary to ensure the menus and dishes are consistently innovative, exciting, and dynamic. “The history of ingredients, techniques, and inspirations is constantly repeated,” Fleischmann continues. “For people who have worked as servers for a long time, what we are doing is difficult. For example, you can go into any restaurant in America and get a Branzino, thus making it easy for seasoned servers to explain the dish on autopilot. However, the dishes we offer are full of ingredients that are not as typical and can seem foreign to almost everyone. This means that to work here, and be successful on the floor, there is a knowledge-thirst requirement.”

This means that instead of leaning on familiar ingredients, he steers clear of them and hones in on things that are less common. In other words, while he won’t touch popular stand-by fish like branzino, he seeks out less familiar fish like redfish and dorade. He also points out that the kitchen “leads with vegetables” and about 50% of the menu is vegetarian and can be adapted for vegan clientele by excluding one component. 

chef fleischmann fabel miami
Chef Ian Fleischmann puts the finishing touches on his fire-roasted artichoke hearts.
Photo: Fabel

Fleischmann adds that the staff always takes the customer's feedback into account. “If an item really just isn't working, it is important to have the self-awareness and lack of ego to move on,” he affirms. He dedicates much of his Thursdays to local purveyors (such as Roberto from Tiny Farms, a small vegetable-focused farm, and Aroa Yogurt, a Venezuelan local artisanal yogurt business) to discuss what's in season and get input on how to best use the fresh ingredients he sources from them. 

“That's the beautiful part about this whole project. Matthew, Robert, and I have all received extensive training in our respective fields,” he assesses. “We each bring fresh perspectives based on our personal travels and artistic abilities to the table. While I control a wide portion of the taste and smells, Matthew's architecture and interior design hit your touch and sight senses. Timka, our music director, curates sounds. For example, although the dining room is reminiscent of Tulum or St. Tropez, and I've never been there personally, I’ve backpacked through India and bring these flavors to our menu. Each discipline is curated by a different memory bank. This is how we can appeal to so many people's five senses. That is the true unique beauty of what Fabel is.”


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