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30th October
2009
written by spd
The dining room at Michy's (img: Sean Patrick Doyle)

The dining room at Michy's (img: Sean Patrick Doyle)

Michelle Bernstein looks great on paper. This half-Latina, half-Jewish ballerina-turned-chef has hosted a show on the Food Network, published a book, won the James Beard, appeared numerous times as judge on Top Chef, the list goes on. She has the distinguished honor of being the only native chef of Miami to really receive national notice. Her first lone venture, Michy’s, is located in an unassuming strip mall in the upcoming area of Biscayne. While most restaurants are thematic, Bernstein resists being categorized, and has been quoted as saying, “It’s just kind of a restaurant.” With Latin, Southern, French styles and a slew of others making an appearance on the menu, would she be presenting a watered-down version of all of them? I had to taste for myself, so I took my parents on the last night of our run in Fort Lauderdale.

We started by sharing an order of the delicious Jamon Serrano and Blue Cheese Croquetas. This upscale take on a Cuban snack that I’ve been eating for much of my life was a delightful balance of salty and sweet! My Dad had the Peruvian Ceviche with Snapper, Ginger, Lime, Chilies, Sweet Potatoes and Corn; but not just corn – corn three ways! Popped corn, fresh sweet corn, and corn nuts added textural interest to the dish. I had the White Gazpacho with Marcona Almonds, Grapes, and Cucumbers, and it was probably the highlight of the meal for me, because it was so surprisingly flavorful and still light. I could eat this daily – in smoothie form as a post-gym snack.

What’s wonderful about Michy’s is that most dishes can be ordered in half-sized portions, so you can try many things. This left plenty of room for our entrees. My mother had the Salmon with Farro, Baby Artichokes, Cippolinis and Lemony Saffron Nage- safe, but very delicious. And my father had the Steak Frites, a wonderfully flavorful Churrasco with house made Fries and Bearnaise and and Au Poivre dipping sauces. The fries appeared very well done, but were slightly soggy. The dipping sauces, however, were wonderful, especially the Au Poivre. I order the dish that grabbed my eye the second we sat down – the Crispy Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads with Fava Bean Pesto, Fresh Favas, Oranges, and Caraway Veal Jus. It was an utter disappointment. The heavily breaded sweetbreads were floury and soft, the Favas were bland, and the presentation was haphazard. I don’t quite know what to make of the dish, except that it’s not at all what you expect from a celebrity chef’s kitchen. Yes, the food at Craftbar in New York is horribly overrated, but at least it’s finely executed. I’ll excuse the misstep because what followed was a wonderfully satisfying Bread Pudding dessert, with Raisins, Congac, Chocolate Chunks, Orange Rind and Vanilla Ice Cream that tasted like creme brulee. It was a fine way to end the evening!

Bernstein overlooking the 50-seat dining room. (img: Sean Patrick Doyle)

Bernstein overlooking the 50-seat dining room. (img: Sean Patrick Doyle)

Bernstein herself made several trips to the dining room that evening, and that might explain the lull in between some of the courses, or the fact that the Crispy Sweetbreads and Frites were a little soft. She’s a great culinaire but she might need a great expediter in the kitchen with her. Still, the meal was memorable and sparked my curiosity. I would return to Michy’s but since her starters seemed her strongest suit, I’m more likely to scope out her newly opened tapas restaurant, Sra. Martinez, located in the nearby Design District.

Michy’s. 6927 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL 33138-5733. ph. (305) 759-2001

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