I just wrapped up three days of great eating in Miami. I have to admit to a bit of whining and anxiety about the food scene in Miami (all, admittedly, prejudice) – but, I have to say that I was pretty impressed by what I experienced.
Here is what I managed to squeeze into my vacation: 2 Lunches: Joe’s Stone Crab and Versailles; and 3 Dinners: Michy’s, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, and Sardinia Ristorante/Enoteca.
The dinners went a little something like this: Good (Michy’s), better (Michael’s…), best (Sardinia…). I’ll be uploading reviews of each meal and links to photos in their respective postings. I’ll start with Michy’s.
After more than a year of hearing about Michelle Bernstein’s splash, Michy’s, onto the national restaurant scene, I finally made it. Some of you may know Bernstein from one of her many restaurants, others from her appearances on the Food Network (most notably, Iron Chef America, where she defeated Iron Chef Bobby Flay), and probably even more, from her guest spots on this latest third season of Top Chef, where she served as “sous chef” to Top Chef finalist Casey Thompson, exectuive chef at Shin Sei Restaurant in Dallas, Texas. (You can read a recent Fodor’s interview with Chef Bernstein here.)
I won’t go into the details of the restaurant – the decor, location, etc. These ancillary bits can be gleaned from the restaurant’s website (you’ll have to do some navigating to get to Michy’s page). The only thing I will say is that the wall paper trimming and pattern (dark blue with white and orange floral print) looked nearly identical to the decor of my dining room growing up in the 80’s. With that, I’ll get down to the food.
In a nutshell – the food was good, (a tad overly) pricey, and satisfying. It’s exactly what I expected it to be – down home comfort foods with a slight upmarket twist. Most dishes came in both half and full orders, which made family-style eating not only easy, but blissful. We sampled widely and deeply. Our table managed to order (and eat):
Oysters (Fancy Gourmets)
Watercress Salad (full order)
Roasted Beet Salad (full order)
Bibb Lettuce Salad (full order)
Blue Cheese & Jamon Croquetas (half order)
Fennel & Orange Crusted Sweetbreads (half order)
Truffled Polenta (half order)
Florida Pompano (half order)
Shortribs Falling Off the Bone (full order)
Michy’s Bread Pudding
Quatro Leches Baked Alaska
I won’t attempt to bore you with a play-by-play of each dish. If you want to read about any particular dish (and see the photos), you may do so by clicking here.
This one meal yielded the following observations about Michy’s:
1. Everything – from the fish, to the meat, to the salads were executed (i.e. cooked) properly.
2. The flavors were all spot on. Save the watercress salad, which was a tad over-seasoned (i.e. salty), everything had a nice balanced, but wild and gutsy, flavor. My group happened to all prefer bold-flavored foods (as a side note, we also stand up to and welcome spice heat readily). Everything impressed.
3. Presentations ranged from whimsical (like the Bibb Lettuce Salad, which looked like a squat garden-borne Christmas tree decked with cherry tomato and radish ornaments and grated Jack cheese tinsel) to what a good chef friend of mine calls “poop n’ scoop” (like the Sweetbreads, Truffled Polenta, and Short Ribs). What he (and I) mean by this is that it’s sloppy, usually scoopable, and not particularly attractive – but usually (though not always in a place like Kansas City) very tasty. Some, like the Florida Pompano and the Roasted Beet Salads were a bit clumsy in presentation. The roasted beets looked like a pile of “something” which was remotely made edible-looking by the cannister whip cream-like rossette of “horseradish crema” on top.
4. Judging by our meal, Bernstein does comfort food best. Our most enjoyable courses fell into the “poop n’ scoop” category. The short ribs, which, indeed, had fallen off the bone (they were served without the bones on a bed very creamy mashed potatoes) were meltingly soft and and incredibly moist. The twist to this rather down-home dish was in the accompanying Moroccan-spiced carrots and sauce, which hit a most enjoyable musky note – turning the rather familiar stew-like meat into something otherworldly. The Truffled Polenta, as mentioned my many others as a favorite, truly was wonderful. It’s the kind of food that makes you want to crawl into the bowl and take a nice long nap in in the stuff. The polenta was soft and pillowy, the fricasse of mushrooms added a nice meaty beefiness (both flavor and texture), and the egg provided the right amount of velvety richness. I’m a sucker for white truffle oil – and a good dose of that didn’t hurt the dish either.
5. Across the table, the most disappointing dish of the night was the controversial “Blue Cheese & Jamon Croquetas.” I won’t belabour you with the details of my discontent – you can read them here. Suffice it to say here, they were bland and the centers were unexpectedly runny which made eating them problematic. The accompanying fig marmalade, however, was a treasure. The other slight disappointer was the veal sweetbreads, which I found skimpy. The half portion, with only two nuggets of sweetbreads, really ended up being more about the duck sausage and vegetable cassoulet than the sweetbreads. The crust, which tasted very little, if anything, of orange, on the sweetbreads was so thick that I’m not sure I could have guessed what was in them if I hadn’t known.
6. The one dish that truly surprised me was the Florida Pompano. While I think $20 was just a tad on the expensive side for the portion we got (three tiny fillet sections on a bed of lentils), I must say that the execution was perfect. The fish was piping hot and flaky and moist on the inside. The curried lentils, however, was what made the dish sing. Perfectly-cooked lentils are a hard commodity in restaurants today. These were *perfect.* I loved Michy’s curry blend (I wish I knew what kind she uses – or the recipe) – together with the fish and warm tomato vinaigrette, it made a most holy trinity.
7. The Finocchiana Salami was a novelty. It was a treat. I want to know their pickling method for the accompanying vegetables (I’m assuming they do them in-house); they had a nice spicy kick to them. I wish I could have had time to come back (or a third stomach) to try their other salami. I was tempted by their cheese plate, but after hearing their rather pedestrian selection of the day, I passed.
8. I’m not generally a dessert person. All I’ll say here is that Michy’s desserts are very sweet (in the flavor sense of the word). The bread pudding was more like a bread stew (swamp?) instead of pudding.
9. Service was pretty outstanding. In fact, of the five meals I had in Miami that I’m reporting on, this was tied at the top with the service we received at Joe’s Stone Crab. The only flaw I can mention is that there were a few moments when it seemed helpless trying to wave someone down. Part of the confusion was that we were served, pretty evenly, by two different people – we didn’t know which, or whom, we should request. But, I’d have to say, the staff was refreshingly casual – charming at times – yet professional. The sommelier had excellent suggestions and was most accommodating.
10. Value: I hate dickering about price. However, on a very minor note, in my opinion, the food, though good, tended to be just a bit over-priced. I respect that Chef Bernstein uses high quality ingredients and has impeccable execution, but considering the whole, I think a few dishes were just a tad high. The croquetas ($8 for 3), and the short ribs ($28 for full) come to my mind. The half portion sweetbreads would have felt more appropriate a couple dollars less – for two pieces of sweetbreads. As stated, I felt like I was paying more for the (very good) duck sausage in the vegetable cassoulet.
11. The restaurant is a quarter of the size I had imagined it to be.
Overall, we had a solid meal. I’m not sure that Michy’s could have done anything to make our experience any better. It was what it was. And, for that, I liked it.
Again, all of these dishes can be seen and read about in more detail on by clicking here.