Miami New Times — 05-05-2016
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Taste Test




Lush palms, sandy coastlines, and blooming orange blossoms make spring in Miami worthwhile (and the looming heat less daunting). If you’re a die-hard foodie, cherish the season with vibrant plant- and vegetable-infused plates from a bevy of the area’s best restaurants.

These five dishes blend brightly colored ingredients like avocado and heirloom tomatoes, along with blackberries, raspberries, and mango, to create plates that look more like works of art than your next meal. The good news is they’re wholly edible and will most likely initiate a partyin- your-mouth feeling with a mix of tangy, vivid flavors and sweet and savory textures.

  1. Mango salad at Zest (200 Biscayne Blvd., Miami): Zest, owner/chef Cindy Hutson’s newest restaurant, brings her signature Cuisine of the Sun to downtown with a myriad of vibrant plates such as her fresh mango and burrata salad ($18). The dish uses heirloom tomatoes, arugula, baby iceberg, pepita seed pesto, toasted macadamia nuts, and a sorrel flower glaze, creating what looks and tastes like an edible rainbow. Though the burrata is rich, the variety of veggies she incorporates gives the plate a tasty balance.

  2. Cauliflower at Kyu (251 NW 25th St., Miami): The recently opened wood-fire Asian concept features more than meat and seafood. The eatery prides itself on offering a variety of veggie-centric dishes to complement its heartier mains. Among the most popular is the roasted cauliflower ($12). A smattering of charred cauliflower florets is placed on a bed of goat cheese and shishito-herb vinaigrette. The creaminess of the green-and-white paste is offset by the fresh and light texture of the veggies. Kyu recommends pairing the dish with a meatier plate, though it can be eaten alone too.

  3. Burrata at the Continental (2360 Collins Ave., Miami Beach): Shaped like a flower, the Continental’s burrata salad is a work of art, both in taste and design. The plate ($17) blends heirloom tomatoes, berries such as blackberries and raspberries, cucumber, and spinach. It’s drizzled in a mix of sherry vinegar and black pepper oil and crowned with a small mound of burrata. It’s enough to fill two diners but still leaves room for a following main dish.

  4. Avocado toast at Zak the Baker (405 NW 26th St., Miami): Wynwood favorite Zak the Baker is known for its variety of toast plates. There’s Nutella, veg creme cheese, gravlax, and, the most popular, avocado ($7). Think of the plate as a real-life garden smeared across a thick slice of feathery toast that was baked just hours earlier. Two scoops of crushed avocado are topped with tomato chunks, pinches of cilantro, and some sprouts. The colorful ingredients add a light and airy feel to the avocado’s rich texture, creating the quintessential springtime dish. Pro tip: Keep a knife and a fork nearby because the veggies are known to get a little messy.

  5. Harissa carrot salad at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill (3252 NE First Ave., Miami): Executive chef Timon Balloo’s salad looks too good to eat, but know that it’s worth every crunchy bite (don’t forget to Instagram it beforehand). His harissa and carrot salad blend ($12) fuses golden raisins and curry yogurt with pinches of the chili pepper and paprika paste. Though small, the dish is packed with rich flavors sure to overwhelm your taste buds with a medley of aromas and textures. CLARISSA BUCH



Robert Siegmann, the man who created Icebox Cafe more than 15 years ago, is opening two other locations. But this time, they won’t be inside bustling airport terminals.

The industrial-designed organic café, which has three express spots for busy and hungry travelers in Miami International and Dallas Fort Worth airports, will open a second stand-alone location in Aventura ParkSquare, a mixed-use development with a health and wellness spin in north Aventura. The Mediterranean Kitchen, Siegmann’s airport-only fast-casual eatery at MIA, will open its first flagship location steps from Icebox Cafe in Aventura ParkSquare too.

“We strongly believe in the Aventura ParkSquare project,” Siegmann says, “in terms of their focus, akin to ours, on health and wellness. In my opinion, Aventura is also a highly underserved community in need of well-executed concepts.”

Similar to Icebox Cafe, the Mediterranean Kitchen will offer a selection of healthy, all-natural grab-and-go eats like sandwiches and wraps, with a unique Mediterranean twist. It will have an organic juice bar and smoothie station attached to it as well.

“The Mediterranean Kitchen’s graband- go model is perfectly suited to address the needs of the mindful eater who seeks unexpectedly upscale comfort in the form of fresh, natural, well-prepared delicious food served in a warm and friendly setting,” Siegmann says.

Both eateries, he says, will offer catering to the building’s office tenants and nearby neighbors for corporate gatherings, events, and meetings. “We have found there is a growing demand for fresh, healthy, all-natural food on the go,” he says, “because people continue to be more aware of what they put in their bodies.”

Located on the corner of 2900 Waterways Blvd. And NE 207 Street, Aventura ParkSquare is slated to open in 2017, along with a myriad of other concepts, including Cycle House, Green Monkey Yoga, Barry’s Bootcamp, and Graziano’s Market, plus a residential condo, a hotel, and corporate offices. CLARISSA BUCH



When Brickell City Centre opens, it will house Miami’s first true food hall.

According to a statement, a 38,000-square-foot Italian indoor food hall will open at Brickell City Centre (67 SW Eighth St., Miami). The massive culinary endeavor will anchor the shopping center located at the base of the 5.4-million-squarefoot mixed-use project that combines retail, services, offices, and residences, at a projected cost of $1.05 billion.

