Showing posts with label Design District. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Design District. Show all posts

Monday, August 1, 2016

best thing i ate last week: etouffee brute at Dusk

The last time I was at Cena by Michy (which would, alas, turn out to be the last time I would ever be at Cena, which closed a couple months later), Michelle Bernstein introduced me to her latest chef de cuisine, Mike Mayta. He – and his wife Keily Vazquez, who together also ran Illegal Bakery – were joining a distinguished group of alumni who have passed through Michy's kitchens and dining rooms: Timon Balloo, Lindsay Autry, Jason Schaan, Berenice de Araujo, coctkail master Julio Cabrera, wine savant Allegra Angelo.

Cena is gone, but chefs Mayta and Vazquez have found another place to ply their trade, with a pop-up called Dusk, operating in the Crumb on Parchment space in the Design District (probably not coincidentally, also run by Chef Bernstein). They've put together a menu of a baker's dozen of dishes, some with Latin leanings (ajiaco pot pie, brisket saltado), others a bit more gastropub-y (chicken 'n' biscuit with chicken liver mousse, chorizo scotch egg), and some with a little bit of both (yuca fry poutine).

We made our way through a good bit of that menu Saturday night, and enjoyed everything we tried. My favorite – very possibly influenced by its having been inspired by the Burger of the Day from Bob's Burgers – was the "Etouffee Brute." This Cajun-Italian hybrid combined risotto style carnaroli rice, bound and enriched by a ruddy seafood stew studded with strips of nubby octopus, bolstered and warmed with 'nduja sausage, flecked with slivers of dried okra, and crowned with a plump, juicy head-on royal red shrimp.

A strong runner-up was a summery dessert from Keily Vazquez which combined dainty little blueberry pies with a delicious sweet corn ice cream.

You can see all the pictures from our dinner in this Dusk - Miami Design District flickr set.

Dusk is operating Thursday-Saturday evenings in the Crumb space, from 6pm to 10:30pm, with plans to be there through September.

3930 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Miami, Florida

Monday, November 2, 2015

best thing i ate last week: pork schnitzel at Cypress Tavern

Sometimes, change is good. A month ago news broke that chef Roel Alcudia was parting ways with The Cypress Room, which he had joined as chef de cuisine when Michael Schwartz opened the place a couple years ago. That wasn't the only change: after a bit of revamping, last week the Cypress Room became Cypress Tavern. It's not a complete gut job by any means: chef Bradley Herron, who has a long tenure with the Schwartz empire, is now manning the kitchen, and maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the menu will still look pretty familiar. The lovely aqua banquettes are still there, but the starched white tablecloths are gone. As the new "Tavern" in the name suggests, it's been simplified and un-fussified, and happily, the prices have been notched down too.

I was in there Saturday night for dinner, and enjoyed it so much I was back for brunch the next morning. (You can see all my pictures in this Cypress Tavern flickr set). There was much that was good, but my favorite was a new menu item that's pretty reflective of the new style: a delightfully crisp, juicy pork schnitzel, served over a bed of braised cabbage and a puddle of creamy mustard sauce.

Runner-up: the bucatini carbonara, topped with a poached egg and an avalanche of shaved parmigiano reggiano, which I had the next morning for brunch. Sometimes this is how I like to get my bacon, eggs and toast.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tapas - Spanish Design for Food @ The Moore Building

According to Penelope Casas' excellent book "Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain," the original tapa was a slice of cured ham or chorizo, served compliments of the house, and - according to some - placed over the top of the customer's wineglass to keep flies out of the sherry. In other words, it was a simple, effective, and delicious confluence of food and design.

The exhibition "Tapas - Spanish Design for Food," currently on display at the Moore Building in the Design District, explores and celebrates that confluence, using Spanish tapas as the springboard. Organized by Acción Cultural Española, and curated by Spanish architect Juli Capella, it's a fascinating glimpse into the circular relationship of cuisine, art, design and culture.

The displays are divided into sections - "The Kitchen," "The Table," and "The Food" - with a well-selected compilation of objects created for each. They range from the utterly pragmatic - a set of cookware designed by José Andrés - to the entirely whimsical - a cutting board with a chute for bread crumbs connected to an outdoor bird feeder. Here are just a few of the fun things I saw at a media preview yesterday:

(You can see all my pictures in this Tapas - Spanish Design for Food flickr set).

"Jamón de la Crisis" - designed by Julí Capella, produced by Vinçon - one of the most famous of Spain's culinary icons, but in consideration of the recent economic collapse, rendered in recyclable plastic and "filled with pure, Spanish mountain air." "Cured in 2008, on sale in 2013."

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oak Tavern - Miami Design District

Turns out, I'd been stalking Chef David Bracha for decades without knowing it.

Go back about twenty years, and a couple of my favorite restaurants were Norman Van Aken's A Mano in the Betsy Hotel on South Beach, and his more casual Stars & Stripes Café in the same property.[1] A few years later, a romantic little spot opened up in the Harrison Hotel on Washington Avenue, called "411." (Remember when using the address number was the big trend in restaurant names? What was everyone thinking?) We loved 411, which felt like an elegant, secret hideaway, but it didn't last very long.

Not long after 411 closed, I remember eating at Fishbone Grill, a casual seafood place next to Tobacco Road on Miami Avenue. There was a dish there - crabcakes served with a cherry and apple slaw, and a smoked almond tartar sauce - that was identical to one of my favorite dishes at 411. "They copied the dish!" I thought.

Well, you've probably figured out what it took me several more years to deduce: it was all the same guy, Bracha - who helped Van Aken open A Mano, then went out on his own with 411, and later opened Fishbone Grill, which later made way for the very popular River Oyster Bar at the same spot. And indeed, you can still find that same crabcake dish on the menu at the River.

More recently, Bracha opened Oak Tavern in the Design District, in one of those spots that's seen a procession of restaurants come and go - the old Piccadilly Garden, then the reincarnated Pacific Time, most recently a Spanish place whose name I've already forgotten (probably because the food was equally unmemorable). Bracha's made the venue more inviting than its prior incarnations. A huge live oak tree is now the centerpiece for the outdoor courtyard, which is a comfortable, placid place to dine when temperatures permit. Inside, a long communal table divides the bar from the dining room; a rough stone wall along the back, lined with leather banquettes, as well as four tall lamps clustered in the center of the dining room like a stand of trees, provide some visual relief from the low-slung, box-like feel of the space.

(You can see all my pictures in this Oak Tavern flickr set).

Where the River is primarily a seafood place, Oak Tavern is more omnivorous in its approach. Though the oyster selection is not as varied as at the River, there are usually at least a few varieties on offer, plus about a half dozen other various crudos and ceviches. There are about an equal number of charcuterie choices, including occasional house-made items (I'm disappointed that the coppa di testa I tried on my first visit hasn't resurfaced since). Like Design District neighbor Michael's Genuine, small plates are a big focus. But any number of larger dishes from land and sea are available too, as well as several pizzas from a wood-burning oven, and a few pastas as well. It's a long, and fairly ambitious menu. So where are the highlights?

I've yet to go astray among the small plates. The crostini in particular have been consistently great. Picked stone crab over a shmear of avocado is bright and fresh, while boquerones with roasted peppers, kale and ricotta provide a more pronounced taste of the ocean. Bacon "marmalade" spread over some Rogue Creamery Caveman blue cheese offers a great interplay of salty, sweet, meaty, funky and creamy.

Some of my other favorites among the "small plate" options have included a verdant, spicy gazpacho verde, creamy deviled eggs topped with paddlefish caviar, and silky foie gras mousse with a crown of fresh strawberry jam. "Banh Mi" sliders stuffed with pork belly, more of that foie gras mousse, and pickled vegetables are a carryover from the River's bar menu, and a worthy one at that.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

CobayOak Tavern with Chef David Bracha

I will save the long-form version of the story for another time, but the short-form version is this: I've been eating Chef David Bracha's food for a long time, going back to the early 1990's when he was cooking at Norman Van Aken's Stars & Stripes Café in the Betsy Hotel on South Beach. Since then, he's gone on to great success at the perennially packed River Oyster Bar downtown, and recently opened up Oak Tavern in the Design District.

So I was excited for the opportunity to get caught up on his cooking at a Cobaya dinner earlier this month for our palindromic Cobaya #31 on 3.11.13. The menu he assembled for us 35 guinea pigs was a more adventurous take on the offerings at his new restaurant - ingredient-driven, with bold flavors and something of an offal-centric tilt.

(You can see all the pictures from our dinner in this CobayOak Tavern flickr set.)

There is no better oyster bar in Miami than the River, and so I was not surprised that's the item with which our dinner started. Here, they had been shucked into a ceviche which combined the tart citric bite of lemon juice with a sinus-clearing jolt of horseradish cream, rounded out with soft herbs and a scattering of paddlefish roe.

Bracha probably is really tired of crabcakes: he's had them on the menus of his various restaurants for the past twenty years. But I'm not, and I'd never had this particular version of his, no-filler, pan-seared, crisp-edged, nestled in a puddle of uni butter.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Publican Pizzeria Pop-Up

If you were following Paul Kahan's career trajectory from a distance, you might think it was in a downward spiral: fifteen years ago he opened Blackbird, one of the top high-end restaurants in Chicago. Since then, he's opened a more casual small-plates tapas place, then a beer hall, then a taqueria, and most recently, a butcher shop. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. While his projects have been increasingly casual, they are all incredibly successful, and you will eat very well at any of them. As Michael Schwartz, the host for Chef Kahan's pop-up dinner at Harry's Pizzeria Tuesday night, said, if you went to Chicago and only ate at Kahan's restaurants, you would get an excellent cross-section of Chicago's culinary universe.

