Friday, December 14, 2007

Mi-chelle Bern-stein!

So, as I was saying about those timely posts...

What gets me most is that when I look back to consider what I'd like to say about the places I've eaten only to realize just how much time has passed. The days sort of feed into one another and what I remember as being about a week or two has actually been closer to seven--which is actually the case with my trip to Michy's, amongst others. It was six or seven weeks ago that I, after eight months of work, received my first Friday night off without having requested it, which obviously meant I needed to spend it wisely. And what better way to spend a Friday night than a night out wining and dining with the one you love most.

The decision to actually go to Michy's rather than simply returning to my favorite Michael's Genuine was a little more difficult than you might imagine. It was Friday afternoon at almost two o'clock and I hadn't yet made a reservation. I had heard that Michy's was some sort of high end Latin fusion all the way down on Miracle Mile. Mixed reviews left me wondering if the trip would actually be worth another Latin meal when my neighborhood was teeming with the equivalent of Central American Applebee's.

My first reservation was actually with the Food Gang, thinking it might be fun to go and see Howie Kleinberg's (the argumentative, sweaty bald guy from Top Chef 3) food in real life, but the reviews there were even more mixed. Flipping through a magazine I had received highlighting restaurants in Broward and Dade counties, I finally gave in and called Michy's, delightfully surprised to find out that not only is it North Miami Beach, much closer to my house, but also that the food is actually quite appealing, and not just another take on old Latin favorites.

What excited me most about Michy's was the subtle vibrance of everything. First of all, the place is very quietly located on US1, next to a Starbuck's, a gas station and a residential street. If you didn't know what you were looking for, you wouldn't find it. Then when you enter (as we did, mistakenly through the front door which is actually the back door), you are hit with blue. Blue envelops the room and gives a sense of boundary. It isn't until you look around and realize that the banquette along the far wall is bright orange and the chairs bright white that the room really comes alive, enough to match the clamor of the guests all enjoying themselves. As far as first impressions go, this was a pretty good one.

So we finally sat down, I in the orange banquette, Doris in one of the many white mismatched chairs that fill most of the room. To our right was the dining room, full of well-dressed adults, a family with their kids, smiles on everyone's faces as they took bites of the delicious food. To our left, the wall of wine, the bar and the bargoers out not to eat, but to have a good time. Michy's, I realized, isn't just a place to go and have great food--it's a place to go and have a great time.

Be forewarned--I was easily sold into two $18 glasses of champagne that, admittedly, tasted damn good, but were a little pricier than I had expected. Regardless, they made a great start to a fantastic meal and quickly heightened the romance that only Michy's quirky elegance could create. With the champagne we enjoyed oysters with the apple horseradish mignonette, and the silky, heavenly white gazpacho with almonds, grapes and cucumber. Smoother and less acidic than most any other gazpacho I've ever had, this was like eating a smile and swallowing perfection. Second was the bibb lettuce salad, topped in crispy shallots (which I made at work the next day they tasted so good) and a jalapeno ranch dressing just spicy enough to excite the lettuce, but not so cloying that I kept reaching for my water.

Before I go any further I must talk about ham and cheese. While traveling through the Southern half of Argentina last year at this time, we spent well over fifty hours on busses owned by companies that believed ham and cheese sandwiches were the best option for quick meals. In all fairness, ham and cheese are some of the cheapest and most ubiquitous ingredients to be had in all of South America, but when you are sitting on a bus, stopped-over for two hours in the middle of Argentina only to be fed a trio (yes a TRIO!) of ham and cheese sandwiches with cookies, carbs and more carbs, all in the middle of a 36-hour bus ride, your disdain for the two ingredients quickly rises and you basically never want to see them again. However, when we saw the ham and cheese croquetas on the menu, they sounded too good to pass up, and served as a nice interlude between salad and entree.

Finally, it was the churrasco Steak Frites, served with a Bearnaise and an Au Poivre dipping sauce. For me, it was the least exciting element of the evening, perhaps becuase I've been working a grill station for over five months and therefore am a bit tired of steak and heavy sauces. Then, inevitably, it was the red velvet cupcake and shot of milk served in a mason jar for dessert that we had seen upon entering. There was honestly no room left to stuff a cupcake, but if you could the presentation alone of the cream cheese icing and glass of milk, you'll find a place.

