Many, many years ago, when I first started writing this blog, I made a big mistake: I wrote about Sushi Deli.
It's not that my recommendation was off target. The once-tiny sushi counter inside a Japanese market (called, simply enough, "Japanese Market") was the classic hidden gem, a place where, among the packaged ramen noodles and bags of rice and frozen fish and togarashi spice mixes, you could get ridiculously good sushi, some of it flown in from Japan every week, at an incredibly reasonable price. There is surely no place I'd visited more often, or that had been the source of more satisfying meals, despite the peculiar hours (closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and never open later than 6:30 p.m. – a closing time which moved progressively earlier over the years as the place became ever more popular).
Truth is, a good portion of what I know and love about sushi, I learned sitting at that counter: the joy of the many different varieties of hikari mono, or silver-sk…
I knew when we agreed to do a Cobaya dinner way down in Homestead that, one way or another, it would be memorable. Actually, we had a pretty high degree of confidence that it would be memorable for the right reasons. Our chef for the evening, Niven Patel, is a Michael's Genuine alum, and is in the process of opening his own place – Ghee – which will combine the flavors of his Indian heritage with the farm-to-table ethos of MGFD. About a year ago, I got a preview of what Patel had in mind when he did a pop-up dinner at Genuine sibling Harry's Pizzeria. It was excellent. So when he said he wanted to host a dinner at his home and backyard farm, we found a way to make it happen. Our confidence was not misplaced.
I can't believe it's already been nearly three years since a small, curious spot called Niu Kitchen opened in downtown Miami, on a nondescript block across from Miami-Dade College. Despite its diminutive size, Niu manages to turn out Catalan-inspired food that is more creative, and more delicious, than many local restaurants with much bigger spaces and budgets. Now, the team of chef Deme Lomas and manager Karina Iglesias has doubled down, opening Arson just a few doors down.
The roomier space may be twice the size of Niu, and as the name suggests, the focus is fire: pretty much every dish is touched by flame or smoke, mostly generated by the Josper, a Spanish-made, charcoal-fired oven / grill rig that is fast becoming many chefs' favorite new plaything. And while Niu remains more or less faithful to the Catalan theme, Arson is unbounded by genre: they'll set fire to anything.
This was not the pizzeria I expected to be writing about now. With Miami's local hero Michael Schwartz having recently opened a pizzeria of his own (Harry's Pizzeria, named for his son, in the Design District spot that used to be the home of PizzaVolante), I figured that was going to be the subject of my next ode to pizza. But earlier this week I found myself driving back from West Palm Beach around dinner time, and made a stop at Pizzeria Oceano in Lantana, a a place that had been on my radar since stumbling across this little blurb in Broward New Times (yes, you can always catch my attention with whipped lardo).
Two years ago, pizza was all the rage in South Florida, so much so that we staged a fourpart, elevenlocation pizza crawl in the summer of 2009. That happens to be around the time that Pizzeria Oceano opened. But Pizzeria Oceano doesn't seem like a place trying to latch onto a trend as much as a genuinely singular vision. Chef/owner Dak Kerprich keeps a sho…