For the past year, Schwartz has been bringing some of the country's best chefs to Miami's doorstep to cook for an evening at Harry's. On our last visit to Chicago, Kahan's Blackbird and The Publican were two of our favorite meals, so when I saw his name on the upcoming schedule, I made sure to secure a spot.

Though the cooking at these Harry's "pop-ups" is always reflective of the visiting chef, the format of the dinners tends to follow the same pattern: an assortment of passed appetizers to start, including some variation on a pizza; and three or four courses all served family-style, usually taking advantage of Harry's wood-burning oven. Kahan's menu followed suit:

(You can see all my pictures in this Publican Pizzeria flickr set; pictures were taken with my new Sony NEX-5R, courtesy of Sony).

Things got off to a good start with a "fettunta" (the Tuscan version of what gets called "bruschetta" in the U.S.) topped with a creamy chicken liver mousse, tangy satsuma, and spicy, sweet and sour onions "agridulce," all providing great contrast to the rich liver shmear.

Chef Kahan went local style with a crudo of cobia, topped with kohlrabi and mint salsa verde. The mint nicely highlighted the freshness of the fish.

While the bacon-wrapped, chorizo-stuffed dates may be the "signature dish" at Avec, an argument could be made for the "deluxe focaccia," topped with taleggio and ricotta cheese, and just a whisper of truffle oil.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Harry's Pizzeria - Miami Design District

MGFD Bacon Pizza

When it comes to pizza, there are many styles. There's your basic Neapolitan. There's your hardcore Verace Pizza Napoletana. There's New York-style pizza. There's your more esoteric thin-crusted Lazio style pizza, Sicilian, grandma pizza, New Haven style apizza, Chicago deep dish ... pizza maven Adam Kuban came up with a list of 21 different regional styles, and surely there were many more that were overlooked.

The pizzas at Harry's Pizzeria, the new pizza joint from local hero Michael Schwartz, are precisely none of those. But they are quintessentially in the style of Chef Schwartz and his namesake Michael's Genuine Food & Drink: great flavors, with a focus on local ingredients and in-house preparations.

Almost five years ago (!) Schwartz opened MGF&D in Miami's Design District. It was an instant hit, and for good reason: the menu was accessible but exciting, it focused on local products without being sanctimonious or dogmatic about it, and both the food and the place had a relaxed, unfussy style that was perfectly in tune with the impending economic meltdown. MGF&D immediately became one of the most popular and well-regarded restaurants in town and has continued to hold that status to this date.

Though success came quickly for MGF&D,[1] Chef Schwartz was deliberately slow in building upon it. The expansion bug finally bit in 2010 when he added a second Michael's Genuine in Grand Cayman. This past year has seen several new projects, not only Harry's Pizzeria, named after his son Harrison, but also a consulting gig for Royal Caribbean's 150 Central Park on the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship, and the in-progress takeover of the restaurant and dining operations at the Raleigh Hotel on South Beach.

Harry's Pizzeria

(You can see all my pictures in this Harry's Pizzeria flickr set).

Harry's is the most modest of those projects. The space, right down the street from MGF&D, became available when Jonathan Eismann's Pizza Volante (which was one of my favorite local pizza places) shut down. It already had the same kind of wood-burning oven that was installed at MGF&D, where a pizza of some sort has been a fixture on the menu since they opened. They kept the oven, revamped the rest of the space with a small bar and casual dark wood furniture similar to that at Michael's, got Friends With You to supply some decorations, and opened up for business in late September.

Harry's Pizzeria menu

The menu is a simple affair: a short list of "snacks" and salads, followed by about ten different pizza options. It's typically rounded out by a few specials, usually a soup, a starter, and a pizza of the day. And that's it. If you're not in the mood for a pizza, you'll struggle to find something to make a complete meal.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Michybaya - Cobaya Dinner with Chef Michelle Bernstein

Sometimes, with her radiant smile, former-ballerina perfect posture, and national (Top Chef judge) and local (Check Please host) television presence, it's easy to forget. But let there be no doubt about it: Michelle Bernstein is a badass chef. Yes, it's the quality of her cooking that cemented her national reputation and led to those TV gigs, and her namesake restaurant Michy's on Biscayne Boulevard and the Spanish tapas-inspired Sra. Martinez in the Design District are regarded as among the top restaurants in Miami. But neither of those restaurants are "new" any more, and in a somewhat magpie-like food community, restaurants that are five, or even only two, years old are sometimes overlooked in favor of the latest shiny objects.

That's stupid. Thirty-four of us got to see just how stupid earlier this week, as we finally connected with Chef Bernstein for one of our "Cobaya" dinners. Since we began doing these events nearly two years ago, we've been trying to get Michelle to cook for us. Indeed, we first started talking about it back in the summer of 2009; but then she was busily gearing up to open at the Omphoy in Palm Beach, and any number of things intervened thereafter. The stars finally aligned recently, particularly with her new bakery/café down the street from Sra. M, Crumb on Parchment, turning out to be a perfect venue for the dinner.[1]

As we always do, we gave Chef Bernstein complete free rein to come up with the menu and the format, and she put together one of the most elegant, polished, and satisfying dining experiences we've had so far. You can see all my pictures from the dinner in this "Michybaya" flickr set, and find links to some other pictures and recaps over at the Cobaya website.

the table

The space at Crumb (basically the airy, open atrium of a collection of home furnishings shops in the Melin Building in the Design District) was rearranged for our dinner into one long table, with 34 of Crumb's artfully mismatched chairs lined up on either side. The table was set with naturalistic centerpieces that actually incorporated some of the mise en place for our dinner (OK, not really, but those were real mushrooms), and enough silverware to baffle even Emily Post.

Chef Bernstein said that she doesn't like to overstuff diners with too many courses, so she held it to five (actually six if you count a pre-dessert, which I would):

Oyster Chawan Mushi with Scallop and Uni Ceviche
Julien Fouet Saumur[2]

Whole Roasted Foie Gras with Garden Vegetables
and Carrot-Orange Sauce
Kiralyudvar Tokaji Sec

Chupe de Mariscos with Squid Ink Croquetas
Mercy Pinot Noir Arroyo Seco

New York Steak with Truffle Butter and
Gnocchi with Celery Leaf, Lily Bulbs and Budding Chives
Mas Sorrer Montsant

Calamansi Soup with Pineapple and Mint Ice Cream

Banana Tarte Tatin
Rock Wall Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc

oyster chawan mushi

This was a very nice way to start things, an oyster "chawan mushi." Chawan mushi is a savory Japanese egg custard, often a bit more watery than a Western custard with the addition of dashi and/or soy sauce. Here, Chef Bernstein steamed the custard right in the oyster shells, with the briny (Kumamoto?) oysters nestled within, and a little cap of softened enoki mushrooms and green onions. This carried all of that wonderful "taste of the ocean" of a good oyster, but with the flavor stretched and prolonged by the creamy custard. Mrs. F doesn't particularly like oysters, but she loved this dish. For a bit of contrast, between the oysters was a small bowl of a scallop ceviche (not a "true" ceviche, Chef Bernstein qualified, which I think means the scallop was very lightly poached rather than just "cooked" in the acid of citrus juices), given an extra dose of richness with a tongue of orange uni laid over the top.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vino e Olio e Cobaya - Experiment #8

One of the guiding principles of the Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs group is that it's intended as an opportunity for chefs to do things that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to do in their regular settings. We organize events both in restaurants and out, but one of the rules is that it has to be an off-the-menu experience, a chance for the chefs to show something different from their usual routine.

When I read about the opening of Vino e Olio in the Design District, it seemed like a good fit. The chef, Andrea Menichetti, was virtually born in the kitchen: his parents, Maurizio Menichetti and Valeria Piccini, run the Michelin two-starred Da Caino in Montemerano, Italy, where Chef Andrea cooked before making his way to Miami. And the menu at Vino e Olio suggested more imagination and creativity than most garden-variety South Florida Italian restaurants. So we tried the restaurant, spoke to the chef, and then gave him free reign to craft a menu. The result, as one of our diners aptly put it, "balanced on a knife's edge between Tuscan playful and orthodox." Here's the menu, and below, some pictures and descriptions (full set of pictures on flickr, or click on each menu item).

(Sandwich with veal tripe)

(Ravioli filled with olive oil, capers, anchovies served with fresh tomato coulis)

(Loin of rabbit stuffed with basil, served with a fennel sauce and black truffle vinaigrette)

(Sautéed veal sweetbreads served with asparagus)

(Lamb chop stuffed with pork, served with broccoli)

(Fruits and vegetables cold soup served with vanilla ice cream)

Panino con il Lampredotto
Panino con il lampredotto
A confession: though I claim the chefs have complete free reign in crafting the menu, I did have some influence on the inclusion of the first dish, a miniature panino con il lampredotto (a/k/a tripe sandwich). I am a huge fan of the underutilized and underappreciated tripe (tripe = stomach, though a cow actually has four stomachs, and lampredotto is the "fourth and final stomach"), and so when I learned that Chef Menichetti was also an aficionado, I made a special request for this dish.

