Michy’s – Review for 2/22/07 (Miami)
(Before I start this review, I should let everyone know that this week is the SoBe Wine & Food Festival. Therefore, there were a lot of famous chefs, foodies, restaurateurs, etc. dining out this week and I’m pretty sure Michelle Bernstein was on her game because of it.)
Michy’s is located in an odd part of Miami. Not sure if I would call it the “Upper East Side” or what, but I used to live around this area and it isn’t the safest place to be at night. With that said, it does look like they are cleaning up this stretch of Biscayne Blvd. and the area was not quite as seedy as I remember it a few years ago, especially the little patch of boutique shops and restaurants in which Michy’s is located. Either way, a tourist is not exactly going to stumble on this place at 6927 Biscayne Blvd. They must be aiming for the neighborhood crowd.
We arrived at 7:30pm, about 30 minutes early for our 8pm reservation. The host had no problem seating us as the place was only about 1/5 full; it was crazy full about 90 minutes later. It’s a pretty small place, about the size of your typical Starbucks (around 50 seats). Nicely decorated with white tablecloths (white paper is placed on top, though), white chairs with padded pink flowery designs, blue walls, a long orangey-fabric booth against the wall, and pink and orange wallpaper trim around the top of the walls. However, the most tasteful aspect of the décor were the chandeliers (made from thin plastic chips/shells) that hung poignantly around the room; elegant but chic, indeed!
The service was great (which means way, way, way above average for Miami standards) on the Thursday night we went. We had two servers, two server assistants and multiple food runners brought us our victuals. The sommelier is young and appears to be related to Michelle in some way. I think she knows her stuff but I did not test her. David (Michelle’s husband – he manages the front of the house) showed up around 9pm when the place was getting packed. All in all, the wait staff was probably on their best behavior and couldn’t’ have been better. We were never rushed (we stayed about 2.5 hours), always silvered, and served appropriately.
The wine menu might be one of the cutest designs that I’ve seen in some time. There are about 20 wines by the glass ordered from lightest to darkest (I spotted a few mistakes, but that’s besides the point). The real fun is the full bottles and 1/2 bottles section. Approximately 100 bottles are categorized by old/new world regions and explained to the consumer in an out of the ordinary way. My particular favorite was the 1/2 bottles section… it was really a great selection. Although the bottles aren’t overly expensive (a decent selection of below-$50 bottles), they still need a wine cellar. The wines are a tab bit too hot when they are served.
Now for the food. Let me go ahead and divulge my bias: I need fine cooking ingredients. With that said, one might can understand why I am so often disappointed with the food in Miami. For some reason its just really hard for chefs to get good ingredients down here (except for, maybe, tomatoes). It’s a problem David Bouley talked about – and even though he was disparaged for saying this – I’m pretty sure he is right on. This aint California or New York, people? I mean, where and when was the last farmers market you went to in Miami? Coral Gables?
Well, Michelle somehow doesn’t have this “ingredients” problem. My rule of them for ordering at this restaurant: the more ingredients in the dish, the better. Perhaps Michelle doesn’t have the “ingredients” problem because she is an insider to the scene down here; she knows how things work (from her time at Azul). People aren’t always on the up and up down here in Miami, and it takes a few greased palms and alligator-armed handshake negotiations to sometimes get what you want. Whatever she has done, she has the best, most fresh organic ingredients in town. This alone is a worthy reason to visit.
First, a note on the menu. Everything that I am about to describe can be ordered as a “half” order or a “full” order. These half and full orders describe portion sizes (as well as price). For instance we started out with the gazpacho. The half order was $7 (approximately 6 oz.) and the full order was $12 (for 12 oz.) Every item is listed and can be ordered this way. I really liked this option as it makes ordering much easier and you can much more simply create your own tasting menu (which is what I did). As for the gazpacho? Incredible! So light and fluffy, with just the right amount of crunchiness from bite sized onion frites. This is a signature dish and you must get it if you go.
Next came a special of the night, Duck Consommé. This one was a bit devoid of taste (but hey, it is consommé), but the spinach and shallots in the bowl were mighty tasty and tried to make up for everything else. At the same time, we tried the jamon croquettes with fig jam. Wow! Can you say gourmet mozzarella sticks? Even if you aren’t Latin, I’m pretty sure the croquettes are a must order item. The croquettes were served with microgreens (so fresh!) with a balsamic and olive oil dressing. Only about a bite size, but still it was pure pleasure. Next on the agenda were the seafood spaghettini and crispy sweetbreads with veal ravioli. Both of these dishes were fantastic. Just to warn you, the half order of spaghettini was actually pretty large. If you are one of those “I have to get full when I order a single entrée” people, then just order a full order of spaghettini and don’t complain. (I never understood why portion size is so important? Just spend more money and eat more things, right!?). The speghettini was perfectly cooked and light enough to be eaten in its entirety. The sweetbreads were tasty, but a bit too heavily fried for me; a lighter batter would have complimented their taste even more. The veal ravioli was a nice accompaniment to the sweetbreads. Topped with veal jus, the pasta was perfectly al denti but nothing out of this world. We had all this with a half bottle of Elk Cove Pinot Noir (2003) and it worked perfectly.
