By Emily Codik
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With East Coast wild salmon all but extinct and West Coast wild catches restricted by quotas, farmed fish constitutes 90 percent of this country's salmon sales. Yet studies have shown farmed salmon to contain more PCBs and other contaminants than wild salmon, and have exposed salmon farming practices as an environmental hazard. Michael's flies in wild salmon, the texture and flavor of which is superior to the fatty, neutral-tasting farmed variety, and teams it with roasted fingerling potatoes, wilted mustard greens, and pumpkin seed broth. If you've ever wondered what "New American cuisine" implies, this is it.
Desserts are mostly new takes on classic Americana favorites such as strawberry shortcake (with orange mascarpone and strawberry orange blossom reduction); banana upside down cake (with dulce de leche ice cream); and s'mores (made of dark chocolate and peanut butter with cubes of roasted marshmallows on top, butterscotch sauce below, and vanilla ice cream on the side).
The heirloom panzanella salad is $8; salmon and fennel $9; Berkshire pork shoulder $24. That's less money than is routinely charged by restaurants run by clueless cooks. Lunch presents even more of a bargain. The same pork, but pulled and and placed in a brioche bun with pickled red onion and creamy tsatzikilike cucumber sauce, served with French fries made from real potatoes, is just $10. A grilled salmon B.L.T. with herb mayo, and a grilled Vermont cheddar cheese sandwich with tomato and bacon, go for about the same price and are really delicious.
130 NE 40th St.
Miami, FL 33137
Region: Out of Town
A daily happy hour brings more cut-rate offers in the form of half-price drinks, wine, and beer (Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.). Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat is a partner in the venture, which allows Schwartz to offer these and other small vineyard vintages at a value cost. Don't go looking for Bud Light, as brews are boutique, too. "We haven't gotten to the beer tastings yet," our waiter said sort of wistfully, by way of apologizing for his unfamiliarity with Dead Guy Ale from Oregon. Servers were knowledgeable about everything else, though, and very efficient. Michael's lovely wife, Tamara, serves ably as hostess, and also gets credit for being the one to nudge her hubby healthward to begin with.
Bar snacks are all priced at $4. We're not talking salted peanuts (though there are complimentary radishes and fleur de sel lined up at the sixteen-seat bar), but rather riveting bites like crispy hominy with chile and lime; chicken liver crostini; and grilled black mission fig with blue cheese and balsamic vinegar. There are also homemade thick-cut potato chips, but I'll be more impressed when a chef comes up with homemade Cheez Doodles.
The restaurant is already packed for lunch and dinner. It has become an instant hit for reasons just detailed, and also because Michael's loyal following has followed and followed him since 1995, when, as co-owner of Nemo, his eclectic cuisine launched the South Beach eatery into its still-successful orbit. The most comparable establishment to Michael's, though, is Michy's, both being unpretentious neighborhood joints helmed, in very personal manner, by namesake chef/owners who just happen to be among the elite practitioners of their craft. As such, each also doubles as a nationally recognized dining destination for food lovers and if Michael's isn't yet, trust me, it soon will be, as every national food mag that reviews Miami's hottest new places this year is going to peg it at the top of its lists. As well they should. Michael's Genuine Food & Drink is a remarkable restaurant that epitomizes everything positive about today's slow, inexorable worldwide movement toward slow, indisputably honest food.
130 NE 40th St, Miami; 305-573-5550. Open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Dinner Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 11:00 p.m., Friday 5:30 p.m. to midnight, Saturday 6:00 p.m. to midnight, Sunday 5:30 to 10:00 p.m.