These days we think of both organ meats and food trucks as trendy: in fact this dish's reference point is a long-standing Tuscan tradition, dating back several centuries, of tripe sandwiches served from street carts. (For a great look at one of these three-wheeled tripe carts in Florence, go to around the 20 minute mark of this episode of "Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie"). The braised strips of tripe were slippery, sticky, with a deep but gentle meaty flavor that was transmuted to its braising liquid as well, with which the little rolls were generously doused. There was a dab of salsa verde for some contrast, and even a bit more heat might have been welcome. I loved it. But this was, I'll admit, a dish for those who already love tripe, rather than one that will make converts of non-believers. Our end of the table was fairly evenly divided between the former and the latter, and some gave theirs away after sampling a bite, while others eagerly grabbed them.

Olive Oil Ravioli
Ravioli all' olio extravirgine di oliva
The ravioli dish which followed also has a backstory: it won an international prize for cuisine with olive oil, and uses olive oil produced by the chef's mother's family. The pasta is stuffed with a mix of olive oil, minced anchovies and capers, and the chef advised everyone to eat them in one bite in order to experience the burst of liquid as you chew (similar in effect to a xiao long bao, a/k/a soup dumpling).[1] The ravioli are purposefully served just barely warmed, and over a cool, raw tomato coulis, because the flavor of the olive oil is more muted at higher temperatures. This sensitivity to the temperature of the dish was a good thing, because it was indeed excellent olive oil. I enjoyed the dish, with its tweaking of traditional flavors and format - though the cool sauce would likely be even more welcome during one of the 350 days of the year that it's closer to 80º or 90º in Miami than during the cold weather we've had this week.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Eat Basel - Where to Eat for Art Basel

It's that time of year, when culturati from all over the world, like the swallows of Capistrano, descend upon Miami for Art Basel. There will be plenty of sources for information on art installations, events and parties: New Times has a comprehensive list of Art Basel events as well as a guide to the satellite art fairs, and the New York Times just published a more curated list. And though we've danced around the food as art question here occasionally, right now let me address the issue in a more pedestrisn fashion: where should you eat?

South Beach / North Beach

The Art Basel exhibition itself is in the Miami Beach Convention Center on South Beach. The good news is that from the Convention Center, you'll be in easy walking distance of the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall. The bad news is that there's hardly anyplace good to eat on Lincoln Road any more. If you must, consider Meat Market for a contemporary take on the steakhouse genre, or for smaller budgets, the new Shake Shack (my Shake Shack review here) in the Herzog & de Meuron designed building at 1111 Lincoln Road. Otherwise, keep in mind that any place with saran-wrapped food and the hostess' bodacious cleavage on display out front generally is not worth eating at.

But all hope is not lost. South Beach has several promising new additions within about a mile of the Convention Center. The recently opened Pubbelly is an "Asian-inspired" (read "Momofuku-inspired") gastropub which brings the contemporary casual Asian meme to South Beach. Eden, in the late (and missed) Talula space, features a menu designed by New York chef Christopher Lee and a gorgeous outdoor patio space.[*]

For the high rollers of the art world, the Wolfsonian Collection is hosting a special event dinner on December 1 in conjunction with a site-specific installation, "Seduce Me," by actress/filmmaker Isabella Rossellini. While "Seduce Me" explores the mating rituals of various animals, big name chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten will be doing the cooking, Robert Mondavi Winery will be pouring the wines, and Bulgari will be providing a special Rossellini-designed handbag and a watch for a post-dinner auction. Tickets are $1,000 (!); more information can be had from Michael Hughes at 305.535.2602 or

If it's some local flavor you want, try one of Chef Douglas Rodriguez's venues, each of which takes a slightly different spin on contemporizing Latin American cuisines: Ola at the Sanctuary Hotel, the most pan-Latin of his restaurants (and also the closest to the Convention Center); De Rodriguez Cuba (my De Rodriguez review), in the Astor Hotel, for updated versions of Cuban classics; or the newly opened and seafood-focused De Rodriguez Ocean, on the south end of Ocean Drive. Or for something more casual and funky, there's Tap Tap, South Beach's only Haitian restaurant.

But if you want to really want to do South Beach like a local, consider a few more options: Altamare (my Altamare review), on the quiet western end of Lincoln Road (across Alton Road), is a local seafood specialist, and the menu has gotten more interesting and diverse since Michael's Genuine alum Simon Stojanovic took over the kitchen. Indomania (my Indomania review) is a hidden gem of a place, just a little bit north of South Beach proper on 26th Street, but worth the trek for their fun, flavorful Dutch-Indonesian food (the rijsttafels come with more than a dozen different dishes). And if you're up late and hungry, you'll be better off ignoring Anthony Bourdain's recommendation of T-Mex Cantina (f/k/a San Loco); it's not his fault, I'm sure he just had one too many at Club Deuce and his judgment was impaired. Instead, head over to the The Alibi, tucked away in Lost Weekend, a divey bar on Española Way, for their Philly Cheese Steak (on an authentic Amoroso roll) or a shrimp po'boy, with a side of hand-cut fries with Ranch Dust (open till 5am).

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Fin - Miami Design District

[Sorry, this place has closed]

I've come to realize that I am susceptible to the power of self-suggestion. When I was planning our upcoming trip to Spain, all I wanted to eat was Spanish food. We decided to take the kids to Maine next month, and all of a sudden I had hankerings for fresh, simple seafood. That's pretty much the mission statement of Fin, Chef Jonathan Eismann's latest restaurant to open in the Design District, which is where we ended up for dinner earlier this week. It was exactly what I was looking for.

We actually got something of a preview for Fin several months ago, when Chef Eismann used the space to host one of our Cobaya dinners back in December. It quietly opened for real about a month ago, occupying a small enclosed nook in the corner of Q American Barbecue on the west end of the Design District along Miami Avenue. Keeping track of Chef Eismann's restaurants has required a scorecard lately: through some wheeling and dealing with restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow, his flagship Pacific Time has now closed, and after the summer is to become El Scorpion (the Mexican restaurant Chodorow opened up on South Beach just south of 5th Street); and the El Scorpion space on South Beach is going to become a second Q American Barbecue. Meanwhile, PizzaVolante is still cranking out good pies across the street from the original Q, which is staying put in its Miami Avenue location (which is the old Sheba spot, for those with a memory that goes back more than a year or two).[1]

Though Q is right next door, Fin feels like a different world, done up like an idealized Cape Cod bungalow with wide wood planks on the floor, simple wood and white-washed furnishings, soft blue and white stripes up the walls. It's small and intimate, probably seating no more than about 25-35 people at full capacity.

The menu is small too, featuring a very abbreviated selection of mostly fish and seafood that apparently will be constantly rotating, depending on what Chef Eismann sources at any particular time. And I do mean short: maybe five appetizers, about the same number of entrées, all almost exclusively piscine, some vegetable sides to choose from, a few desserts.

Dinners start with a complimentary amuse, this time a small bowl of popcorn shrimp (for those who miss Pacific Time, you will be reminded of the hot and sour shrimp snack) with a spicy remoulade, along with a tall shot of a tomato-lobster gazpacho (nice, bright and balanced tomato flavor, though the lobster got lost in the mix). From there, I led off with a half-dozen oysters on the half-shell (Wellfleets? I forget), served simply with a wedge of lemon, some Tabasco, and a simple mignonette. These were some of the best oysters I've had locally, expertly shucked, fresh, briny and clean-tasting.

Mrs. F started with a corn chowder, which curiously did not include any seafood, but which was still loaded with flavor and precisely seasoned. Another carry-over for Pacific Time fans is a variation on the grouper cheeks with red curry and bananas, which here showed up on the Fin menu with shrimp.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cobaya Experiment #3 - Chef Jonathan Eismann

When Chef Jonathan Eismann, of Pacific Time and Pizzavolante (and soon to be a couple more), and I first started discussing the prospect of doing one of our "underground dinners," he was completely into it. After months of trying to nail down a date and location, several weeks ago Chef told me "I have a spot" and everything quickly fell into place.

The spot turned out to be the not-yet-opened location of his new seafood restaurant "Fin," which is nestled within his also not-yet-opened new restaurant "Q" (which will be a barbecue place). Both are in what Miamians will likely fondly recall as the location of the old "Sheba" Ethiopian restaurant which closed a year or so ago, along Miami Avenue in the Design District. The "Fin" space occupies a cozy corner of the space (I'm pretty sure this is where the little art gallery used to be in Sheba) and is decorated in a Cape Cod style, very clean and simple.

The fish-centric concept of the new restaurant (everything will be fresh, local and simply prepared) and Chef Eismann's love of seafood helped set the theme for the dinner. After considering the seafood angle and the late December date, I mentioned something about the Italian Christmas tradition of the "Feast of Seven Fishes," and Chef Eismann and his team ran with it from there. Everything on our menu was brought in from the waters up and down the East Coast within 48 hours before our dinner, and Chef Eismann's team of chefs all assisted in creating several courses out of the ocean's bounty. In all, we had nine courses, all fish and seafood, fresh from Maine down to the Keys.

Though our menu said "Fin" on it, and the new restaurant will share the seafood focus, you won't see most of the specific dishes we had on the restaurant menu, at least not in the particular incarnations we saw. Most of what we 34 guinea pigs experienced (our largest group yet for one sitting, and very cozy for a 32-seat restaurant!) was created just for this dinner. Unfortunately I forgot to bring a camera and so for present purposes can only offer this low-quality scan of the menu and my recollections (I've put a request out to the other diners to see if someone will share their pictures Thanks to guinea pig Brad Nichol for providing some pictures, his full album from the dinner is here).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More News Flashes and Rehashes

When I started this blog, I pledged - to myself anyway - that it wasn't going to be yet another site that simply rehashed the same press releases that every other site regurgitates. Content is king.

