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Apr 2, 2007 12:51 PM

Michael's Genuine - Miami Design District

I've been waiting for a while for this place to open as I've been a fan of Michael Schwartz since Nemo (but dropped my enthusiasm when he went to afterglo).

I went twice last week, once for dinner and once for bar snacks. Both times it met my expectations. The establishment is supposed to be a place for both casual and celebratory meals, but the menu tends to lean towards the former. Dishes are in one of 4 categories (small, medium, large and large enough to share). This is aside from the snacks menu which is where I think Michael's excels. Dinner included tuna tartar (passable), beef cheek on cauliflower mash with chocolate reduction (very good), roast pork shoulder with cheese grits (good) and the daily pizza of shrimp, manchego and chorizo (passable on the toppings, crust was good - thin, crispy and slightly burned on the edges). Two nights later we passed by for a late meal and decided to forgo the 20 minute wait (at 10:00) and have food at the bar. Chicken liver crostini was good (but no one is going to surpass those at Pizzeria Mozza in L.A.) and the crispy hominy was a good bar snack. The duck confit was good albeit a little salty, but the pureed celeraic that accompanied it was awesome. Dessert on both nights was chocolate cremoso which comes accompanied with an overly cold and insipid coffee concoction which should be left off the place for the olive-oil and sea salted cremoso. It's addicting.

There's a full bar and a small wine list with a few wines by the glass as well as imports and microbrews. Staff is extremely competent (saw an ex-waiter from Talula) and the place feels like it's been open for years. No kinks in service, delivery, etc. Only problem is getting a table.

The area was in desperate need of a place like this. When you're there, you have no idea that the rest of the DDistrict is almost entirely empty. Our waiter told us that Michael Eisman (Pacific Time) is opening a place where The District was and that Grass is reopening. Could it be that between Michy's, Michael's, etc. that people may actually go westbound on the causeway for dinner?

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  1. Funny, someone who works in the DD and whose taste I also greatly respect just mentioned this place to me right before I logged on and saw your post. Thanks for the update and review!

    Go West young sure is easier than trying to find parking here on South Beach during season that's for sure...thank God it's almost over!

    1 Reply
    1. re: netmover

      We just tried it and I wholeheartedly second this recommendation. First off, I don't know if it's just because I don't get to the DD often (though I drive through every day), but somehow the restaurant made me feel like I was in a different town. The low-key but classy interior (simple wood chairs, polished concrete floor, white paper on the tables, simple votive...) reminded me of places in Portland or Seattle.

      And the food! Menu is divided into snacks, small, medium, large & x-large, as well as several veggie sides. Snacks are $4 each, small and medium dishes (apps) range for high single digit to low teens, large & x-large dishes are twenties into forties (x-large meant to be shared, including whole wood-roasted chicken, whole fish, porterhouse, gigantic pork chop).

      We had a couple snacks - crispy hominy w/ salt & lime, and chicken liver crostini. The hominy were addictively delicious, and the chicken liver were delicious (if you like that kind of thing, which I do) - done exactly like I do when I roast a chicken, sauteed w/ some butter and cognac and mashed. Also ridiculously generous, with 3 well-slathered crostini for $4 (this can't last). These came out quick too, just in case you were desparately hungry and needed something to tide you over until your apps came.

      Then had several of the small/medium dishes: mussels (steamed w/ a spicy tomato harissa broth over sticky black rice), a dish which made its way over from Nemo and is still good; panzanella (salad of bread & heirloom tomatoes), again a pretty generous serving for a "small" dish, nice tomatoes and several varieties but a little overwhelmed by the vinaigrette and could have used another note other than just tomatoes & crispy croutons; duck confit (nice & crispy and my wife wasn't sharing much!); and crispy beef cheek (a surprisingly big slab for a "medium" "appetizer" dish), not sure how they get the crispy exterior and tender inside but it's delicious, served over a celeriac mash, with a little celeriac salad and a chocolate reduction (not nearly as odd as it sounds). Great dish, only possible complaint would be that it could use a little more of the celeriac salad to cut the richness of the other components. Also had brussel sprouts, one of the veggie sides, which are roasted to the point of being charred & crispy outside, and prepared with juicy cubes of pancetta. Unfortunately we didn't have time to try the desserts. Great wine list too, with lots of really solid choices under $50.

