If there’s any proof needed that living in Miami is great for Gourmands, recent times probably contained it.
Starting on Thursday June 14th with a Cobaya Diner and ending (coincidently) on Sunday June 24th with a Cobaya “Dunch”, we had the pleasure over that period of enjoying guinea-pig experimental meals, pop-ups, a special visit due to the “change of guard” at one of the country’s best chef’s restaurant in Miami, midnight tables, high-end SoBe openings, and more.
A rare congregation of special events in such a small time frame no doubt. Special thanks to @TheChowfather for alerting me on a couple of these, specially the Louis Latour dinner at db Bistro Moderne with Daniel Boulud, of which I was surprisingly not aware. Even though I was not able to attend all the events, I will still mention them and simply base my comments on what I read from people that did attend.
It all started on Thursday 06/14 with the Cobaya experiment number 25 “Cobaya Edge” hosted by Chef Aaron Brooks of Edge Steak at the Four Seasons in Brickel. Ever since I learned of the existence of this group I had wanted to assist to one their experimental meals, but I hadn’t been in town for the previous ones. The goat’s head incident on experiment 23 made me slightly cautious (I’m not Andrew Zimmern), but I was finally able to secure a spot for this one, and boy was it a great way to pop the cherry.
A few words on this initiative: what a great one it is. Bringing people together that share a passion for food beyond your regular restaurant goer, giving chefs the opportunity to showcase their skills outside of their comfort zone, they really are priceless. Every chef in town should be doing as Carmellini did, and volunteer to do one, if you haven’t already.
The meal that evening was amazing. Fried Clams, George’s Bank Scallops, and incredible Chilled Mussel Salad with Lotus Root, Peanuts and bits of cured Pig’s Face, my favorite (picture below) which was a soup with squid noodles, fragrant herbs and spicy thai sausage, short rib cooked in coconut and a mind blowing grilled duck with foie gras curry, leeches and radishes. Dessert was a nice orange almond cake.
Chef Brooks came out to personally introduce every dish and every pairing, which is for a Gourmand the closest thing to going to a rock concert really, only much more personal. Great guy and I wish him best of luck at Edge, although I don’t think he will need it since it is rapidly becoming “the” Miami steakhouse and more!
The following night we went for a quick dinner at Maido, probably the only good restaurant in our neighborhood and certainly one of the best Japanese in Miami. Laid back, unpretentious, always fresh, amazing service, no gimmicks, japanese food. Why people do not travel West to go to this place is beyond me, I know I would. Their “batera” which is a cured and pressed mackerel sushi is a must order, and so is their tiny fried silver fish. I always try and order something I have never had from the menu, and on this night I was glad to find the O Toro tuna sushi I had had weeks before at Makoto. It was just as good! I thought this was some special tuna only Makoto had, so it was an ever better discovery. It is Tuna that melts in your mouth (picture below)
Now, the reason this post is called an “almost” perfect week and not perfect is due to the experience on Saturday. We booked weeks in advance, and had high expectations of the brand new Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel on South Beach. How lucky are we? Is all we thought on our way there, having such an acclaimed chef come to town. The restaurant is in the middle of the lobby, and a corridor connecting to the pool area crosses it. This is unfortunate specially for the guests that get the tables bordering this corridor, like we did, since you have more South Beach party goers passing by you than waiters, and at times the volume of people made it difficult to focus on the meal. Second, it was unfortunate not to see Chef Andrés there that night. Yes, we get it, he is a world-class chef with multiple restaurants and responsibilities, but this was opening week! And if the food would have blown us away, it probably wouldn’t have mattered, but unfortunately it was sub-par. There are 72 dishes on the menu, an amazing selection to choose from. So perhaps we were unlucky, but of the 10 dishes we ordered, one was great, one was very good, and 8 were terrible. The stand-out were the cod empanadas “pictured below”, which were sweet and had a silky smooth cod brandade inside.
The onion soup was good and interesting, but not certainly something to replace the classic french version (Chef Andrés’s version is a tiny bit of reduced stock with a foie gras foam on top. The ceviche was under seasoned and lacked flavor, as was the coconut rice, the slider’s beef was tough, under seasoned and not well ground and the lowlight of the night, the pork belly boa buns had a tiny thin piece of pork belly that was dry and salty. The desserts you could have gotten at any tourist trap down the road.
The next day I visited my two favorite local chefs back to back, Daniel Serfer at Blue Collar and Joshua Marcus at Josh’s Deli. I had an amazing dry aged steak at Blue Collar and Josh was kind enough to treat me to yet another jewish dish, the “matzo brei”. Love those guys.
Then on Wednesday, the highlight of the 10 days for me: the dinner at db Bistro Moderne with Chef Daniel Boulud featuring the Burgundy wines of Louis Latour and celebrating the welcome of new executive chef, Matthieu Godard. Not only did we get the chance to meet Chef Boulud in person, the meal was outstanding in every way, and we had the pleasure of being seated with an amazing group of people.
The menu included an Alaskan King Crab “salad” as starter, wrapped in avocado and accompanied with Melon, baby fennel and Lime Gelée. Next we had a delicious red mullet, with a stuffed zucchini flower, sauce vierge and tapenade. Chef Boulud came out to the dining room to present each of the dishes, an added treat. The main course was a tasting of Peking Duck that included a juicy sweet roasted breast, braised leg, with some swiss chard and bing cherry duck jus. The Peach “Vacherin” we had for dessert finished us off in style. What a meal, what a night!
Then on Thursday we visited our friend Giorgio Rapicavoli at his Coral Gables pop-up, Eating House. We had been there a few times before, but were keen on going back not just because of the amazing food, but because he is not going to be there much longer, and time is running out!. The tomato salad with frozen coconut milk, lime, garden flowers and roasted peanuts is amazingly delicious. We also had the brussel sprouts, the corn, and of course, the famous carbonara. I could not pass the short ribs (pictured below) and can say it is one of the best versions I have ever had. I hope Giorgio stays in town after Eating House.
The week ended with another midnight table installment at Yardbird with none other than Paula Da Silva from 1500 Degrees, one of my favorite restaurants in town. Unfortunately we could not get reservations for this one, but the pictures looked amazing and this is a great initiative by Yardbird and a great opportunity to, once again, get to know chefs up close and personal.
The final event was Cobaya 26, for which I unfortunately was out of town, and also had to conform myself with other’s pics. Even worse, it was at Nemesis Bistro, a place I can’t believe I haven’t been to yet and first on my current To Do list. This would have been a great time to experiment the food of Chef Micah Edelstein, another reason Miami should be happy.
We probably won’t get many weeks like these, but hopefully we will!