Well, it's been a little hectic over here lately and I've not had much time to gather deeper thoughts about restaurant eats, so in the meantime, some more, hopefully marginally useful, news of restaurant openings and specials:

- Talavera, a Mexican restaurant in Coral Gables from the folks who brought you Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar and Grill in Coconut Grove, is set to open this coming Monday October 19. The location most recently housed Mari-Nali Gourmet Quesadillas, but when I walked by today I saw that they've recently taken out more space and their spot now extends out to the corner of Ponce de Leon and Giralda. They say the menu is inspired by old and new Mexico, from street food to classic restaurant dishes, including guacamole made to order, several styles of ceviches (no surprise to folks familiar with Jagauar), varieties of moles, and their "signature" huarache grill, featuring hand-made fresh corn masa shaped like a flip-flop and topped with beans, lettuce, salsa verde, goat cheese and more. How about a hibiscus margarita to go with that?

Edited to add: as of earlier this week (circa Oct. 28), a walk by Talavera confirmed that it is not yet opened, press release notwithstanding. PR peeps: this is an ongoing issue, both with your own releases and those you feed to places like UrbanDaddy and Thrillist. Please - don't announce an opening date until it is really, genuinely, absolutely, FIRM. Everyone knows that there are about a bazillion things that can delay an opening, but when a date is announced people tend to rely on it. When it's wrong, it just creates confusion and frustration, which is, you know, sort of contrary to the purpose of public relations pitches.

- Also in the Gables, Bijans Burger Joint says they're set to open next Monday as well, in the location on Galiano Street that last was the home to Karma (next to Graziano's Market). The menu is short and to the pont: burgers, in 1/2 lb. ($8) or full lb. ($14) versions; veggie or turkey burger options, as well as chicken or dolphin sandwiches, a foot long hot dog, a couple salads, a few "joint"-style snacks and sides (sliders, wings, potato skins, mini corn dogs; french fries, sweet potato fries, fried yuca, mac & chee, etc.). There's a brief list of custom toppings and cheeses for the burgers, but the most unusual options have a Colombian tilt: a "Pineapple Burger" topped with mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, pink sauce, green sauce, potato sticks and crushed pineapple, and a similarly adorned "Pineapple Specialty Hot Dog."

- Meanwhile, Talula on Miami Beach is going homestyle with "Buon Appetito Wednesday Pasta Night," offering garden salad with red wine vinaigrette, unlimited rigatoni and meatballs in "Andrea's Sunday Sauce" topped with ricotta cheese, and espresso panna cotta and chocolate chunk & cherry biscotti for dessert, all for $29. Between unlimited pasta at Talula and fried chicken night at Michy's, it may not be necessary to eat any other night of the week than Wednesday any more.

- Speaking of Chef Michy, Sra. Martinez, like many places, is having trouble saying goodbye to Miami Spice, and is doing a "Bueno, Bonito y Barato" ("Good, Pretty & Cheap") lunch special: Monday through Friday noon to 3pm, you can choose two small plates, one large plate and a dessert for $22.

Sometime soon we will get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brunch Invasion

I've never been a big brunch person, particularly those where the approach seems to value quantity over quality. $50-60 and up just strikes me as a goofy amount of money to spend on the first meal of the day and I don't like feeling obligated to gorge myself like a goose getting prepped for foie gras to get my money's worth. So it's nice to find there's some new brunch options that are a lot more my speed.

BLT SteakBLT Steak on Ocean Drive is unveiling a $24 prix fixe Sunday brunch featuring, among other things, a "SoBe Burrito," ham & cheese croque monsieur or Black Angus burger with fries, along with a complimentary bloody mary, mimosa or white peach bellini. But what really got my eyes to light up was the "BLT Popover Poached Eggs," with spinach, ham, bacon, bechamel and gruyere cheese over one of their awesome popovers.

Not quite new but another good option on South Beach is the Sunday brunch at Talula, which offers a spread of salads and sweets that covers the entire bar, several different breakfasty and more savory hot items, as well as a choice of egg dishes cooked to order (I like the egg and chorizo sandwich, and the benedict with a tomato hollandaise), for only $29. Somehow their covered outdoor patio always seems a couple degrees cooler than the rest of the Beach.

Further north, I've not tried it yet but have heard good things about the Sunday brunch at Neomi's in the Trump Miami in Sunny Isles, especially if Chef Mike is doing some of his New Orleans style cooking. It's a little pricier at $39 but that includes access to their pool and beach too.

MGF&DMeanwhile, in what may be the category-killer, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink now has a Sunday brunch menu, which they'll be starting up on October 25 according to a post on Chowhound (I've not yet confirmed that tidbit of info) which I've now confirmed. The MGF&D brunch menu is actually in large part a clever re-purposing of many of the regular lunch and dinner menu items. There are some new things, like a duck confit hash with a poached egg, or a wood oven roasted duck egg in spicy tomato sauce with chickpeas and queso fresco. But some make their way over pretty much unaltered, like the wood oven roasted double egg yolk, the burrata and tomato salad, the duck rilletes, and the rabbit pate, and all the "Snacks." Still others subscribe to the sound theory that everything is better with an egg on it, such as the roasted pork shoulder with cheese grits and a parsley sauce - with a poached egg.

Then there's a whole section of "Sweets" where Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith gets to show her stuff, with homemade pop-tarts, doughnuts, or "Hedy's assorted favorite childhood treats," along with more customary morning fare like lemon ricotta pancakes and almond French toast.

The real kicker? There's almost nothing on the menu over $10. Surely that won't last.

Edited to add: Here's the details on the MGF&D brunch. It's starting Sunday October 25, hours will be 11am - 3pm, and the menu, as linked to above, is on the website.

BLT Steak
The Betsy Hotel
1440 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139

210 23rd Street
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Trump International Beach Resort
18001 Collins Avenue, 2nd Floor
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
130 N.E. 40th Street
Miami, FL 33137

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mai Tardi Opening in Former Brosia Spot

Mai TardiThe good folks at Thrillist bring news that "Mai Tardi," a new restaurant from the Graspa Group (the folks who run Spris, Tiramesu, the Lincoln Road Segafredo, and Van Dyke Cafe), will be opening Wednesday in the Design District location formerly held down by Brosia.

Thrillist has a link to the menu, which appears to be more ambitious than any of their other ventures to date and mixes Italian and tropical motifs (Flor-Italian?) along with a fulsome list of pizzas from a new wood-burning oven.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Work of the Cursing Class - or something like that

A couple interesting events and promos to pass along:

"Blue Hour" and "Green Hour" at Au Pied de Cochon

Au Pied de CochonPerhaps to compensate for recent news that they will not be staying open 24 hours a day, Au Pied de Cochon on South Beach is now pitching its "Blue Hour" happy hour(s) from 4pm-7pm, featuring bar bites priced from $2.25 - $9.50, $5 cocktails, $6 wine by the glass, and $4 for that quintessentially French staple, Pabst Blue Ribbon; and if you're in the biz, the late night "Green Hour" from midnight to 2am Thursday-Saturday with $3 cocktails, PBR and Kronenbourg, and $5 wine for those in the service and hospitality industry.

"About Last Night" at Pacific Time
Pacific TimeFor those possibly seeking a more intimate type of companionship, Pacific Time in the Design District is kicking off "About Last Night," a mingle with singles type thing starting 8pm on Tuesday, September 29. There will be an open bar for the first hour, then reduced priced drinks the rest of the evening, plus offerings from their small plates menu.

Here's my earlier thoughts on Au Pied de Cochon and Pacific Time. And here's where to go if you're interested:

Au Pied de Cochon
81 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Pacific Time
35 N.E. 40th Street
Miami, FL 33137

Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 Guys, 8 Oz., 1 Spot

Life is not all Michelin three star dining experiences. Sometimes, all you want is a good cheap meal - a burger, a sandwich, something that satisfies your hunger without draining the wallet. Over the past few weeks I've been to a few such places and thought I'd try to add it all up.

Five Guys Famous Burgers & Fries

Somehow I missed out on all the brouhaha over Five Guys. Indeed I was actually more familiar with In-N-Out, a similarly regarded but exclusively West Coast chain, than I was with Five Guys, which originated in the Washington DC area. But good reports started coming to my attention here and there, so when an opportunity presented itself I popped in to the Midtown Miami Five Guys location and tried it. Like In-N-Out, the menu is minimalist in approach though with a slim few more options (but no "secret menu" to my knowledge) - burgers, with cheese and/or bacon (or without); hot dogs (ditto); and fries, "Five Guys style" or Cajun. Burgers are available with a fairly traditional lineup of condiments, along with a couple not-terribly eccentric outlyers like bbq sauce, jalapeños or green peppers. Free peanuts in the shell while you wait in line is a nice touch.

Maybe I'm a fussy little nancy-boy, but I am usually underwhelmed by any burger for which you cannot specifiy your preferred degree of doneness, since I'm not a fan of well-done. But Five Guys makes up for this in a couple of ways: first, they stack two thinner well-done burgers together, giving the illusion of a nice fat burger; and second, what the burger lacks in lightly cooked juiciness, it makes up for in well-cooked greasiness. Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily. I had a cheeseburger with their routine "with everything" toppings (ex- mustard), which brought a nice combination of ketchup, mayo, fresh crisp iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato that actually tasted like one, grilled onions and mushrooms. The onions and mushrooms were a nice (free) addition that also helped make the burger seem juicier. The patties were nicely scraggly and imperfect, reflecting a burger that has not been overhandled. The bun was toasted on the griddle next to the burgers, which were cooked and assembled to order. This was a darn good burger, especially for $5.

