A Review of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

For my birthday, my dining connoisseur sister (Yvonne) and brother-in-law (Rick) popped the question for my 40th birthday three- day weekend celebration. "Where do you want to go for dinner?" Let's see, going through my list, I started with the biggies--The Blue Door, The Forge...But we had dined there before on their last visit so I craved a new adventure.

Then I thought of Barton G--a great restaurant for a group celebration but my sister said based on my review and other's alike, the Barton G ranks high on presentation but less in food. She and Rick are finicky when it comes to fine cuisine. The establishment could literally have a hole in the wall or cater to the rich and famous, regardless, it's always about the food.

Should we risk a new place? A restaurant with ambience, creative menu variety, but not insanely priced. Chic ambience and a fusion menu to match are plenty in Miami. The price is another. Thinking ahead of the weekend to come in Key West, I didn't want to ask for much in the beginning.

Then my sister did some research on the internet. A food critic in New York, rated the best restaurants outside of New York City. One lucky contestant happened to be in Miami. Michael's Genuine Food & Drink located in the Miami Design District. Why haven' I heard of it before? Must be a well kept secret.

In visiting their website, the menu answered our second criteria. "Panzanella Rustic Bread Salad, Housemade Rabbit Terrine, Duck Confit with Pear Raisin Chutney, Grab the Napkin We're Drooling from reading this menu.

Zagat reviewers raved about the food but ranted poor marks for the service. Should we take a chance? Yes, we always have Key West awaiting for the next three days to help us forget.

My first visit to this corner of the Miami Design District, I was not sure of the humble extent of the "unpretentious" neighborhood surroundings. I was pleasantly surprised. Boutique shops showcased one-of-a-kind furniture, home accessories and artwork with lavish taste. This was not the SoHo part of the Design District. I almost thought we were back in Coral Gables.

On a Thursday night, there was plenty of parking along the street and payment machines. No need to valet this time. A courtyard with a waterfall graced the entrance and upon entering the restaurant, the ambience embraced us like a smooth liqueur on a fall night-- rich colors in a chic setting. Then came the slap in the face --no seats were available in the main dining room. We would have to sit next door in an adjacent dining room void of any ambience or decor. We felt like intruders ushered out the front door and into the next door. Why didn't they just knock down the wall to expand the main dining room?

We were all silently praying the food would save the night. Fortunately it did. Menu items are grouped into "Small", "Medium" and "Large" sizes. Eyeing the menu we instinctively agreed on tapas style--various small and medium dishes to sample all around the table.

The Local Black Grouper & Cobia Ceviche with mango, avocado, citrus and cilantro

We all enjoyed the ceviche. Light on the stomach, fish flavor not overpowering, great blend of mango and avocado. Score: 4

Chargrilled Octopus

Maybe since it's been awhile since we had those "suckers" on the octapus, the dish was good but not memorable. Score: 3

Sauteed Sweetbreads

Now if you never heard of sweetbreads ONE WORD, very important, then you're in for an anatomy lesson. Sweetbreads is a euphemism for an animal organ--the thymus glands. Not to be confused with the thyroid glands, the thymus gland is cooked from beef, lamb or pork. It is considered the ultimate organ meat and highly prized by chefs for their mild flavor and velvety texture. Typically they are soaked in salt water, then poached in milk after which an outer membrane is removed. Once dry and chilled, they're often breaded and fried until crisp. Sweetbreads figure prominently in hot or cold appetizers, stews, pates, terrines, and sausages.

A neophyte in eating glands, it tasted like an organ. I don't like liver, and so I did not enjoy sweetbreads. Strange because I enjoy fine goose pates. Yvonne and Rick are connoisseurs of this delicacy. I'll have to add sweetbreads to my short list of Foods I Won't Eat.

Duck Confit with Cauliflower Mash, wilted greens and Raisin Pear Chutney

This was my absolute favorite that I ordered another small size just for moi. The duck was flavorful and gastronomically enhanced by the cauliflower mash and raisin/pear chutney flavors and textures. Score: 5

Another favorite (not pictured) was the Fried Pork Belly--juicy, succulent, I had seconds as well. Score: 5


Accurate representation of dining room on website - 2

Website lacks wider, panoramic photos of the dining room , outdoor eating and patio and explanation that seating is limited in main dining room and overflow guests are directed to adjacent room.

Accurate Menu - 3

Rick ordered a Cobb Salad which was delicious. This is not on the website which desperately needs updating. Also some menu items' garnishes and accompaniments are modified while preserving the main star.

Menu Variety - 5

Food Taste - 4

Price - 4

Service - 3

Despite the disappointment in being herded to an adjacent room, we enjoyed the food, and the service was acceptable as well as the prices. I would return to Michael's and recommend it to groups and couples.

The flavors were distinct and true to the owner and chef's mission of unpretentious, homemade recipes using local and organic ingredients. The prices are also realistic. The restaurant opened in 2007 and is winning the hearts of locals and tourists alike. And you can't forget the name. It's the same as my last name!

If you visit Michael's, share your experience by POSTING A COMMENT!

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