Yes, I may have been the only one in Miami that has not been to any of Michelle Bernstein's restaurants. But as of a couple weeks ago I have been slowly trying each of her different evolutions. First I went to Sra. Martinez with a fellow cook and we were able to have some fantastic tapas, a special thank you from Steven, one of the cooks in charge of the Charcuterie that night (pleasant conversation) I then went with my former co-worker Joel for a lunch at Crumb on Parchment. I loved everything about the place from the mismatched chairs to the employees aprons and just the sweet southern feel of this trendy little breakfast and lunch spot. Then FINALLY the other night I dined at her name sake. May I just say from the outside one would not expect what is on the inside, the midtown motif of the outside is nothing like the inside of what looks like a restaurant in South Beach or the Design District. We came in through the back which is the front through the little bistro style outdoor seating. As we entered we walk through the hallway that opens up to this amazing dining area. You know your somewhere special when you run into 3 old co-workers (foodies as well) and the grill cook who I'm friends with all in the first 15 seconds of walking in. I am so impressed by the decor. The walls are beautifully painted with the modern chandeliers and cute floral chairs have an "OMG you know a girl with some serious design skills owns this place" moment. As we sit down we are warmly greeted by our server and bread and drinks were offered.. Attention: only bad thing of the night is the bread was a little old... yes I'm in the industry and yes I was dining with a pastry chef so I'm sorry I was bound to catch it. After the bread we went with trying a little of everything.. My guest raved about the Croquettes so we had to get that, we also got the Ceviche of the day as well as the Ricotta Gnochetti, Polenta with Truffled Poached Egg, Duck Confit, and the Short Ribs. The Blue Cheese and Serrano Croquettes when placed on the table vaguely resembled a croquette that you would normally find on calle ocho but when you bite inside there is a myriad of flavors and textures that is sure to delight your palate. The Ceviche also caught my interest simple in plating yet perfect in execution. the different shellfish brought out a textural difference which I thoroughly enjoyed. The next round of food was the Duck Confit and Polenta. I'm sorry Duck Confit you got overshadowed by this amazing dish. The polenta is beautifully cooked with truffle and truffle oil and a perfectly poached egg in the center. The Duck was also good with its beautifully dressed Brussel Sprouts salad. As that course was taken away, Chef Michelle (may I just say gorgeous) made her rounds going up to many tables much of them what looked like regulars and friends. Even a couple stopping her for pictures. She is obviously a superstar in her own right. With 3 successful restaurants under her belt and more on the way, a public channel show and countless spots on many culinary national TV shows She is really one of the Bad ass Women in the Chef World. We then received the sweetbreads that I can say is the best Offal I have had in Miami. Perfectly cooked with black eyed peas this if only one thing needs to be reordered off of her menu. The last course was the Gnochetti and Short Ribs. The Gnochetti made with ricotta was wet with a beautiful herb or pesto sauce mixed with some beautifully sauteed carrots. this was a beautiful dish full of bright colors and flavors. The great ending to our meal was the fall off the bone short ribs. The boneless dish proved to be all that it was stated as. soft and delicate meat with the cauliflower mash and the lovely vegetables placed underneath. Wonderfully seasoned! As the icing on the cake we ordered the famously admired Baked Alaska. Even though it wasn't flaming when it came out (big disappointment because I'm a little child at heart and I wanted a flaming dessert) the flavors under the meringue were sinfully delicious. The Dulce De Leche ice cream was so full of deep intense caramel flavor I wish I had room for more. As we left I was definitely planning my trip to return. Michy's still got it and going strong!
When you are invited by a Chef that has been honored with the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America, you make time to eat anything he has coming to you. I was honored Friday the 1st of July by being welcomed to Solea, a Spanish restaurant in the W Hotel in South Beach. When I entered the Hotel synonymous with luxury lifestyle in one of the most lavish cities in America I knew I was in for a treat. The beautiful foyer was warm and inviting with a low murmured bustle of the tourists ready for the fourth of July celebrations. Many welcomes came my way as I made my way towards the restaurant from employees of this breath-taking building. I waltzed to the host stand and I was warmly greeted by the hostess who already knew that we were coming (love the gesture) we were then greeted by Chef Antonio who welcomed us with open arms into the dining room. We were seated right in the middle of the room filled with high ceilings beautiful tapestry and large slabs of marble in front of the open garde manger/charcuterie station. Our waiter Kevin was FANTASTIC! His caring and considerate nature made our stay in his "home" a warm one. Now to the real treat, Chef Antonio then informed us that we were in for an 8 COURSE TASTING...(time for me to unbuckle any belt I was wearing, oh wait I wore a dress I'm all good!) Our first two plates came out at the same time
First plate I gazed my hazel eyes upon was a clean and simple Strawberry Terrine. The pristine lines and beautiful touch of the strawberry caviar made me draw closer to this dish that was the gateway drug to my next 7. I completely understand why Chef Antonio decided to start my tasting off with this plate. Simplicity and beauty mixed with the seemingly flawless terrine gave way to me wanting more and more. I would even say this dish is a great way to end a summer meal sitting outside gazing at the beautiful beaches of Miami.