The fries, about $2, not so much. Though it's clear they're using fresh potatoes (indeed they've got the bags piled up right in front of the counter to show you) and provide an over-generous serving, "Five Guys style" apparently means undercooked and undersalted. And unfortunately there are no other options in the way of sides other than said fries. Maybe the Cajun spice works some wonders on these. But it'd be nice to have something to match the satisfaction level of the burger, which was quite high indeed for $5.

Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries
3401 N. Miami Avenue, Suite 214
Miami, FL 33127

Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries (Design District) on Urbanspoon

8 Oz. Burger Bar

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

In contrast to Five Guys, which takes the mass-production burger chain model and elevates it with some attention to quality, 8 Oz. Burger Bar comes from the opposite direction. 8 Oz. is the brainchild of Chef Govind Armstrong, until recently better known for Table 8, a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles, and its progeny in South Beach. Like many chefs looking for ways to ride out this economic cycle, in May of last year he closed Table 8 L.A. and reopened it as a burger joint, 8 Oz. Burger Bar. When Table 8 L.A. closed, it was reported that it would be reopening in another location in a few months; I don't think that ever happened, though Armstrong did recently open another Table 8 in New York. In February, Chef Armstrong opened an 8 Oz. in South Beach, on Alton Road. Now another one has gone into the Z Hotel where Table 8 South Beach (just closed this week) is located.

While 8 Oz. tries to come across as somewhat proletariat, this is a burger joint for fussy nancy-boys (like myself), with burgers made from a special in-house grind of sirloin, tri-tip, short rib and chuck which is "cured in a Himalayan salt locker." Or, if that's not fussy enough for you, there's also an Estancia grass-fed beef burger, or lamb or turkey burgers too. The menu has a list of about 5 or so pre-composed burger assemblages, or you can craft your own from a selection of cheeses, sauces and other toppings. And yes, you can specify your preferred degree of doneness.

I chose a "Melrose" burger, a daintier 6 oz. portion of their "house blend" topped with arugula, garlic roasted tomatoes and red onion marmalade, medium-rare, to which I couldn't resist adding some Humboldt Fog, one of my favorite cheeses. (Note, by the way, that the menu I was given was much more limited than the one that is available online. While it offered most of the cheeses, it probably had less than half of the other sauces and toppings listed on the online menu. I also couldn't find any of the snacks or other items listed online other than the sides. And prices "on the ground" are generally a tad higher as well).

This burger was so immaculately formed that it almost appeared to be one of those mysterious Boca Burgers with the grill-marks airbrushed on. I don't know if I have ever seen a patty so perfectly round. Unfortunately, my "medium-rare" request was apparently for naught, as I could barely discern any hint of pink. And the meat, as several people have previously noted, was undersalted and consequently somewhat short on flavor, even though the "house blend" tried valiantly to overcome the stingy seasoning. That Himalayan salt locker just isn't cutting it - need to add more salt.

The "Melrose" toppings were quite nice if just a tad on the sweet side. And while Humboldt Fog on a burger may sound like a great idea (at least it did to me), the actual execution is not quite as exciting. A little wedge barely covered 1/3 of the burger, and the cheese, soft and mushy but not quite melted, didn't hit the right notes texturally (though for this pairing I recognize that I only have myself to blame).

The onion rings had a slightly sweet, not quite crisp batter which I didn't love at first, but found I couldn't stop eating these anyway. The beer selection is a real high point. Not many options on tap (indeed just Shock Top wheat ale, courtesy of Anheuser-Busch), but a plethora of bottled micro-brews made up for it. My Rogue Dry-Hopped Red Ale was a nice medium-weight beer with some hoppy bitterness that would have happily cut through even a much greasier burger.

The place has a nice casual vibe, with sports on the TVs and loud rock-n-roll on the stereo. I'm not sure if the guy next to me at the bar singing along to "Sweet Child of Mine" was getting warmed up for it, but I swiftly and happily made my exit just as Monday Karoake Night was getting started. At $8.50 for the burger, an extra $2 for the Humboldt Fog, $4 for the rings and another $8.50 for the Rogue Ale ($23 total), this turned out to be not quite the cheap meal I expected. Maybe I should have donned a trucker cap and drank PBR instead. But even the abbreviated menu still offered more interesting and varied toppings than you'll find at most conventional burger joints. Now if they could just loosen the grip on the salt shaker and let that "house blend" really shine.

8 Oz. Burger Bar
1080 Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

8 OZ Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

The Spot

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

Possibly my favorite of the three places in this list is "The Spot," a newly opened sandwich place in a location along Alton Road which I think previously housed a Colombian place, Primarepa. This is another short and sweet menu with basically a choice of fried shrimp and fish and a few other items, available either on a platter with some sides or as a po'boy. I went with a fried jerk-spiced shrimp po'boy and was not at all disappointed. A slightly crusty long roll was opened up like a book and stuffed with several plump medium-sized shrimp, crispy outside but still distinctly recognizable as shrimp, not battered and coated into oblivion. This was not real Jamaican jerk spice by any means, just sort of mildly spicy, but still nicely flavorful. The shrimp were topped off with fresh shredded lettuce, decent tomato, and the clincher for me, a creamy spicy remoulade sauce, and a goodly dose of it too. The sandwich is generously stuffed and the server advised me of his preferred technique of using a fork to push back in the contents while gently squeezing the bread together a bit to get it ready for noshing. I can't help but say it - this po'boy just really hit the spot for me.

There was a short list of sides available, including a couple typical soul food items. I went with the Cajun fries, which were nice and crisp but the spice mix was overwhelmed by paprika. They actually reminded me in that respect of one of the trio of duck fat fries that come as a gratis appetizer at Bourbon Steak. Po'boy, fries and a bottle of water set me back somewhere around $11 total. One other thing The Spot has going for it is late hours - apparently open till 2am and possibly even later on weekends.

The Spot
1570B Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

The Spot on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brosia Closing in Design District

Just received word that Brosia, which opened a little more than a year ago in the Miami Design District, has closed. Supposedly the restaurant is being sold, though not clear exactly what the buyer has in store. Another one down.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Miami Pizza Crawl Part I

The first leg of the Miami Pizza Crawl kicked off last night, covering Wynwood / Design District candidates Joey's Wynwood, Pizzavolante, and Andiamo. We had a nice group of bloggers, chowhounds, and pizza fans on board for the crawl.

Four pizzas apiece at each place yielded the following menu:

Joey's Wynwood
Margherita - with mozzarella & tomato
"Joey" - with tuna, salami, gorgonzola, capers & spinach
"Carbonara" - with bacon, eggs, mozzarella & asparagus
"Dolce e Piccante" - with figs, gorgonzola, honey & hot pepper

Margherita "DOP" - with Italian tomato, oven dried Roma tomatoes, bufala mozzarella & basil
"Volante 100" - with local mozzarella, dandelion greens, tomatoes & arugula
"Bianca" - with fontina, 2 mozzarellas, goat cheese, arugula & thyme
"Cacciatorini" - with Italian tomato, local mozzarella, grana, California pepperoni & guanciale

"Soprano" - with broccoli rabe, Italian sausage, tomato sauce, parmesan & mozzarella
"Putanesca" - with olives, capers, anchovies, red pepper flakes, tomato sauce & mozzarella
"Genovese" - with rosemary potatoes, pancetta, caramelized onions, mozzarella & gorgonzola
"Popeye" - with spinach, roma tomatoes, tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella & basil

With 15 of us dining, we were able to get tastes of everything by splitting slices, and fortunately everyone shared nicely. Happily, bloggers less visually impaired than me, Paula at Mango & Lime and Trina at Miami Dish, got some great pictures and have already given their recaps. Probably the true highlight of the night was the chance to get together with several other kindred spirits who will happily spend several hours jumping from one pizza place to the next and debating which was best. Here are my thoughts:

Joey's -

First off, the space itself is really very nice. Right in the middle of a pocket of Wynwood's converted-warehouse art galleries, there's not much to look at outside, but inside the restaurant has a simple but sophsticated modern look with marble-topped tables and Globus chairs throughout. A solid selection of wines by the glass (including a fruity, slightly frizzante Lambrusco) was pleasing too, though I've been told by others who have gone there that they refuse to permit any corkage, which seems a foolhardy policy.

We started off the Crawl with the intention of trying a Margherita pizza at each place as a "baseline" reference standard, and then also explore some of each place's specialties. Yet we must not have had many pizza purists in the group, as the Margheritas at both Joey's and Pizzavolante seem to have not made many memorable impressions. I agreed that Joey's version was unexceptional. I did like the crust at Joey's, which was thin but firm - possibly my favorite of the night - and the tomato and cheese were in good balance, but their flavors didn't exactly jump out at you in any way.

It would seem you'd have to try the "Joey" at Joey's, yet I'll confess I didn't have complete confidence in the combination of tuna, spicy salame, gorgonzola, capers and spinach. I figured it had to either be outstanding or a complete disaster. It turned out to be much closer to the former than the latter. This was no doubt loaded with robust flavors, but the tuna and salami subconsciously played on my prediliction for the seafood/pork combo, and the other elements contributed their distinct flavors without overwhelming. I wouldn't exactly say they blended into a perfectly seamless whole, but this was actually much better than I anticipated and was one of my favorites of the night.