      (Upon reviewing this, just realized we ordered almost exactly the same as L2M!!)

      Service was completely firing on all cylinders. Waiter was perfectly pleasant and professional, everything came out at the right time, silverware cleared between dishes, etc.

      My only hesitation in recommending it is the fear it will become impossible to get in. What we had was for the most part great, and there was lots more on the menu I was interested in trying. The roast chicken in particular sounds like he's following the model of the legendary roast chicken from Zuni Cafe in SF (a recipe I've done with fantastic success).

    2. Great to hear. I hope the DD takes off as dining location. I think you meant "Jonathon" Eismann of Pacific Time.

      6 Replies
      1. re: 2top

        2nd visit followup:
        Went back again last week to try some different items, and they're still toying with the menu some as it seemed a couple items have changed. This time we went with:
        tuna tartare
        wood-roasted lamb-stuffed onion
        skirt steak
        pork shoulder

        The place was packed (Friday night) but we were able to be seated at the bar (the regular bar, there's also a kitchen bar) where they serve the full menu. Our bartender was not only eager to serve but knowledgeable as well, knew all the dishes and had thoughts on the best ways to eat each. I sometimes find this kind of thing intrusive but the guy was so earnest and nice that it really wasn't a put-off. And his advice was pretty good, as the roasted onion (a sweet vidalia-syle onion stuffed with a moroccan-spiced ground lamb mixture and roasted in a wood-burning oven, served with some peppery arugula) would have been tricky without his suggestion -- take off the outside skin it's roasted in, and chop up the onion and mix it w/ the lamb & the greens. The lamb was very nicely flavored but I don't think I'd order this one again. The tartare was very nice, pristine, fresh, meaty fish and an interesting accompanyment of grapefruit segments bathed in a little chili oil.

        The skirt steak was nice, cooked appropriately and served over some roasted root vegetables (parsnip, carrot, pearl onion) w/ a rouille (red pepper aioli) over the top. The standout, I thought, was the pork shoulder, roasted until it's shredding-apart tender, topped w/ pickled onions (making it very reminiscent of a Mexican dish like a good cochinita pibil) and accompanied with some delicious cheese grits. Also picked up a nice 1999 Amarone for under $60.

        This place is doing everything right.

        1. re: Frodnesor

          I sat at the bar and tried some $4 'snacks'. Fried beef cheek rillettes-2 tiny discs-were odd, chips and onion dip were a good bar snack to go with a Belzebuth 13% alc. beer (very good, although it's $7 for an 8.5-oz bottle), chicken liver crostini which came 4 to an order (I agree this will probably change!), very mousse-like two-biter-really outstanding (I was drinking a glass of decent Barbera-$7). A pretty busy Tuesday, but the bar is small, so get there early. Most of the seating is outside, although there is a 'bar' in front of the open kitchen which might be fun if you go for that sort of thing. Going to return on a weeknight next week to try more.

          1. re: Miami Danny

            Place appears to be constantly packed, went for lunch on a weekday and it was close to filled inside and out. Had a pretty nice nicoise salad w/ fresh tuna and an aioli drizzle.

            1. re: Frodnesor

              Mussels are awesome, thought they could use less butter. Kimchi is addicting.

              1. re: lax2mia

                Saturday-9PM-not really that packed. Bar was slow. Noticed on the menu that 'snacks' were now priced at $5, but was actually only charged $4 for Chicken Liver Crostini. Ordered the braised clams ($9)-I think bacon/pancetta, fennel and potatoes-really satisfying broth with some good bread. Also had an order of fries ($5) just to try and they were pretty good. Nice mixed crowd, more younger types than weekdays. Not too scene-y yet.

