Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Restaurant Review: Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

On Sunday, I headed down to South Beach to meet up with some friends and soak in the sun on the beach. On my drive over the causeway to the beach I noticed it was actually kind of chilly and that was when my friends called and said that the wind and lack of sun had killed our beach day. So, after drinking a few bottles of wine on their deck overlooking the bay and city of Miami, we decided to head over to Michael's Genuine Food & Drink for a bite to eat.

I had heard rave reviews about Michael's from various posters on Chowhound, to the point where it was almost overkill. I mean, a simple mention of this place sparked a message board humpfest about the various dishes there. So, I have to admit, I had high expectations walking in and that is usually not a good sign. The three of us arrived and were seated outside on the patio immediately. I think we were lucky that we went early (around 630p) because I had heard it was tough to get a table and had tried to get reservations last minute on a previous occasion and couldnt get anything before 930p. The decor of the place was dark but it had a cool vibe to it and I really liked the outdoor area because the buildings blocked out the wind and the chairs were really comfy. I also liked that the tables werent too close to eachother.

Our waiter came over and took a drink order while we began reviewing the menu. I was excited to see Left Hand Brewery's Milk Stout on the menu and went for that. Foodwise, I didnt know where to begin, so I asked him for recommendations, letting him know that we would likely do a couple of small & medium plates for each of us. It was kinda funny when he recommended almost everything on the menu! We settled on some food to share and off he went.

For my first item, I went with the Woodgrilled Prawn and it was very good. The prawn was a nice large one (which reminded me of the lobster-like prawns I had seen at Casablanca Fish Market days earlier) that was seasoned with a little bit of spice and garnished with a slice of lime. I actually enjoyed this so much that I even ate the guts and the head of the prawn! One of my friends went with the Chicken Wings that came with a killer cucumber sauce and my other friend went with the Roasted Onion Stuffed with Lamb which was awesome. Im not an onion fan at all but thanks to a visit to Whisk Gourmet in the Gables, Ive learned to at least give onions a try and since this one was a sweet onion it made the leap a lot easier to make. This onion was great, but I really liked the lamb stuffing the best. I think the onion was the hit of round one with my prawn a close second.

For the next round, I had the Grouper Cheek while my friends had the Pork Cheek and Persimmon Salad. Now, first let me remark that one of the things I loved about all of the dishes at Michael's was that if they were supposed to be a hot dish, they came hot and most likely fresh off of the line. I loved that. When I slightly burned my tongue on the first bite of grouper cheek, I was actually happy haha. The grouper cheek was awesome - nice crispy outside with a warm, moist inside. But the part of the dish that stole the show for me was the meyer lemon accompaniment. It was comprised of (what I believe are) little beads of pasta in a meyer lemon sauce and boy did that shock the taste buds! The persimmon salad was a very different yet tasty salad that all of us really enjoyed. I thought the variety of items in the salad was nice without overshadowing the taste of each bite of persimmon. The winner for round two though was definitely the pork cheek. Much like the grouper cheek, the pork cheek was nice and crispy, warm, and tender. And much like the grouper cheek, the sauce - in this case an incredible bbq sauce - stole the show. This is probably the best bbq sauce I have ever had and my friend said the same. I think they couldve brought out charcoal with this bbq sauce on it and we'd have devoured it toot sweet.

Now, normally Im not a desert person, but in this case we were on a high and almost reordered another pork cheek but instead opted for some deserts. Desert at Michael's is a tad pricey but well worth it. We opted to share the Pot de Creme and the Banana Split. Both were awesome. The banana split came with a nice chunk of peanut brittle and some dulce de leche on top that was a tad too sweet for my liking but when it mixed up with the rest of the dish it was tamed and tasty. My favorite was the Pot de Creme though. One cup of creamy goodness with a piece of baklava and a slice of candied tangerine on the side. The tangerine tasted incredible, especially when mixed up in a fat spoonful of the creme. Mmmm...

Still on a high from dinner and dessert, one of my friends went with an orange dessert wine and I asked the waiter if he drank grappa, and if so, if he could recommend one from the list. Oddly enough, his grandfather makes his own grappa in Romania! He suggested the Grappa Jacobo and although it was the most expensive on the menu, it really hit the spot.

The waiter fetched our check while we finished off our drinks. The bill came to $150 and we left 20% for tip, bringing the total to $180 or $60 each. Not bad at all! Also, considering we had 2 $9 desserts and 2 dessert beverages that came to $23 total I knew I could easily get out of there for less money next time since Im not really a dessert person. Thats and extra $41 right there.

Overall, my experience at Michael's Genuine definitely lived up to the hype. I must say that at first I was a little concerned with the size of the plates, that they wouldnt be large enough to satisfy our appetites, but in the end we all left very content in terms of "fullness" and very satisfied with the quality and the adventure our taste buds had just went on. Im looking forward to my next visit!