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Showing posts from April, 2012

The Return of Naoe - Downtown Miami

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When I wrote about my first experience of stumbling upon Naoe, I described it as seeming almost like a dream: a tiny 17-seat jewel-box of a restaurant serving a bento box of gorgeous Japanese dishes followed by a procession of pristine nigiri, all entirely "omakase" or chef's choice. But it was real, and I went back several more times just to make sure. (You can find recaps of some subsequent meals here, here and here.)

In December, Naoe had to vacate its Sunny Isles space when the landlord hatched other plans for it. They closed up shop and began work on a new space on Brickell Key, adjacent to downtown Miami. The new venue reopened last week, and I made my first visit this past Thursday - exactly three years after my first post on Naoe.

I'm not usually a superstitious person, but I do worry that a place can lose its "mojo" when it moves locations.[1] Any such worries about Naoe were absolved by my visit to Naoe on Brickell Key.

Walking into the new spac…

The Federal Food Drink and Provisions - Miami

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I first came across the dynamic duo of Aniece Meinhold and Cesar Zapata during what turned out to be a short-lived stint at Blue Piano. A charming little wine bar down the street from the Design District, it had occasional live music and an eclectic selection of wines and beers (courtesy of Aniece, who ran front of house) and small, tapas-style bites (courtesy of Cesar, who ran the kitchen). The food was simple but sometimes surprisingly creative, with a selection of charcuterie and cheeses rounded out by things like the "McLovin," an English muffin filled with chistorra sausage, melted cheese, chipotle cream, and a fried egg, with chicharrones on the side for good measure.

There was a rift with ownership, and in August, Cesar and Aniece left the Blue Piano. Shortly afterwards, they popped up again with Phuc Yea!, a modern Vietnamese pop-up restaurant downtown. I had several excellent meals at Phuc Yea!, and was sorry to see it go after its three-month run.

Aniece and Cesar…

Sustainable Cobaya

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Sometimes even we're surprised.

When we plan these Cobaya dinners, we purposefully keep the "marching orders" to the chefs minimal: basically, be creative, and do something you don't normally get to do. Often we'll kick around ideas, we might see preview menus, but not always. Sometimes we have only a rough sketch of what to expect, and sometimes we go in completely blind.

When we sat down to talk with Chef Alejandro Piñero and Manager Jonathan Lazar of Sustain Restaurant + Bar in Midtown Miami, they said they were thinking of doing a Southern Italian inspired menu. Though Sustain is known mostly for its focus on fresh, local, and - yes - sustainable ingredients, this didn't come as a complete surprise to me. Before Sustain, Chef Piñero spent five years as sous chef at Casa Tua and then took over as chef de cuisine at Fratelli Lyon, so Italian is clearly in his repertoire. We invited them to run with the idea, and that was the extent of what we knew.

I expec…