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Showing posts from 2017

first thoughts: Charcoal Garden Bar + Grill - Wynwood

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Ken Lyon is something of a grizzled veteran of the Miami dining world, one with a knack for spotting valuable restaurant real estate. He was way ahead of the curve when he opened Lyon Freres, a Franco-philic market and cafe, on Lincoln Road in the early 1990's, well before the tourists thronged and the rents skyrocketed.[1] More than a decade later, he was also one of the early pioneers of the then-sleepy Design District: in 2008, he opened Fratelli Lyon, an Italian restaurant, in the space which is now home to MC Kitchen. His jump into the Design District came not very far behind Michael's Genuine, which just celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Though Lyon's been around for a while, his latest project – Charcoal Garden Bar + Grill – is very much on-trend. It's in Wynwood. It's built entirely out of semi-portable shipping containers. And everything is cooked using a Josper charcoal grill/oven, the new favorite toy of chefs who like to play with live fire.

This time,…

Cobaya Olla with Chef Scott Linquist

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Mexican cuisine is one of several that gets saddled with the "soft bigotry of low expectations." The common perception is that it's all chips and salsa and guacamole, tacos and burritos and fajitas, with maybe some tequila shots, mariachi bands and sombreros mixed in for good measure. In fact, it's an incredibly complex and varied cuisine, which is finally starting to get the attention it deserves in the U.S.: witness the success of Enrique Olvera's Cosme in New York, or Alex Stupak's Empellon, or places like Taco Maria and Broken Spanish in L.A., or Californios and Cala in San Francisco, or Rick Bayless' restaurant empire, plus new Chicago places like Dos Urban Cantina and Mi Tocaya. I could keep going; but instead, let me bring this back home.

Because someone is trying to help Miami catch up. At Olla, Chef Scott Linquist's new restaurant on the west end of Lincoln Road, you'll find a menu that goes well beyond the customary tropes, ambitious bo…

first thoughts: Dashi - Miami River

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Last month, I had the good fortune to be invited to an event at the Japanese Consulate in Miami, extolling the virtues of washoku, or the traditional cuisine of Japan. The event was hosted by the gracious consul general, Ken Okaniwa, but the headliner was chef Shuji Hiyakawa, who provided a live-action sushi-making display.

I had a feeling we were in good hands when Chef Hiyakawa started with the preparation of the rice, noting how every component is essential to the finished product: the blend of two vinegars he uses to season the rice, the wooden bowl in which it's prepared, which retains the right amount of heat and absorbs the right amount of excess liquid, the manner in which it's mixed, so that all the grains are seasoned, and neither too starchy nor too loose.

With the rice made, he went on to break down an entire loin of bluefin tuna. Given the depleted state of the species, I really would have preferred to see just about anything else on the cutting board. I suppose …

best thing i ate last week: fried chicken sandwich at La Pollita

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There's yet another wave of taquerias opening in Miami these days, so many I've given up even trying to list them, much less sample them all. But last week I did stop in on La Pollita, which is currently operating from a trailer parked in the Midtown Garden Center. The backstory is intriguing: chefs Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer worked at some pretty highfalutin places before this: Eleven Madison Park (just named as "World's Best Restaurant" by the suspect but influential 50 Best list), its sibling the NoMad, Scarpetta in Manhattan, Animal in L.A. Which made me wonder – what are these folks doing running a taco truck?

Making really great food, it turns out. They've got a short list of tacos, served on fresh tortillas pressed from masa supplied by Miami masa maestro Steve Santana (of Taquiza), and the cochinita pibil I tried was very good. But the standout item was the fried chicken cemita. A hot, crispy, juicy tranche of fried chicken. A crunchy, vinegar…

A Very CSA Seder

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The overwhelming majority of the time, I’m writing about other people’s cooking here. And for good reason: it’s a lot better and more interesting than my own cooking. Not that we don’t use our home kitchen – contrary to how it might appear sometimes, we don’t dine out every single night, and we do try, with varying degrees of success, to have at least a few home cooked meals each week. Occasionally, the results might even warrant an Instagram post, especially if I’m using something from my Little River Coop CSA, or the backyard garden. Rarely are they worth writing home about. But after cooking a Seder dinner for family and friends earlier this week, I was proud enough of the results to spend a little time memorializing it.

Passover is something of a culinary challenge: the whole prohibition on leavened grains can be pretty limiting, especially when it comes to dessert, and there are certain things that are expected: the matzo ball soup, the gefilte fish, the brisket, the tzimmes. I …

Rules Restaurant | London

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Fergus Henderson may have helped convince the world that British food was worthy of attention with his restaurant, St. John (some more thoughts on St. John here). But at Rules, they were never in any doubt.

Rules bills itself as the oldest restaurant in London. Over the past two centuries, it's been owned by only three families: Thomas Rule opened it in 1798; just before World War I, one of his descendants decided to move to France, and arranged a swap with a Brit running a restaurant in Paris named Tom Bell; and then in 1984, Bell's daughter sold the restaurant to its current owner John Mayhew.

The dining room, with its red velvet-wrapped, gold-piped banquettes, polished wood dividers, oil portraits and old cartoons on the walls,[1] the occasional marble bust here and there, looks every bit the part. If not for the bona fides of its history, the stereotypically posh decorations would seem almost laughable. I adore the place.

We first came here on a family trip to London more…