However, the best entrée by far was the “falling of the bone” beef short ribs with mashed potatoes. If you go, you must get this plate. The half order is great if you have eaten many courses and want to indulge in something fairly heavy. I did not need a fork to eat this dish. When she says they are tender, she means it. Served in a small bowl, the sauce does not overshadow the meat; the tenderness is the main star here.
Dessert was also a highlight. We had the Baked Alaska and I can honestly tell you that it was one of the best desserts I have ever had. Just an incredible mix of tastes, from hot-cold to sweet-salty, this was the best item on the menu. We sat at the bar after the meal (to watch for celebrities) and saw the servers making a few other desserts being served. The chocolate cake and tart looked really good. I walked away thinking the desserts were above average at this place, even though I only had one.
In the end, the meal at Michy’s was a fabulous dining experience. I will go again sometime soon, but as of right now, it jumped into the top-tier category of fine-dining restaurants that previously consisted of just Cacao, Palm d’Or , and Pascal’s on Ponce. The concept of this place, combined with the laid-back style and décor, makes it a perfect fine-dining experience for locals. Even though it’s a bit out of the way, it’s definitely worth the trip. I can guarantee you that your meal will cost you much less than David Bouley Evolution, Table 8, or Prime 112, and you will walk away feeling much more satisfied. But then again, maybe I just went on a good night…
Top Dishes (in order): Baked Alaska, Short Ribs, Gazpacho
I ate at Michy's last week while visiting MIA for work and unfortunately was not as impressed, although I did come with high expecations. I thought the room was beatuiful and as an out of towner I felt privvy to something quite lovely by just being there. But when it came down to food it just didn't seem that inspired. Yes, the ingredients were fresh and it was clear there was love put into the food, but I found most dishes too rich and not very focused. The Gazpacho was too sweet and the cream element basically negated the dish. The raw cruch and watery lightness is what makes a great gazpacho. I thought the Short Ribs were excellent, but they are on every menu around the country and are a pretty simple dish to make tender and rich. The duck I had was dry and paired with some apple & Brussel Sprout side that made no sense. It didn't compliment the dish whatsoever. The wine list is lovely and Michelle's personal touch is everywhere. These elements as well as the wonderful dessert made for a great evening, but not a memorable culinary experience.
Interesting, while I love Michy's - I really do, it's definitely among my top 5 local restaurants - much of what Mikesteady says highlights things that I and others have noted: (1) the quality of the experience really depends a lot on how you order; and (2) other than the 1/2 order / full order option, it's actually not nearly as original as it seems to get credit for. (unfortunately my prior posts on this subject seem to disappear!)
I'm surprised to hear any disappointment in the gazpacho, which is one of my favorite dishes here or anywhere for that matter. But that duck dish you mentioned is not good, I don't understand why it's still on the menu. The brussel sprout salad in particular is awful. The conch escargot style is also just wrong, even though the presentation is great.
I think Michelle Bernstein's celebrity chef status and incredible PR machine may build expectations up a little too high. I think of Michy's as a really good neighborhood spot with high quality food, a genuinely caring chef, some semi-innovative preparations, charming presentations, a funky space, a pretty good wine list, and a few really excellent dishes. For better for worse, it's also got a national reputation and a lot of press. I suppose the bright side is that means it's constantly busy and not in danger of gong out of business for lack of customers.
---"other than the 1/2 order / full order option, it's actually not nearly as original as it seems to get credit for."
I can easily agree with you (and mikesteady) here. However, my review should be viewed entirely in the context of Miami restaurants. And I don't think she really gets too much nation-wide credit for being "original". I think she gets credit for having a pretty good restaurant in Miami, thats all.
Mikesteady, I'm not sure where you are from, but I am willing to bet that you have never lived in Miami. I say this because the restaurant scene down here - for the most part - is not very good. Skyscraper-for-skycraper, Miami has to be one of the least interesting restaurant cities in the U.S.
So, like Frodnesor, Michy's is in my "Miami Top 5"; a major distinction between Top 5 of all time! Like I said, the mere fact that she can get fresh, organic ingredients is a feat within itself!
Either way, I am going to revisit this restaurant next month and order a few different dishes. After all, you can't really get a feel for a place unless you've been there a few times.
Any suggestions for other dishes to try???
L.H. - check out this post:
You've already hit many of my favorites w/ the gazpacho, croquettes, sweetbreads, and short ribs, and many people sing the praises of the baked alaska which I haven't yet had. The tuna tartare is nice, the ceviches are always good, bibb lettuce salad, the miso cod is good but I think no longer on the menu, duck breast, bread pudding. Skip the conch escargot style, duck confit, lamb spareribs.