                1. re: Miami Danny

                  Just wanted to note again how many things this place is doing right. We went this past rainy Friday night - got a late start and called around 9:30 to see if they had any tables. The host said they had nothing until 11, and I asked if they had any room at the bar. He said there was a couple at the kitchen bar who would be leaving in about 15 minutes (which is about how long it takes us to get there) and he'd hold the seats for us. Good man.

                  We got there, a little wet, and had a drink at the bar while waiting for the kitchen bar seats to open. When I ordered a wine for my wife and a Maker's Mark old-fashioned for myself, the bartender misheard and thought my wife's "Ridge Zinfandel" was a "Reisling". My wife says I mumble - I say it was just loud in there. In any event, he took it back without hesitation, but the Reisling actually looked pretty tempting and I told the bartender I'd take it instead of my old-fashioned. I had to practically beg him because he was so excited to make an old-fashioned.

                  We were seated before we finished our drinks. The kitchen bar is not a place to sit for an elegant meal, as the pass is literally right next to you and every order goes through there, so there's a constant bussle of waitstaff. But we love watching the kitchen at work and so it's perfect for us. Michael Schwartz was in there working the wood-burning oven (which, I realized when we were sitting there, cranks out a lot of the items on the menu including pizzas, a whole roasted fish, roasted chickens, some of the veggie items).

                  We started with the stout-braised claims (w/ potato, fennel & bacon) and a butter lettuce salad (w/ oranges, hazelnuts & avocado) and followed with a salmon steak (served w/ a potato/mushroom hash) and the pizza, which looked too good to resist (topped w/ shredded pork, caramelized onions, sliced figs, a sprinkle of cheese and a toss of arugula). Oh, and a "snack" of deviled eggs to start. And a side of the brussels sprouts w/ pancetta (crisped in the wood-burning oven).

                  I absolutely love the "snacks" for $5 (a little inflation from the $4 when they first opened, but still quite reasonable). Great touch. The deviled eggs were very mayo-y but yummy, though I prefer some of the other "snack" items we've had (chicken liver crostini, crispy hominy).

                  The clams were nice but I thought the stout broth turned a little bitter, and I would have preferred a little more bacon and a little less fennel (of course, more bacon is always better). The salad was simple and elegant. The salmon was delicious - nobody does salmon steak (cut across the body rather than as a filet), apparently because so many people fear fish bones, but you really do get better flavor. Beautiful dark red Alaskan sockeye, and the potato-mushroom hash was a great accompaniment. And the pizza was just outstanding. Crispy thin crust, perfect combination with the toppings, savory and a a little sweet at the same time.

                  Service is excellent too. Our waiter recognized us from prior visits, pointed out what was new on the menu (which changes a bit all the time), knew the items (including where the salmon came from and what kind of fish it was). Another thing that is so impressive is the teamwork - while our waiter was perfectly attentive, if any of the other waiters happened by and saw we needed anything, they immediately took care of it.

                  The website is finally live, and though the actual menu changes a bit regularly, the website gives a pretty good idea of the place.

      2. Went yesterday for the very first time. I had stayed away initially because several friends had had bad experiences.

        I loved the dim lights and the jazzy music playing in the background. My table was situated near my neighbors' so my friend and I got to peek at dishes and breathe in nice aromas before we placed our order. I started off with a full-bodied cab and my companion (bless his liver) had a straight vodka. We had two medium plates and one small. The duck confit with cauliflower mash was tasty- not extraordinary. The onion loaded with lamb was delectable. The tuna tartare with grapefruit wedges was decent. My companion ordered the pork with cheese grits and after the first bite, his eyes rolled to the back of his head. A very good sign. I tried it and mimicked his reaction. For dessert, we had the marshmallow s'more chocolate wedge. I believe the marshmallows were homeade. In all fairness, I am not a s'more fan. I would rather eat the bitter herb from a Seder plate than marshmallows. My friend declared the dessert a success- so I take his word. We have a real dearth of decent neighborhood places. Michael's seems to be a welcome change.