The cool thing about Michy's is that the menu is divided into half and full portions, so you can turn four courses into a tasting for two simply by sharing, just like we did. The bill for everything, including the champagne, coffee and gratuity was $160, not bad considering we left feeling satisfied. Once I've completed more of my tour of South Florida cuisine, I'll definitely go back, though perhaps not for the Steak Frites. It is an environment unto itself, unpretentious and bursting with energy--worth the travel and worth the money.

6927 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Fl; (305)-759-2001

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Le Best

For the first time in the short history of this food blog, I'm going to go ahead and do a timely review, rather than one that comes one, two, even three weeks after the fact. I plan to change this style and do everything in a more timely fashion once I'm out of school and only have work to fill up my days, but for now, c'est la vie, and I'll continue doing my part whenever possible. With that, you're probably wondering (or at least I hope) what has me so eager to get to writing, rather than my usual procrastinating. The answer--Le Tub.

If you're like me, adventure is a part of your regular vocabulary and is graciously applied to any situation where narrow passages, winding through trees, field trips, or anything MacGyver-esque happens. I look for adventure because it makes even the most mundane of days seem a little more fulfilling, and I also like to think it keeps me young. So, upon entering the wooden deck maze of picnic style seating along the water, only to find that our friends were seated in the furthest booth located up some stairs, around a corner, through some trees and past the tiki torches, adventure was the first thing that came to my mind. It didn't matter that Oprah's travel expert and GQ magazine had already voted the burgers as some of the best in the U.S. or that my Floridian friends had raved about the food for some time--I was sold before I ever had a bite. Moreover, we had coincidentally already tried to enter Le Tub's jungle more than six months prior while on a Sunday afternoon trip to the Hollywood organic market, only to find the parking lot packed and wait too long for our grumbling stomachs. Needless to say, this dinner was destined to be great.

Once we finally sat down, the conversation quickly turned to Oprah, or the whole reason we were here in the first place. Oprah and the menu, that is. Sitting right on the water, there were, of course, seafood options on the menu, but none of us were interested. It was the burgers we had come for, the burgers we had heard so much about, and for perhaps the first time in my life everyone at the table ordered the same thing--a burger and fries.

I must digress for a second and talk a little about burgers, because they are near and dear to my heart. Growing up in the Midwest, in the land of meat and potatoes, I was exposed to burgers of all sorts. Frozen patties, my mom's fresh meat cooked to a dry, yet somehow delicious, well-done, burgers in restaurants of all types and, of course, the barbecue burger on lazy summer afternoons. As I look back, it was an education in flavor that could only be enjoyed by a chubby kid that learned to love food while sitting in front of the television for most of his adolescent life. For a while, I even tossed around the idea of driving around the country doing a burger tour, deciding for myself who had the best burger. Having now experienced what has been regarded as the best, I think a tour of this sort might still be worthwhile because, although the burger I had last night was good enough to silence our table for a solid ten minutes, I'm still not convinced that it's "the best." Booche's in Columbia, MO might have something to say otherwise, as well as a few other establishments across this great nation in which I've enjoyed some tasty beef patties.

Moving on, it may, in fact, be the sirloin and the sheer size of the 13 oz. patty that has people raving about Le Tub's burger, because in today's fast-food economy, finding a burger of that girth made out of a superior cut of beef is nearly impossible. Plain and simple, it's a fantastic burger. Upon first bite, the classic ketchup, mustard, onion, lettuce, tomato, bun and burger combo came together in a bite so savory and succulent that it brought back memories of the burger I had my sophomore year of high school after the Sadie Hawkins dance. It set my mind racing to remember all those other burgers I'd had because I hadn't had a burger in quite some time, at least not one this good, of this caliber. And in the end, it was only the burger in front of me, the water off to my right, the steak fries so hot and tender inside, and the ice-cold Corona that matched everything so perfectly that grabbed my attention. At that point, the other burgers didn't really matter much simply because this one was so damn good. Furthermore, I knew that no amount of classical French training in a highly regarded, expensive culinary school could make this burger. No, it was and is truly American, and although I'd never refer to myself patriotic or even proud, it was pretty nice to know that this was entirely ours and that you wouldn't find anything else quite like it anywhere else in the world.

And that was pretty much it. By the end of the meal we were all yawning, exhausted from having consumed so much meat. We finished up our conversation, passed on dessert and headed back through the maze, back to the buzz (albeit low) of Hollywood at night. I look forward to going back again, not simply for the burger, but for the ambience as well. It was, I have to say, a truly unique and utterly perfect burger experience, one that most assuredly slip in with all the others, just another branch of my education in American cuisine.

Le Tub (
1100 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood, Fl; 954-921-9425