The "Carbonara" didn't quite work for me. It's hard to go wrong with bacon and eggs, but the bacon was indistinct, the asparagus was unnecessary and distracting, and it was missing the freshly ground black pepper that is the genesis of the name.

The "Dolce e Piccante" was another one that I was wary of, though it was highly recommended by our server. The combination of figs, gorgonzola and honey sounded cloying. Yet once again, this was much better than I expected. A dash of red pepper flakes provided some needed contrast, though I still thought there was too heavy a hand with the (good Italian) honey. This fell somewhere between dinner and dessert on the sweetness spectrum, and while I don't think I'd ever want to eat anywhere near a whole pie (half of a slice was more than enough), I enjoyed what I tried.

Pizzavolante -

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

Next stop was Pizzavolante, the new pizza joint from Pacific Time chef Jonathan Eismann, which just opened last week. As I noted in my earlier comments, Pizzavolante is a very simple primitive layout - mozzarella bar and counter to one side, a few tables on the other, some bright orange plastic chairs, and a few more barstools around the windows where there are some more countertops for eating. While Joey's is someplace you might take a date, Pizzavolante is someplace you come to grab a pizza. Personally, I'm OK with that. I was surprised that some people were put out by the appearance of the mozzarella bar, where the cheeses are kept in large stainless bowls of cold water (as you must do with fresh mozzarella to keep the cheese moist). Anyhoo ... there are only five pizzas on the menu, and two of them are margheritas (one with local cow's milk mozzarella, and another, the "DOP", with fancy Italian bufala mozzarella), so narrowing down the choice to four was pretty easy.

The "DOP" Margherita was very good, though I couldn't say that it was appreciably better than the "plain Jane" Margherita I had last week on our first visit. Again, the real standout in the dough/sauce/cheese trinity was the cheese, though I'm not sure once they've melted in the wood-burning oven that the difference between the cow's milk mozzarella and the bufala mozzarella is worth the $4 price difference.

The "Volante 100" (made with toppings grown or produced within a 100-mile radius) really caught the attention of my tastebuds with the dandelion greens, which were just barely wilted and still perky and vibrant, along with local-grown tomatoes (mostly smaller red and yellow teardrops, I think) and arugula, as well as some of Vito Volpe's mozzarella.

I also liked the "Cacciatorini," topped with a scatter of nicely spicy California pepperoni and guanciale (jowl bacon). Of all the meat-topped pizzas we had, this was my favorite. I missed out on getting a good taste of the "Bianca," but white pizzas usually don't excite me that much anyway (though even some folks who were not white pizza fans liked this version).

I liked the thin crispy crust of Pizzavolante's pizzas, but thought it was perhaps taken to too much of an extreme, as the uncovered edges of the crust were so crispy as to be almost cracker-like. I understand they are still working on their dough recipe and hope they can find the perfect middle ground. They could also use a bit more variety to their pizza selections. I understand they've just opened and also that they're taking a simple approach to the menu, but no doubt Jonathan Eismann can come up with some more varied and creative toppings than what is currently on offer.

Another nice thing about Pizzavolante is the very reasonably priced selection of wines. A few of us split an $18 bottle of Mattabella Famiglia red (produced by a friend of mine in Long Island) which went down very easily with the pizza, and there are a number of other wines all priced at $18.

Andiamo -

Andiamo was something of a letdown after Joey's and Pizzavolante. I still love the funky location in a working car wash, with the big screen hung up outside showing the Lakers/Nuggets game, but the pizzas disappointed.

The Soprano had a nice layer of fresh, pleasingly bitter broccoli rabe, but the sausage was just bland, grey slices of mystery meat. The tomato sauce (very chunky, with some big hunks of whole tomatoes left in) also tasted somewhat industrial. The Putanesca was a twist on one of my favorite combinations for a pasta dish, but this was overwhelmingly salty (and yes, I fully anticipate that a dish with anchovies, olives and capers will be salty). The Genovese promised an interesting combination with the potatoes and pancetta, but the one overwhelming flavor was of garlic, which obscured everything else. The Popeye had nice fresh spinach leaves, but my slice pretty much missed out on any ricotta. The crust on all of these was somewhat doughy and gummy, compared to the nice thin crusts we had at Joey's and Pizzavolante. I'm OK with a nice doughy crust like a foccacia, if that's what a place is shooting for, but this wasn't that either.

While the pizza at Andiamo was perfectly serviceable, it paled in comparison to either Joey's or Pizzavolante. A good selection of beers did help wash it all down.

Favorite so far? If I could get the crust from Joey's done in the woodburning oven at Pizzavolante, and topped with Pizzavolante's fresh dandelion greens and the pepperoni and guanciale and Vito's mozzarella (and maybe a few other more varied combinations), I'd be quite happy.

Joey's Wynwood
2506 NW 2nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33137

Joey's Wynwood on Urbanspoon

3918 N. Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33127

Pizzavolante on Urbanspoon

5600 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL 33137

Andiamo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink - Miami Design District

As much as it is a favorite of mine, I've found it somewhat difficult to write about Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. Maybe it's because I fear not being able to capture why I enjoy the place so much - it's pretty simple food, mostly - why do I find it so satisfying? Maybe it's because I can no longer count the times that I've been there since they opened two years ago. Do I try to describe the sum of dozens of visits over the past couple years, or simply describe one meal there as an example? I'll try to do both, and hopefully it'll all become clear.

I first experienced Chef Michael Schwartz's cooking more than a decade ago when he was the chef at the then newly-opened restaurant Nemo on South Beach. The food at Nemo was full of flavor but still executed with something of a light hand, and for years the place was one of my favorites. Schwartz left Nemo several years ago after a falling out with partner Myles Chefetz, and pursued a few other ventures. Some of these went by pretty quickly - a brief stint at Atlantic in the now-demolished Beach House Bal Harbour then owned by the Rubell family (both the restaurant and the hotel were hidden jewels for a brief period of time); a menu of "beauty cuisine" at the short-lived restaurant Afterglo in South Beach.

If there were a culinary award for "Comeback Player of the Year," Michael Schwartz would have won it in 2007. Following about a year behind Michelle Bernstein, who took a first bold step by opening up Michy's on a dodgy section of Biscayne Boulevard in 2006, Michael opened Michael's Genuine in late March 2007 in the Design District, another neglected neighborhood with no evening traffic whatsoever at the time (in any legitimate business activities, in any event). And people came.

My first visit there was about a week after they opened, and I was immediately hooked. Here was a restaurant that felt like a neighborhood place but was still classy enough to bring a date or a client; food that was creative without being goofy, made with high-quality ingredients and a focus on local products; the "small plates" menu options made it possible to try a number of different items; and the prices weren't crazy. You can follow something of a chronicle of my MGF&D experiences on this Chowhound thread. I said after my first visit:

My only hesitation in recommending it is the fear that it will become impossible to get in.

Oh well. Too late now.

The furnishings are low-key but classy, with simple wood tables covered with white paper and a polished concrete floor, the primary decoration being a few large artworks on the walls and some big red-shaded rectangular lamps hanging from the ceiling. It reminds me of the kind of places we've been to in the Pacific Northwest - comfortable, casual, but still nice enough for date night. There's outdoor seating in the atrium out front which is nice in the cooler months, and a second dining room adjacent to the main space has been added - though it has something of a Siberian feel to it, the food still tastes just as good there.

The menu is divided into "snacks," small, medium, large and extra-large dishes, as well as several vegetable side dishes. When they first opened, snacks were $4, and in two years that's only increased to $5-6. Prices across the menu have generally held steady, with most "small" and "medium" dishes being mostly in a $10-15 range and larger items (including the "extra-larges" which are meant to be shared) in the $20s-$40s.

The food at Michael's Genuine has a few defining characteristics: a focus on artisanal, high-quality ingredients; a dedication to local and sustainable products (including neglected species and cuts); and a purity and vividness of flavor. This is a place that features things like Poulet Rouge chicken (an heirloom breed descended from French stock now being raised in North Carolina and Georgia), Fudge Farms pork (more on this below); locally sourced fish that you'll almost never see on a restaurant menu[1] like pumpkin swordfish, cero mackerel, triggerfish, and golden tilefish; fresh local produce from Paradise Farms and Bee Heaven Farm; house-cured bacon and sausages; and "variety meats" like chicken livers, sweetbreads, beef cheeks, and pig ears all put to great use. Chef Schwartz styles himself as a disciple of Alice Waters (the chef, not the more annoying public persona of late)[2] and it really shows in the menu. He even has a "forager" regularly hitting the produce markets and farms to source great product for him.

But to focus exclusively on the ingredients and their provenance would pay short thrift to the creativity and quality of the cooking here, which puts out combinations like a beef cheek over a celeriac mash with a chocolate reduction and a garnish of celeriac salad (since replaced on the menu), or a crispy pork belly and watermelon salad with a soy-inflected dressing. Yes, much of the good stuff happens on the farm, but a good bit of it still happens in the kitchen too.