        1. Went to Michael's Genuine three times in the past weeks. Here are my thoughts:

          1. Love the trend of places like this varying their portion sizes. When I go out to eat, I am one who loves lots of little plates (i.e., the chefs menu) rather than one app and one huge entree. Mikey gives you 5 sizes: a) snacks, b) small apps, c) large apps, d) entrees, e) super large entrees -- for sharing.
          This works out perfect for me; not so great for our waiters who have to serve me multiple courses at $5-10 a course while I hog their table (more on that later!)

          2. As far as food, the place reminds me of Michy's in that it can be slightly hit and miss (although it has more "hits" than Michy's). In other words, if you order the right things, you can have an incredible meal. If you order the wrong things, you may walk away scratching your head at the praise this place has garnered.

          3. The snacks are a great part of the menu to splurge on. The potato chips and onion dip is my fav so far. Not far behind are the deviled eggs. Go with the olives (if thats yer thing). I was not won over by the chx liver crostini's. Thats usually my thing, but I just think there are better options. Have not tried the crispy hominy-- but each time the waiter reccomends.

          They ran out of ceviche and pulled it from the menu. Go with that if its back on when you dine. Also, the wild sockeye salmon tartare is incredible. Its like butter, only better. Oysters are also money.

          I was told to go with the prawn, but it ended up being a bad dish. Perhaps overcooked (Michael was not working the brick-oven at the time of night when I ordered it) and the meat was difficult to get out with a fork. Order with caution.

          I also was perplexed by the roasted onion with lamb. The lamb inside was rather dry and the dish could be improved if it had the right "stuffing" cause that roasted onion is sublime.

          A major rec are the pizzas. Definitely for lunch (but they are big), but it also makes a great sharing app for the table. At night they have the roasted pork pizza (trust me on this one -- its great!) and during they day they have about 4 to chose from. These might be the house specialty. On top of the taste, the price point on these items can win over all but the most frugal diners.

          As you can see, I havent really had any entrees. As I told you before, I'm not really a "portion size" guy, so I generally order apps at places like this. Sorry I can't help out with the entrees....

          4. As for the service.... on the whole, its above average for the Miami area. In other words, the servers look generally happy to be working there and they try to fill your dining requests with the goal of seeing you return as a customer. (Again, this the advantage in Miami of dining on the "mainland" in areas where tourists are less frequent.) On the other hand, all three times I dined the servers were really, really, really trying to push food on me throughout my dinner/lunch.
          Now I have served for many years, and I understand that its important for both the resaurant and the server to push up average ticket prices, but I just cant get with the pushiness that I received. If Michael is going to put snacks and small apps on the menu, the servers need to be down with this and understand that people are going to come in and just "snack" and "appetize". Hey, I am going to order the food I want, ok!? Just to give you a sense of what I'm talking about, my waiter one night kept asking if we wanted a dozen oysters (wtf!?). I told him I wanted the prawn (on his rec) and he said, "OK, so a prawn and a half dozen oysters for the table???" I was like, "No, just the prawn." LOL. Anyway, he was just too pushy wanting us to order more drinks and food. And I experienced this (albeit in smaller doses) the other two times I dined there.
          Other than that, tho, the service was above par.

          5. Desserts are rather good. I loved the upside down banana cake. We also had the chocolate *&^(*&% with olive oil and sea salt. Although it sounds bad, it is good! Both are must order items. Avoid the strawberry shortcake. Also, the smores might be overrated.

          6. If you go for lunch, dine at the "chefs bar" in the back. You can watch the kitchen work as well as Michael manning the brick oven. (On an inside note, Michael sure has the "stoic chef" mode down. He never seems to be happy, unless of course, you talk to him about his food. His stoic personality immediately brightens and he is like a kid talking about Disney World. Pretty funny to see that change in disposition, actually).
          The back bar is a little too crowded (via employees coming and going) to enjoy a fine meal, but its perfect for a snack at night or anything at lunch.