Although details aren’t forthcoming, the three-story food hall will feature dine-in, takeout, and restaurant components, including several dining options, each devoted to a different region of Italy. In addition, the food hall will offer fresh produce, imported meats and cheeses, live cooking demos, culinary classes, and wine and food pairings.

The hall sounds much like the beloved Italian megamarket, Eataly, though it clocks in at slightly smaller than the 50,000-square-foot New York City flagship of the Batali/Bastianich venture. Eataly also has a location in Chicago and is planning operations in Los Angeles and Munich, Germany. Though the Miami project sounds similar, a rep for Eataly in New York City has confirmed it has nothing to do with the planned hall.

The owners of the Miami food hall have yet to be released, although the unnamed team issued a statement: “We want to bring the tradition and energy of the old world Italian streets and town centers, or piazze, to Miami’s urban core, creating a vibrant central destination for the Brickell community and beyond. A food market is the heart and soul of most major Italian cities; now the same will be true here in Miami.”

The food hall joins a host of other notable restaurants, with the fourth floor hosting most of the eateries. A mix of fast-casual and sit-down spots include American Harvest, Big Easy Winebar & Grill, Calissons du Roy René, David’s Tea, Dr. Smood, Häagen-Dazs, Luke’s Lobster, Pasión del Cielo, Santa Fe, and Taco Chic. Quinto La Huella, Pubbelly Sushi, and the rooftop lounge Sugar will open in the property’s East Miami Hotel.

In addition, Brickell City Centre will house Cinemex, an upscale movie theater chain with a luxury dining and drinking component. Mexico-based Cinemex is the sixth-largest cinema chain in the world, but this is the company’s first U.S. outpost.

No word when the food hall concept will open, but the retail component is slated to open this fall.

Though this may be the first Miami food hall to open, other food halls are in the works. Conway Commercial Real Estate and Urban Atlantic Group are planning a 10,000-square-foot hall called the Citadel on Little Haiti’s northern boundary on NE Second Avenue, bringing nearly two dozen food vendors together under one roof.

All Aboard Florida — the Flagler East Coast Industries subsidiary building a high-speed rail line between Miami and Orlando — is planning a communal dining experience at its main downtown terminal, and Wynwood Arcade will feature Norman Van Aken’s culinary school and restaurant, as well as the Salty Donut. LAINE DOSS



Sakaya Kitchen and Blackbrick’s Richard Hales recently opened Bird & Bone, a summer concept that features chicken, ribs, and sides, at the Wynwood Yard (56 NW 29th St., Miami).

Bird & Bone has set up shop for the spring and summer. Hales’ Dim Ssäm à Gogo truck has been at the Wynwood Yard since January, and the chef thinks it’s time to try a different concept. The truck has undergone a transformation into Bird & Bone and was outfitted with a new façade that makes it look more like a structure than a vehicle. “We signed a three-month lease to do Bird & Bone,” Hales says. “If it does well, we’ll renew and possibly then look for a brickand- mortar spot. The menu is something that works for an outdoor location.”

Best known for Asian flavor profiles, Hales is turning to his birthplace for inspiration. “I was born in Louisiana, and we had spicy fried chicken growing up in my house. It’s something I grew up eating my whole life.”

Hales offers one particular trending item sorely lacking in Miami: hot chicken.

His dish rests spicy fried chicken on a slice of Zak the Baker bread, topped with a cooling pickle. This iconic offering is best known in Nashville but is available throughout most of the South. Nina Compton makes a version at her New Orleans eatery, Compere Lapin, and hot chicken has made its way north to Chicago, where it’s a staple at Parson’s Chicken & Fish. In Miami, it’s nearly impossible to find. “I looked into that and asked, ‘Why is KFC the only option for this national trend in Miami?’ ” Hales says. “I tried the KFC version, and they’re not even doing it right.”

The menu features chicken wings ($7.50), nuggets ($5.50), and a half-chicken ($12.50) — all served at heat levels ranging from mild to fiery. (There’s also an option to order “Southern” style with no sauce.)

The chef says each heat level also incorporates different flavor profiles. “I deal with spicy food a lot, and I have for seven years. I know how to do it well. We’re testing the spice blends, and I’ve pretty much nailed it.” For instance, the Nashville hot ’n’ numbing style (level “fak’n hot” on the menu) incorporates traditional Nashville hot sauce with the numbing oil Hales uses at Blackbrick. “It’s sort of an American thing mixed with my Asian pantry.” All chicken dishes are made with birds from Florida Fresh in Ocala.

In addition, Hales offers a rib of the day ($10). “We do a lot of cumin lamb ribs, so look for that on the menu. We’ll be making both dry and wet rubs to go with the meats.”

No chicken or rib meal is complete without sides. Bird & Bone offers pimento mac ’n’ cheese, green goddess coleslaw, and wedge fries. “It’s a very Southern type of menu,” the chef/owner says. “You get a protein, two sides, a piece of bread, and a pickle.”

Summer is the season for fried chicken in Miami, with many high-end restaurants, such as Cena by Michy’s, offering a weekly fried chicken meal and fast-casual. Hales doesn’t, however, see fried chicken as a trend as much as an evergreen dish that’s everyone’s favorite. “When I want to cheat, it’s with a piece of fried chicken. We sell a lot of Korean fried chicken at Sakaya Kitchen. In fact, 48 percent of my sales in all my restaurants are from chicken and ribs.”

Most dishes are priced well under $10, making Bird & Bone an affordable alfresco meal. Considering that the Wynwood Yard also features a full bar, live entertainment, and new tenant Mr. Bing shaved ice cream, you might just have your summer hangout spot already lined up. LAINE DOSS