A Sample Meal

Let me start by describing the last meal we had at MGF&D a couple weeks ago. The "snacks" section of the menu is always a good place to begin, and this time around we had the crispy hominy, the puffed kernels fried and dusted with a sprinkle of chile powder and a squeeze of lime; the potato chips with caramelized onion dip, a favorite of Frod Jr. and Little Miss F (it also hits all the right nostalgic notes for the grown-ups); the falafel (another of Little Miss F's favorites, the balls of mashed chickpeas crispy outside and tender inside, and flecked with fresh parsley and mint); and a newer addition to the menu, crostini shmeared with a fresh goat cheese, an apricot thyme jam and a little sprinkle of micro-greens so fresh they seemed to still want to stand upright, a nice light warm-weather starter.

Michael sent out a new item he's been working on for us to try, a crispy corned beef dish. Keep your eyes out for this one. Many of MGF&D's dishes work with what I think of as "complementary contasts" - crispy and tender, salty and sour, the contrasts keeping the palate refreshed - and this was a great example. A slab of super-tender house-cured corned beef is given a bread crumb coating and seared for a crispy exterior, and is paired with a creamy remoulade/Russian dressing sauce, and some finely julienned sauerkraut-like pickled cabbage. Crispy, tender, creamy, salty, sour - like the best Reuben sandwich you've ever had. Mrs. F literally grabbed my arm after her first bite, she was so excited by this (but then she has a serious Reuben fixation - she basically subsisted on Reubens when pregnant with Frod Jr.).

We shared a couple more of the smaller dishes. The crispy pig ear salad is loaded with strips of shatteringly crispy strips of pig ear, tossed with tiny leaves of baby arugula, slivers of red onion, and thin disks of pickled radish (again with the pickled flavors - Chef Schwartz often makes great use of this flavor note). The strips of pig ear still visually reflect their origin (with a lighter strip of soft cartilage in the middle) but actually with the frying lose much of the ear-y texture some people find, well, eery.[3] Frod Jr. wouldn't stop picking these off my plate. A local grouper ceviche, with a dice of mango and avocado, was one of the few disapppointments - not bad, just lacking the punch that MGF&D usually delivers.

I followed with a Fudge Farms pork chop which nearly brought tears to my eyes. This is, simply, some of the best pork I have ever tasted - rich, sweet and densely flavored. A server once described this to me as the "prime beef of pork" and that's probably pretty close to the mark. And one of the things I so admire about Chef Schwartz's cooking is that he knows how to stay out of the way of a great ingredient. The pork chop is just brined and grilled, and served with simple pairings of an apple chutney and mashed turnips. And - as if to prove a point - this is not presented as a composed plate, but rather each of the accompaniments is in its own small bowl, so as not to mess with this great pork unless you choose to do so.

Mrs. F had the grilled octopus as a main. The octopus (a big fat whole tentacle served as a "medium" dish) is first slow-cooked in olive oil at a low temp, and then briefly finished on the grill for a little crisping of the exterior and light infusion of smoky flavor, and served over a bed of fat white gigande beans, roasted red peppers, olives and a salad of torn herbs and leaves, all given a good drizzle of olive oil. Frod Jr. tried a new item for him - the Harris Ranch shortrib, which is roasted, cooled, sliced off the bone into planks and then also finished on the grill, served with a hearty romesco sauce. Little Miss F had a pasta dish of home-made fettucine with shrimp, strips of zucchini, shards of fiore sardo cheese and a generous dusting of black pepper. On prior occasions I've found Chef Schwartz's pasta almost too silky and slippery, so much so that it doesn't effectively hold the condiment. This iteration was tender and soft but had enough traction to grip the buttery sauce.

The standout dessert of the night was a bowl of Meyer lemon curd topped with strips of candied peel, with a couple of dainty currant scones alongside as well as a couple Meyer lemon jellies. Like a mini English tea service for dessert, this perfectly captured the perfumey aroma of the Meyer lemons. Frod Jr. had his favorite, the chocolate cremoso. I'm still not sure exactly what "cremoso" translates too, but I know this dessert features a lusciously rich quenelle of dark chocolate, almost ganache-like in texture, with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt, a drizzle of peppery olive oil, a crispy sourdough crouton for scooping, and a cold espresso parfait for contrast. Though the combination of chocolate, salt and olive oil sounds exotic, it is actually a delicious spin on a traditional Catalan dish.

A Tour Through the Menu

I should note that some of the dishes I describe here may no longer be found on the menu. In fact, the menu changes quite regularly, and while there are some stalwarts, new dishes appear frequently, old ones come and go, some are just momentary inspirations based on what's fresh that week, and still others get tweaked here and there depending on what ingredients are at their best and what's interesting to the kitchen at that time. I have often said that I think this approach is one of the keys to a successful restaurant in Miami as, among other things, it gives the locals reason to come back repeatedly and provide a base business not subject to the fickle and seasonal whims of the tourist crowd. Indeed, I suspect the menu at Michael's Genuine probably changes more in any three-month span than the menu at Nemo has changed since Chef Schwartz left several years ago. Given the number of things I've tried, it should not surprise that I've not loved them all - but even when a dish goes off the mark, it rarely strays far.


One of the nice things about the "snacks" is that these almost always hit the table within 5 minutes of ordering. Several of the snacks are mentioned above - the crispy hominy, the falafel, the chips & dip, the goat cheese crostini - but my favorite item is the chicken liver crostini, a few slices of bread smeared with a rich chicken liver puree with just a hint of sweetness, mostly contributed by a scatter of caramelized onions. MGF&D's kimchee is an interesting take on the Korean staple, without any real whang of fermentation but with a fresh, crisp flavor and enough spice to perk up the taste buds. Deviled eggs are creamy, rich and, like the chips & dip, nostalgia-inducing, but not anything special unless you're really in the mood for deviled eggs (I often am).

Small & Medium Dishes

The designation of dishes as "small" or "medium" has often seemed somewhat arbitrary to me. Both are usually appetizer-size, though some of the "mediums" are more substantial and could serve as a small main course.

house salad - the components of this vary from week to week but almost always involve some nice cheese, some nice fruit, and toasted brioche croutons. One variation I recall had champagne grapes, shards of manchego cheese, and a veil of thinly sliced serrano ham. The current menu iteration includes pickled rhubarb, Georgia peaches and the wonderful Midnight Moon goat cheese. There's often another nice salad that features butter lettuce, oranges, hazelnuts, and avocado.

BLT salad - house cured bacon, cut thick, in a classic combination with curly frisee (with a bacon fat dressing, I believe), heirloom tomatoes, and Roaring '40s blue cheese.

panzanella - a simple salad of brightly flavored heirloom tomatoes (you will often see a huge stack of them along the bar in front of the open kitchen) and cubes of toasted bread tossed with a vinaigrette.

pork belly and watermelon salad - cubes of crispy pork belly and cool juicy watermelon, tossed with some slivered onion in a soy-inflected dressing. A happy combination of crispy, salty and sweet.

sweetbread salad - this one didn't stick around long but was nice, a salad of well-salted frisee, tossed with a tangy vinaigrette and some julienned preserved lemon, bits of bacon, and several nubs of fried sweetbreads, crispy on the outside and tender within. My kind of salad.

mussels - steamed with a spicy tomato harissa broth and served over sticky black rice. This boldly flavored dish was a carry-over from the Nemo menu, and is still good. It used to be a regular rotation item but I haven't seen it for a little while.

tuna tartare - Chef Schwartz has previously expressed his chagrin at the difficulty of taking this item off the menu even though he's not able to consistently locally source the tuna to be used for it. Tuna tartare is a ubiquitous dish these days but his is a nice version, paired with grapefruit and chile oil. Interesting that in the latest menu iteration, the original tuna tartare is gone, replaced with a yellowfin tuna crudo with preserved Meyer lemon and fresh hearts of palm.

tuna conserva - yellowfin tuna (brownie points for sustainability), presumably cooked low and slow in olive oil and then served cold in a 1/2 pint mason jar, along with toasts and accompaniments for some "DIY tuna salad" - aioli, capers, thinly sliced radish, finely diced preserved lemon. Like a good quality Spanish canned tuna, this is another item - like the roast chicken discussed below - where I suspect some inspiration has come from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, which has for some time done a similar dish. (I should mention here that the Zuni Cafe Cookbook is one of my all-time favorites not just for the recipes but also for Judy Rodgers' wonderfully vivid, passionate and useful descriptions of cooking processes and concepts).

