Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
I was pleased to spy Chef Michael Schwartz as my table was seated to dinner recently at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, the trendy new eat place in Miami’s heretofore rather quiet, but apparently up-and-coming, Design District.
Michael Schwartz recently garnered a bit of press as a guest judge on this most recent (3rd) season of Bravo’s hit phenom reality show, Top Chef.
Although our party was awfully tempted to sit en dehors in the balmy night breeze, a couple in our party preferred the air conditioned environs and thus we ducked inside the small, boisterously upbeat, and (the photographer in me will note) dark dining room.
Still, I managed to get photos of all of our food for you, which you can see, and read about, here on my flickr account here.
As with my report on Michy’s, I’ll dispense with the “411” and get down to the food and overall experience, which I’ll try to do in broad strokes, more or less, ’cause I know the blow-by-blow can get pretty boring:
Here’s what we ordered and ate (oy, did we really eat all this?):
Heirloom Tomato & Baby Beet Salad
Crispy Sweet & Sour Glazed Pork Belly
Grilled Pumpkin Swordfish
Wood-Roasted Harissa-Spiced Black Grouper
Wood-Roasted Cauliflower with Parsley Sauce
Wood-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Lemon Aioli
Angel Food Cake with Cayenne-Spiced Strawberries
1. I love the wine list. They have a truly interesting selection by the glass (I didn’t bother looking at the bottles, as the by-the-glass list was pretty upstanding).
2. Overall, the food was excellent. My two favorite courses were the Sweet & Sour-Glazed Pork Belly and the Grilled Pumpkin Swordfish. The Pork Belly dish, which has been much talked about, really was very nice. Honestly, I think I enjoyed the pork belly meat (and fat) itself than the accompanying syrupy sweet & sour “kimchi.” The sauce was a tad too sweet for me (n.b. I have a sub-standard tolerance for sweetness).
However, the pork was truly well executed and the meat itself, without the help of any sauces, was quite flavorful. It was probably the best dish we had. The grilled pumpkin swordfish dish was also another favorite. The fish itself was rather boring and much too meaty. I hesitated on ordering the swordfish because I generally prefer flaky/softer fishes to the steakier ones (i.e. swordfish, sturgeon (sometimes it can be wonderfully silky if done correctly), tuna steak, mahi mahi, shark, etc…). But, the accompaniments sold me, and in when realized in my mouth, won me over pretty handily. The ragout of artichoke hearts, fennel, and cipoline onions garnished with crispy onions in a seductively fragrant warm white wine (perhaps a touch of vermouth?) broth was exquisitely balanced, well-executed (the vegetables were *perfectly* cooked) and comforting.
3. The one (needlessly) disappointing dish was the House Salad – a mix of chopped lettuces with champagne grapes, Manchego cheese, and blanketed with a generous slices of Serrano ham. It was way over-salted. I was particularly looking forward to tasting the riesling vinaigrette, which turned out to be, in practice, a salt vinaigrette. I could hardly taste the sweet bead-sized champagne grapes – everything else disappeared into a otherwise indistinguishable textural study of SALT. With the Serrano ham and Manchego cheese, really not much additional seasoning was needed. Pity – it would have been a stellar salad if it had been properly seasoned.
4. What Michael’s has mastered, more than Michy’s, and perhaps not as well as Sardinia, is the art of the wood oven. Two of the most enjoyable courses came from the wood-oven: the brussels sprouts, which were nicely charged with fat cubes of pancetta and side of bracingly tart (a good thing) lemon aioli, and the roasted cauliflower coated with a nice parsley sauce.
5. Desserts, which are usually met (by me) with passing interest, were pretty good. What I enjoyed about the two we tried – the “Chocolate Cremoso” and the “Angel Food Cake,” was that neither was very sweet. The Angel Food Cake, which came sided with a spicy cayenne-spiked mix of macerated strawberries and what appeared (and tasted like) a cayenne-infused syrup, was simple, yet made the earth move slightly beneath me. There were a few moments where I had sworn I had discovered the 8th Wonder (of what, I know not, but the 8th Wonder, no less). It was a fantastic combination which tickled my palate. The cayenne syrup was intoxicating… each bite of the cake took a progressively longer dunk.
I admit I winced at the appearance of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream on the dessert menu. Everything else here was so good – especially the desserts… why would they bother with anything other than home-made ice creams? I wondered whether they they normally make their own ice creams – perhaps their ice cream maker was broken?
6. Service for our table, sadly, was pretty shoddy. While the back wait staff was very diligent and efficient, at times they were really too eager to clear plates. For example, bread, disappeared after the salad course, never to reappear!! Our server was really just absent way too much. After desserts were dropped, I think he must have dropped (somewhere in the back kitchen) as well – we had to finally grab (yes, almost literally, as all the other servers seemed to be blind to our frantic waving) what appeared to be the manager to get our check. We outlasted a good two table turns – and not because we were eating slowly or purposely dallying. This was a pity as I probably would have been doing cartwheels out of the restaurant had our service matched the quality of our food – it really put a noticeable damper on the evening for our party. This all being said, I was impressed, throughout service, by the graceful and efficient movement of the staff – it was like watching a (very loud), but carefully choreographed ballet (or, rather, tango).
7. On an aesthetic note (since I am a photographer and a self-consciously artistically-inclined fellow), I love the (for lack of better description), red box lanterns, which swayed to and fro freely with the draft above… I also very much enjoyed the open kitchen and the kitchen counter, which was lined with dozens of gorgeous, plump, over-turned heirloom tomatoes. If I were a lone diner, or even on a casual date, you’d probably find me at one of those counter seats.
Again, you can see all of my photos and read detailed descriptions of each dish on my flickr account here.