Can you take something great and make it Greater? Daniel Serfer can. The man behind Blue Collar, one of my favorite places to eat in town always manages to impress with either something new on his menu, a new twist on an old favorite, or a combination of both. This week I went there for brunch, and upon ordering what is my favorite burger in town, I was impressed by the greater outside crisp and inside softness of the french fries. These were already great, probably best in town, but this was another level. Danny explained it was consequence of hand cutting them, something costly but probably worth it. Hopefully this will become a Blue Collar fixed feature, and if not I will probably volunteer to hand cut mine on the spot next time I go there. Potato heaven.
By now if you a) live in Miami and b) like great food and are not attending the amazing pop-ups that the Genuine Hospitality Group (Michael’s Genuine, Harry’s Pizzeria, Cypress Room) are organizing, you’re missing out. Missing out big. I have attended 4 of these now, and in all my posts I have said the same thing, so I won’t beat that drum again. Miss them at your own risk. This particular one was another walkaway and included all the known ingredients: exposure to an award winning chef from out of town, fantastic limitless food and a great environment set-up to share with a great group of people, most of which were familiar faces.
Paul Kahan is probably to Chicago what Michael Schwartz is to Miami, a genre creator, an influencer, a gradual empire builder of which locals are immensely proud. His restaurants in Chicago include Blackbird, The Publican, avec, and Publican Quality Meats, the latter being the subject matter of the night’s pop-up. The appetizers included a creamy chicken liver pate on crostini topped with “agridolce” chilies, taleggio cheese focaccia with truffles and a Florida fish crudo. A blood sausage followed and was one of the highlights of the night, beautifully crafted and paired with squid, the kind of surf n’ turf I really like. A pork loin was moist and tender, benefiting from fatty olives and the acid in the green’s vinaigrette.
The pasta course was right down my alley, since I have a thing for seafood pasta dishes made crunchy with breadcrumbs and made spicy with chilies. The lamb shoulder for main course had immense depth of flavor and the selection of sides was its best ally: generously creamed escarole and polenta with olive oil preserved mushrooms. For dessert we had some individual sized pannetone french toast style coated in sugar that when dipped in the preserved lemon custard made you wish you could ask for a doggie bag so you could repeat at breakfast.
The food standard at these events is very high and a lot of dedication and preparation goes into them. Nothing is improvised, chefs fly in for a reconnaissance visit to scout local produce a month in advance and work the menu from there. Invited chefs bring in an extra pair of hands from their exec teams, and the entire top rank of the Genuine kitchen is always there, as are the rest of the members of the Genuine hospitality group team. I hate to sound like a broken record, but you should all go to these, even if it means having to skip eating out in South Beach a few times to make room in your budget. All things considered, there is no match in terms of value for these pop-up dinners at Harry’s. Once again thank you Michael Schwartz & Co. for pulling these off.
Over the last two years of madness in restaurant openings that Miami has experienced, there have been a few places that upon simple entry have made me feel as if I were somewhere else. The bar at Yardbird on opening week had that effect on me, packed with young, tattooed, cool looking hipsters drinking off colorful marmalade jars. Combined with the industrial wood intense ample space made me think “is this Miami Beach?”. The outdoor terrace of Mandolin has a similar effect on me, making me believe for brief periods of time I’m somewhere close to the Mediterranean.
Perhaps it was the influence of a rarely cold and gray winter day for Miami, but my first visit to Momi Ramen made me feel again as if I were somewhere else. It’s a small, but impeccably built place and the food lives up to the hype that has quickly surrounded this Brickell newcomer. There aren’t many choices on the menu at Momi, but you don’t need them. The pork belly ramen I had was so good I could go back and have that same dish every time and probably never get tired of it. The chef has put in the years way out East, so he should know; good for him and good for you too. No Western interpretation here. This is how ramen should be. The ‘extra’ spice, nicely placed on the side consists of an oil marinated tiny green Chile, finely chopped making it easy for you to control how hot you like your bowl. Again, this is the real deal, so please, no ordering diet coke. You won’t get it in any case, since sake and beer are the only drinks available, and it’s what you should have. I went for a crispy cold Hiko’s dry and I couldn’t have asked for a better pairing.
Glad to see Brickell add such an interesting and great food place to its otherwise inauthentic food scene.
Finally, I recently went back to one of my favorites, 1500 degrees at the Eden Roc and am happy to report it continues to be as great as when it opened almost two years ago. I took some Spanish restaurateur friends that were in town and they were pleased and impressed. Meat temperatures were flawless, tender and seasoned well. Sides also winners, particularly the Carolina rice grits with chorizo.
The one new great thing I had though, and is something I hadn’t seen on the menu before, was a La Quercia cured lardo, local tomato spread “crostini”. It was similar to the Pan Tumaca from Spain, grilled bread with tomato (heirloom tomato from Teena’s Pride Homestead Florida) rubbed on it. Lardo is made by curing strips of fatback with herbs and spices and La Quercia is an Iowa based maker of some of the best salumi in the country. Are you salivating yet? The lardo slices are placed on top of the crusty bread with tomato and is lightly placed under a broiler, making it surrender and turn kind of into melted cheese. I need not say more. One of the best bites so far this year.
See you next week,