"buffalo" frog legs - little tiny frog legs, fried in a light-as-air tempura batter, and served with dipping bowls of a seriously fiery hot sauce and a cooling blue cheese sauce.

crispy grouper cheek - a tender nugget of meat from the "cheek" of the fish, given a crispy coating and served over lemon-infused fregola.

cero mackerel - a local fish which is not usually commercially fished, house-cured, and served with almonds and raisins and a fennel salad. I"m a fan of all the silver-skinned fish and enjoy seeing them put to good use. A more recent menu features a Spanish mackerel done two ways - one cured, the other grilled - and I'm looking forward to trying it.

yellowjack - only saw this dish once, a small filet quickly seared, topped with sea urchin roe, fresh lychee and served in a pool of dashi broth. This is about as "precious" as Chef Schwartz ever gets. While his food is usually more robust and straightforward, he is capable of successfully going elegant and delicate like this when the mood strikes him.

double-yolk egg - cooked in the wood-burning oven in a little ramekin with some melting cheese and roasted tomatoes. Outstanding when cooked right, but sometimes the wood-burning oven can be temperamental and this comes out under- or over-done.

rabbit pâté - a nice slab of house-made pâté, tasting more meaty than liver-y, and studded with pistachios. Usually served with some seasonal jam - may be a tomato jam, may be rhubarb, may be a pomelo mostarda. I actually prefer the rabbit pâté to the duck and foie gras terrine, which I found a little too tight-textured when I tried it once (but I'm always willing to try again).

chicken wings - not a fancy dish at all, the wings are doused with a Thai-style sweet chile sauce and served with a cool raita-like creamy cucumber sauce. More like bar food or "staff meal" than high dining, but for $8 that's nothing to complain about.

duck confit - MGF&D does a good confit, and the pairings change often. For a while this was done with a cauliflower mash and a pear & raisin chutney; more recently it gets a minneola glaze and is served with some frisee tossed with some spiced pumpkin seeds.

lamb-stuffed onion - a big fat Vidalia-style onion is stuffed with Moroccan-spiced ground lamb and roasted in the wood-burning oven and served over a bed of peppery arugula. A server suggested I peel off the charred outer layer of onion and cut up the rest and toss with the arugula like a salad, which worked out well, though this item is not one of my favorites.

porchetta di testa- a head cheese made with pork's head boned out, rolled and tied, and braised for a long time, then cooled, sliced thin, and served with some greens, thinly sliced radishes and capers. This was basically the recipe done by Chris Cosentino of Incanto in this video. The porchetta was more a textural experience than anything else, with each bite giving a little of the meat, the fat, the slightly crunchy ear. Chef Schwartz is an avid proponent of the nose-to-tail school of dining, and I recall one visit when he gleefully shared with us that they had a whole hog in the walk-in and were busily plotting everything the kitchen could make with it.

pork belly - one of the classic MGF&D dishes, a slab of pork belly is cooked slow till tender and then crisped on the outside, topped with some fresh kimchee, toasted peanuts and Paradise Farms pea shoots. A beautiful combination and possibly the greatest pork belly dish I've had. Also a Frod Jr. favorite.

crispy beef cheek - this was one of my favorites when they first opened up, a slab of tender cheek given a crispy coating, served over a bed of celery root puree, sauced with a chocolate reduction (not nearly as odd as it sounds), and plated with a mound of celery root salad for a nice tart contrast to the rich flavors of the beef, puree and sauce. This is another item that's gotten a recent update, with Chef Schwartz turning up the tart flavors even more by pairing with a mustard sauce and pickled onions and artichokes.

crispy pork cheek - another example of the crispy/tender salty/sweet thing, a pork cheek is braised down and then given a light breadcrumb coating to crisp the outside, served with a tangy BBQ sauce and a celeriac slaw. I've also seen a similar prep done with a pork short rib.

Fudge Farms pork shoulder - a different dish from the standard "large" Berkshire pork shoulder done with the parsley sauce and pickled onions described below, this one was slow-roasted till just about ready to fall apart, and served on top of a crouton to soak up the juices and topped with a fennel slaw. Melt-in-your-mouth tender, this was the dish that started my love affair with Fudge Farms pork.

Large and Extra-Large Dishes

At most restaurants that offer "small plates" I tend to gravitate towards those instead of the entree-sized dishes, both because they provide an opportunity to try more things and also because they tend to be more interesting. But there are several dishes at Michael's Genuine that belie this generalization.

kingfish - another of the mackerel family, this was cooked in the wood oven in a terra cotta cazuela along with some shrimp, mussels, calamari and chickpeas, bathed in a harissa-spiked tomato broth, and drizzled with aioli. A nice version of an under-utilized and sometimes difficult fish.

pumpkin swordfish - a local swordfish, grilled, and served over a vegetable ragout studded with tender cippoline onions, fennel, and artichokes, and drizzled with a vibrant saffron aioli. I've seen him do similar preparations with other fish include tilefish and golden trout.

Alaskan salmon - not local, but still a wonderful item when they're in season, I recall shortly after MGF&D opened having an Alaskan sockeye salmon steak (cut crosswise with the central bone intact rather than as a filet), a beautiful dark red, served over a flavorful potato, mushroom and fennel hash.

pork shoulder - a Berkshire pork shoulder is roasted till fall-apart tender, topped with some red pickled onions (making it reminiscent of a cochinita pibil), and the plate drizzled with a bright green, vividly flavored parsley sauce. The Anson Mills cheese grits which come with are just as good as the pork.

skirt steak - this one is a Frod Jr. favorite, a Harris Ranch steak is grilled and served over a potato, asparagus and fennel hash, accompanied with a brightly flavored herb salad and a black olive aioli.

pizza - cooked in the wood oven with toppings that change from week to week. An early iteration of the pizza featured shredded pork, sliced figs, caramelized onions and a sprinkle of cheese. More recently I had one with wilted stinging nettles. Savvy diners may notice that the pizza often is a vehicle for using up some other menu items (roasted pork, short rib), which I see as the mark of an efficient kitchen looking to avoid food waste.

whole "poulet rouge" chicken - I've only had the whole wood oven roasted chicken once and it was one of my favorite dining experiences ever. We sat at the kitchen bar, nursed a bottle of Oregon pinot noir, nibbled on some snacks, and waited (roughly an hour) while Michael tended to the bird in the wood-burning oven. When it came out, it was perfectly cooked and moist, dripping in its own juices, but with wonderfully crispy skin and a bit of smokiness from the oven. The bird is served with some plumped raisins, toasted pine nuts and a toss of arugula, and - if you wish - brought out whole to the plate. They'll happily portion it out for you, but then you'll miss the chance to pick at the carcass. Michael's recipe is basically a dead ringer for the famous roast chicken at Zuni Cafe. I happened to have a chance to try Michael's chicken and the Zuni chicken within a month of each other. My favorite? Michael's.


The more I try them, the more the vegetable sides become one of my favorite sections of the menu at Michael's Genuine.

brussels sprouts - so many people say they don't like brussels sprouts. I think they're just prepared wrong too often. Boiling or steaming just brings out the sulphurous odors - dry heat is the way to go, and Michael's, roasted in the wood-burning oven with cubes of juicy, salty pancetta, are delicious.

local green onions - I first saw these long fat spring onions at the local farmers' market last spring and within a week they were on the menu at MGF&D. Looking like fat scallions that are just starting to form a bulb onion at the base, these were wilted on the grill and served with an herb-infused provencal vinaigrette.

ramps - also quickly wilted, and served with a Vidalia onion coulis to give layers of onion flavor.

cauliflower - roasted in the wood oven and doused with a bright green parsley sauce. Simple and delicious, this is one of our favorites and I love to have leftovers for an omelette the next morning.

wood roasted carrots - big fat knobby carrots which I think came from Bee Heaven Farm, simply roasted in the wood oven to bring out their sweet earthy flavor.


Shortly after he opened Michael's Genuine, Michael Schwartz succeeded in luring his fabulous pastry chef from the Nemo days, Hedy Goldsmith, back into the fold. Her desserts match Chef Schwartz's cooking - unfussy, homey, and delicious. The classic dessert at MGF&D is the chocolate cremoso, but we've also really enjoyed the lemon curd, also mentioned above, a peanut butter and banana panini that would have made Elvis happy, a saffron panna cotta, and a great selection of homemade ice creams. One evening we got a sampler and tried a salted caramel (fantastic - Mrs. F wanted a pint to take home), Mexican chocolate (loaded with cinnamon and chile spice), and kumquat creamsicle (a classic old school combination, made new with the tart pucker of the kumquats).

There's always a "cheese of the week" and they're often worth trying as well, which is what I'll sometimes do in lieu of dessert. Probably my favorite discovery was La Tur, a luscious Italian triple-cream cheese, which was plated very simply with a square of oozy honeycomb from local Paradise Farms.

Service at Michael's Genuine can be either outstanding or adventurous. There is a core group of veteran waitstaff who are consummate pros and an absolute pleasure to dine with, but there's simply not enough of them to handle the entire restaurant. For the remainder, there's unfortunately a lot of turnover, and while a few of them have stuck around and succeeded, there are usually always at least a few fresh faces. It's almost never a matter of bad attitude, just sometimes a lack of experience.

The wine list has always done a pretty good job of providing decent value, and of late has made some notable improvements. I've always felt that the list slanted too heavily toward California cabs and Bordeaux blends, which I don't see as the ideal match for MGF&D's food. The selection of pinot noirs in particular has been bolstered lately, but I'd still love to see more options from the Rhone and Spain, which I think would be a better complement to Michael's menu. There's also a somewhat unheralded (at least by me) list of more than 20 mostly craft beers, including a creamy, malty Old Speckled Hen pale ale we had one evening in lieu of wine.

Michael's Genuine has certainly not lacked for champions since it opened, with the New York Times' Frank Bruni naming it fourth last year in the solipsistic list of Top 10 New Restaurants Outside of New York and Gourmet magazine listing it in its Top Farm to Table Restaurants. Now a little more than two years old, it's refreshing and gratifying to see the restaurant is still regularly finding new and interesting things to put on the menu, still dedicated to local, sustainable and artisanal foods, and still absolutely at the top of its game.

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
130 N.E. 40th Street
Miami, FL 33137

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink on Urbanspoon

[1] Other than Hiro's Yakko-San, that is.

[2] I happened to be in the restaurant last year on the weekend of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival when Alice Waters was paying a visit to the restaurant along with Jamie Oliver. I have never seen Chef Schwartz so nervous and giddy.

[3]Personally I still fondly recall a stew of ears and trotters I had at El Meson de Candido in Segovia, but such things are not for everyone.