Design Distric, Miami
Over the last few years there has been a definite shift to cook and eat local sustainable ingredients in Miami and Michael’sGenuine Food and Drink [130 NE 40th St] has been at the forefront of this movement. Since 2007, Chef and owner Michael Schwartz has been making sure the restaurant is putting out the freshest local ingredients possible. Around here, there is no need to introduce this man, but in case you’ve been living in a cave, here it goes; 2010 James Beard Award Winner, Best Chef South, writer of his own cookbook Michael's Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat, owner of the aforementioned Michaels Genuine and Harry’s Pizzeria, and hell why not, throw-in craft brewer. While the restaurant has a wide assortment of craft beers Michael decided it was his turn to give it a try. He has partnered with Back Forty Brewers to create an American Ale that uses local ingredients like sem-chi rice (a rotating crop that is used to replenish the soil after cane harvesting) and cane sugar. But I digress; beer can do that to me. In case one James Beard acclaimed chef wasn’t enough, executive pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith with her inspired and playful treats was nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2012. Along with Chef de Cuisine Bradley Herron, Michael has surrounded himself with talented people that help him keep his menu as fresh as the food they produce. The restaurant is open seven days a week, serving lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Considering the quality and freshness of the ingredients used, MGFD is very affordable.
Passing under the neon sign and through the covered courtyard, you enter a space that is cozy and inviting. The restaurant, much like the food, is unpretentious unlike most places in Miami. The clean and modern décor includes large hanging red lanterns, artwork, and in large letters on the wall, Campbell McGrath’s poem, Ode to the Mother Tongue: “Praise the tongue that shapes and savors words and flavors, that sings and stubles, drunkenly, upon the wine of poetry.” A small bar at the entrance, private dining room, and exposed kitchen complete the space.
With reservations for four, we arrive and are promptly seated. Our waiter, Himatuya was fantastic, very attentive and knowledgeable on the food. First up were drinks. I was in the mood for a beer and on tap that night was a Penn Brewery Kaiser Pilsner that was crisp and refreshing with lots of flavor. Leslie had bourbon on her mind, so she went with a Bulleit Proof Manhattan; Bulleit Bourbon, rosemary infused cherries and a splash of lemon. This drink is downright dangerous; sweet and tangy while maintaining the bold flavors of the bourbon. Our friends chose to go the non-alcoholic route and order a few of the house made sodas. The menu is organized by portion size, including, Snacks and Medium to Extra Large plates. Along with our drinks we ordered a few “Snacks;” the Crispy Hominy, Marinated Olives, and Kimchi. The perfectly crisp chili lime kernels were addictive and a bowl of the hominy and a few cold beers alone would have made for a perfect night, but at this point, there was a lot more food on the way. Next to the table were the Chili Chicken Wings with creamy cucumbers. These were crunchy on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside with a hint of spice from the chili and tang from the lime; while the creamy cucumbers made for the perfect addition to balance out the dish.
Next were the “Medium” plates. The Duck Confit with peach marmalade, frisée, and spiced pumpkin seeds was rich and flavorful with a good balance of textures. The Crispy Sweet and Spicy Pork Belly with kimchi, crushed peanuts and pea shoots was delicious. The acidity from the kimchi balanced out the fat of the pork belly, but the skin could have been a bit crispier. The Crispy Rice Cake with chorizo and Florida rock shrimp topped with manchego, chili aioli and a fried egg was tasty. The Grilled Shrimp, one of the night’s specials, was light and savory with lychee (seasonal ingredient), avocado, cilantro, and lime.
Our order of “Large” plates included the Grilled Pork Loin and the Pan Roasted “Poulet Rouge” Chicken with parsley and capers. The chicken which is not usually my first choice as an entrée, but in this case, it was highly recommended and unbelievably tender.
We couldn’t leave without trying a dessert (or two), so we ordered: the Chocolate Oreo Bourbon Jar Pie with a chocolate custard crème fraiche ice cream; outstanding. Followed by an array of sorbets; Watermelon Lime, Peach Cobbler, Chocolate Dulce de Leche, and Buttered Popcorn. All delicious, but I found myself going back for more of the clean and refreshing watermelon lime and the strangely satisfying buttered popcorn that could easily replace a freshly popped bag at the movies.
This was a fantastic meal and a great time with friends. The food was fresh and flavorful and service was on point. The menu at Michael’s Genuine is constantly changing and improving; no matter when you go, you are sure to find an array of delicious dishes highlighting fresh local ingredients.