          7. Price points!!! As has been said before, this place is so nice because it is always a dining option no matter the occasion. If you want to "fine dine" and impress someone, you can do it. If you want to swing by before a movie/performance for a quick bite, you can get in and out without spending too much money. If you want to see some hipsters and scenesters (a rarity in Miami!!!), then just plunk down at the bar. You can spend as much or as little money as you want. This can't be said about many of the better restaurants in Miami.

          To sum it up: LETS HOPE THIS PLACE MAKES IT!!

          Even with a few blemishes, this place shines. We need more places like this in Miami.

          1. I found this place to be good but not great. Did not try dessert.

            5 Replies
            1. re: tpigeon

              What did you have? Some things are definitely better than others, though I've yet to have an outright "miss" there yet.

              1. re: tpigeon

                Totally disagree. Cremoso dessert is awesome. Place is great considering Miami's lack of unpretentious places like Michael's. Were it in San Francisco, I'd consider it good. But it's here, so great it is.

                1. re: lax2mia

                  Lax, I was eyeing the upside down bananna and the cremoso (especially as I am a fan of olive oil gelato and I am hoping for an similar experience with the cremoso here) unfortunately the group I ate with did not want to do dessert.

                  There was nothing that missed to me at this place. Everything was good and i was satisfied and felt it was fairly priced. However, nothing I ate was memorable. I did not like the figs on the pizza for dinner btw but that is a personal taste thing. The pizza was well excecuted and if you like the figs on the pizza you probably would like the dinner pizza very much. Also had the berkshire pork shoulder, the chips and devilled eggs. I had the chicken wings too.

                  1. re: tpigeon

                    File this under the "Francisco Franco is still dead" type of report - Michael's Genuine is still good. Actually just wanted to comment on a few new items I hadn't tried before.

                    The menu really is in a constant state of metamorphosis - while there are some mainstays, it does seem many items will come and go or change with the seasons. For instance, my beloved brussels sprouts w/ pancetta are gone - out of season and too expensive, Michael says (we sat at the kitchen bar). I should also note how refreshing it is to actually see the chef in the kitchen and working the oven, in these days when so many "chefs" tack their name on a place and are not seen again for 6 months.

                    So this time around we had the chicken liver crostini snack (four rounds of toasted bagette topped w/ creamed chicken livers and caramelized onions), house salad (arugula tossed w/ manchego cheese, champagne grapes, little brioche croutons, and draped w/ serrano ham - very nice mix of flavors), a wood-oven-roasted artichoke stuffed w/ bread crumbs and cambozola cheese (tasty, though I think the all-time best stuffed artichoke is at Ragazzi's), and the wood-oven-roasted whole chicken.

                    I thought the chicken was just fantastic. Crispy skin, perfectly cooked and moist, a bit of smokiness from the wood oven, dripping with its pan juices, tossed with some plumped rasins, toasted pine nuts, and a toss of arugula, with the bird brought out whole to the plate (they'll happily portion it out for you, but then you don't get to pick at the carcass!). Yes, it's "just" a roasted chicken - but it's a damn good one, and a very nice meal, especially with a nice Oregon Pinot Noir (the Daedalus made for a nice pairing).

                    Also finally tried the chocolate cremoso dessert. I will confess to not being entirely clear as to what a "cremoso" is, have decided it's something between a fudge and a ganache. In any case, a quenelle of the stuff, topped with some sea salt and olive oil and accompanied by a little sliver of toasted bread, makes a very nice, slightly savory dessert (especially when paired with the Osborune PX sherry). I thought the espresso parfait was a gratuitous and unnecessary addition.

                    My point being, I suppose: another fine meal had at Michael's, and while some favorites may come and go, it's great to see the menu update with the seasons but the food remains top notch.

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      Michael's rocks. Hands down the best new restaurant in Miami.