Every once in a while I come across a place that restores my faith in what I do every day. I don’t write many full-length features anymore, mostly due to time constraints. Not having an editor is rough sometimes, but I also won’t be fired if I choose not to write due to a lack of inspiration. Thank God.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink gets me right out of that rut. Michael’s is that little bit of gold or tiny chip of diamond food writers search for in the plethora of restaurants and food experiences. It’s a place worth sifting through all the “dirt” to find. Some of the choices get depressing after a while and then a place where people really care about the food they prepare and serve presents itself. My new favorite place.
Bread with FRESH butter
Actually, Jim Webster, St. Pete Times Food Critic told me about it. I took the recommendation with a grain of salt (pun intended). After all, I receive invitations and recommendations for different restaurants nearly every day. Most of them I forget about and this one was almost no exception. I didn’t even go to their website before our family went to visit, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. My expectations were low and sometimes that’s a good thing. When I began to eat the food at Michael’s, I felt like Santa gave me an extra Christmas present this year.
It’s an unassuming little place in the Miami Design District with 90 seats and a refreshing lack of snootiness. You can visit and order one snack with a refreshment and no one cares. I can tell you one snack won’t be enough. It’s the veritable “Lay’s Potato Chips” of the restaurant world. You can’t eat just one thing there. I dare you to try.
The menu is broken into several parts; small, medium, large, extra large, side dishes, snacks and cheese of the week. Just reading the menu made my foodie heart smile. My husband and I started out with the Burrata ($21) and Duck Rillette ($7) plus we ordered Linguine Carbonara ($20) for our son.
Where do I start describing all these dishes and the attention to detail?
The Burrata (as is typical when you can find it) is a very fresh mozzarella cheese made with cream. This one was served with local heirloom tomatoes and basil, extra virgin olive oil and fleur de sel. I asked for bread with it so I could slather the fresh cheese over and put an heirloom on top. Incredible. What was most impressive about it was something many would consider to be a very small detail; EVERY element on the plate was perfectly seasoned. Even the fresh bread was seasoned before it came to the table. If every cook did that, the world would be a much happier place.
As for the Duck Rillette, the adage applies that “good things DO come in small packages”. The duck spread comes in a small ramekin and tasted like it contained some liver as well. It’s served with pickled red onions, spicy mustard, cornichons and of course, more bread (crostini) for slathering. At this point, I’ve left the planet. I’m in my happy place.
Our son’s dish was served and, of course, it was not your typical carbonara. The pasta was freshly made, the pancetta used in it had a unique flavor that was almost a little wild game-ish. On top of the dish was a perfectly, and I mean perfectly poached egg covered with a generous dusting of parmesan. The pickiest of eaters loved it (and was kind enough to share), although he skipped the poached egg. My husband ate that.
Everything was great so far and I was a little afraid to order dinner. Yes, of course we ordered dinner! I went for the Roasted and Grilled Short Rib ($30) and hubby got the Grilled “Southern Red” Pork Chop ($26).
The Short Rib had a pleasant, smoky flavor from the grill after being slow-cooked to perfection. The Romesco sauce was accented with toasted hazelnuts and almonds. I was hoping for a more rich sauce on the plate. The ribs did not appear to be cooked in any sauce whatsoever. It was unusual but still tasty.
The Pork Chop defied the laws of physics. It was seared and crispy on the outside, but remained tender on the inside. In fact, it was the most tender pork chop I have ever eaten. I’m wondering if they steamed it first before searing it or vice versa. Whatever they did, it was sublime and the apples were just the right complement.
Most people would say, “Quit while you’re ahead. Don’t push the envelope on such a fine meal. Skip dessert.” No, no, no. Nothing short of a major emergency was stopping me from having dessert from one of the most notable pastry chefs in the nation, Hedy Goldsmith. These dessert selections are going to sound simple. Don’t let the descriptions fool you. Here we go.
Three Flavors of Ice Cream was a bargain at $9. There were several flavors to choose from. We picked Buttered Popcorn, Smore and Orange Campari Sorbet. I’m out of words other than wildly, outrageously good. Better than sex. I don’t know what else to tell you here that can possibly convey how much I loved all three of these flavors. Imagine putting perfectly fresh, creamy ice cream in your mouth and tasting an explosion of slightly salty butter and toasty popcorn. How about a taste of the Smore ice cream complete with the chocolate, toasted marshmallow and graham cracker flavors? That was only the first dessert. There’s more.
Cremoso ($10) is a little difficult to explain, but I’ll give it a shot. It’s not a pudding and it’s not an ice cream. It’s kind of like a chocolate torte filling without the crust. What takes it completely over the top, write home to your momma good is the light dusting of a delicate, flaky sea salt. I ate about half of it and gave my son a little to try. He took over that plate and shot me a look with daggers in his eyes when I tried to take it back. (Security to table 38 please.) You get the picture.
Yes, our bill was expensive. I don’t care. All I can say to Michael’s (and Jim Webster) is thanks for restoring my faith in dining out. It was starting to get really boring.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink is located at 130 Northeast 40th Street in Miami, Florida. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm. Dinner begins at 5:30 pm seven days a week. Reservations are recommended. 305-573-5550