Monday, July 28, 2008

michael's genuine food and drink, miami, july 27

cafe ponte is still probably my favorite restaurant in the state. but if i still lived in south florida, it might be michael's genuine.

oh man, this place was good. it is in the design district of miami, which is very near the exit that i used to take to get to work when i worked at the herald. we went on a sunday for dinner, and i was kind of glad, because if we had come when all the design stores were open, dinner might've end up quite a bit more expensive. we passed some really cool tile and furniture stores, all of which were closed. no big deal. i don't have anything to tile right now anyway.

michael's came on to the radar on two counts: first, it was one of the 10 restaurants that ny times critic frank bruni named as the best new places in the country. then, i started watching a show called after hours with daniel, a show in which daniel boulud, one of the most-respected chefs in the country, goes to different restaurants and throws an after-service party. the second season was in miami, and michael's genuine was one of the episodes.

the chef, michael schwartz, has a wood burning oven, and that is clearly one of his favorite toys. i'm ok with that.

the menu is broken up a little different than most. instead of appetizers, salads and entrees, it's headings are snacks, small, medium, large and extra large. the idea is to mix and match any number of plates depending on how hungry you are and how willing you are to share.

on the snacks, they have deviled eggs. pam isn't interested, but i am. so i got those.

beyond that, we decided to get a small, medium and large, and split them all.

for our "small," i was debating two: the pork belly and watermelon salad or the panzanella. panzanella is a bread and tomato salad. our waitress said pork belly and watermelon salad. i said ok. i still bet the panzanella was good, but what we got was great, too. there were big hunks of fried pork belly, which is basically uncut bacon, with chunks of watermelon. they were mixed in very bitter greens, which are usually not my favorite, but when you got a little bit of everything on the fork -- some bitter greens, some soft cold watermelon and some crispy rich pork -- it was fairly spectacular. the greens were dressed with a soy lime vinaigrette, which didn't hurt anything.

for our medium, pam picked the wood roasted vidalia onion. it was stuffed with ground lamp and apricots. it was pretty spectacular. the onion definitely took on some flavor from the wood oven, and was cooked perfectly, just long enough to soften the texture a little, but not so much that it lost its texture. the lamb and the apricots played very well together.

after the onion came out and the deviled eggs hadn't come out, i asked, and they came out almost immediately. i was pretty excited when i saw them on the menu online, because i love deviled eggs. these weren't bad, but they weren't great. there was something weird about the texture of the filling. generally, it is a mixture of yolks, mayo and mustard. there was almost assuredly something else in there, and i have no idea what. i mean, i almost want to say butter, or even whipped cream maybe, both of which are probably wrong, but it was a little weird. i mean, i ate them all, but i was hoping for something familiar and new at the same time, i think, and would've been happy with familiar. but it was just new, and not necessarily in a good way.

we were planning on a large, but we ended up with an extra large, because the wood roasted whole local snapper sounded really good. and it was. it was a spectacular presentation, with a whole fish coming out with a side of roasted fennel and grilled lemon. they offered to filet it for us after bringing it out, and we took them up on it. when it came back, it was deboned and put back together, still looking whole. the fish was so good. juicy and mild. the fennel was perfect. and i love grilled lemon. it takes something good and makes it better.

we split two desserts, too. first was a meyer lemon tart with blueberry tarragon compote (like a jam) and a berry float. the tart was like a really good lemon bar, and the sweet compote offset the tart lemon really well. the berry float was a really strong berry soda with a little ice cream on top. there was something else on the corner of the plate that was really dense and tasty, but i have no idea what it was. its not on the menu. bonus.

the other dessert was called a chocolate cremoso. this dessert is worth driving to miami for. wow. the chocolate was a really big curl of super-dense mousse, and it was sprinkled with sea salt. i LOVE salted chocolate. there was a toasted thin slice of sourdough on top, which may seem weird, but it worked with the salted chocolate. there were what i would guess are coffee grounds on the side of the plate, and i dipped each spoon of the cremosa in them, and that was a net plus. on the side was what was called an espresso parfait. i might've guessed it was hazelnut ice cream with a hazelnut toffee on top. seriously, i'm coming back, and this better be on the menu.

we've had a great weekend, seeing old friends on saturday night, and doing, really, nothing sunday before dinner. oh, we had lunch at baja fresh, which we frequent when we go to california, so it was nice that there is one 5 blocks from our hotel.

we went shopping on the way home, stopping at sawgrass mills to check out the crate & barrel outlet and brandsmart because we need a new double oven. ours died a couple of weeks ago, and fixing it was going to cost about 2/3rds what a new one would cost. blech.

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