I then was introduced to a dish brilliantly titled Berries and Cream. A Cream and strawberry "tube of deliciousness" complimented by a beautiful arrangement of sliced strawberries, strawberry caviar and a beautiful foam sitting next to a beautifully quenelled ice cream. I really love the plating of this dish, it requires a lot of out of the box thinking.
The next course that was brought out was intriguing by both the plate up and by the description. A beautifully colored geometric yet sleek dessert known as Lychee Granita. A beautifully slushy like granita with a powerful aroma of sweet lychees sitting on a bed of white chocolate and playfully paired with an amazing Campari and grapefruit gelee. This dessert in my opinion is a great example of why Chef Bachour is as acclaimed as he is. The layers of the different flavors, textures and techniques showcase brightly through the glass it sits in. Each flavor plays off the next and it takes a step into forward thinking of cuisine.
Our next course was a Japanese style panna cotta this was the tables favorite dish. Silky smooth with subtle hints of tang from the mango gelee which perfectly complimented the raspberry gelato with a pistachio crumble. This dish was perfectly executed!
Passion fruit Meringue with basil and passion fruit gelees complimented with a coconut powder sitting below a refreshing coconut sorbet. The basil was a perfect hint to balance the dish with the tartness of the passion fruit.
For the sixth course we dined on a decadent Manchego cheesecake dressed with meringue tubes and edible gold flakes. Complimenting the cake is a beautiful arrangement of mango and passion fruit as well as a mango sorbet.
My personal favorite was our seventh dish. It was simply titled Creme Catalon. This dish derives from Spain as a more citrus inspired brother of the Creme Brulee. When I first took a bite of this custard I noticed it lacked the citrus punch I was used to when I had the dish in Spain but then it hit me that is why the beautifully fresh orange segments and dehydrated orange chip lay next to the smooth torchoned custard. The deconstructed dish delighted not only my mind but also my stomach. The cinnamon ice cream was a perfect way to incorporate the spices that are normally in the Creme Catalon.
For what I thought was going to be our final course was a dish that I have been waiting for. One of Chef's signature Bacon and Brownies dish. The brownie was a rich and creamy "cake" served with a playfully designed chocolate tube as well as one of the best damn ice creams I have ever tasted. Chef explained that after rendering the fat of the bacon it was steeped with the cream for the ice cream to give the taste of eating bacon. Let me tell you that was amazing. When presented with the dish you could not detect anything. But as I brought my nose closer to the ice cream you could smell the distinct scent of waking up in the morning and knowing that someone is cooking bacon. Incredibly enough the taste followed through the cream slightly muffled the taste but all of bacon-y goodness still filled your mouth. This dish is a success.
So let me just tell you at this point we cannot move.. we cannot think... sugar coma is starting to go into effect. A whirlwind of such an amazing experience is racing through my head and then Chef says... ready for more??? My stomach says no... you have been done 5 desserts ago.. my mind says...YES! YES! YES! So he convinces us to have three more desserts! The last three desserts were also as good as the last eight simple concepts but big payoff each so different yet so delicious. We had the Key Lime Pie with beautiful fresh raspberries... so plump and juicy! (may I say all produce on all of the plates brought out were of such high quality! the size and flavor each one presented was apparent of Chef's consideration of perfection) The next was a Dulce De Leche with banana that was caramelized with a beautiful tower of cream and thin crisps accompanied by banana sorbet. SO GOOD! To finally conclude the tasting was a name perfectly fitting of this dish, "Sabotage." I felt sabotaged when I was presented with this dish that literally left me admiring its structure and plating. the beautiful collection of different kinds of chocolate topped off an impeccable meal (can you call all desserts a meal? I think yes) I would like to thank so deeply Chef Antonio and his staff at Solea for an unbelievable experience. This will never be forgotten.