By Zachary Fagenson
By Bill Citara
By Laine Doss
By Laine Doss
By Carina Ost
By Valeria Nekhim
By Hannah Sentenac
By Carina Ost
The small plates section of the menu showcases Balloo's more creative, New American culinary sensibilities that were no doubt honed while working under illustrious local chefs such as Susser, Bernstein, Wessel, and Andriola. We tried a wide swath of the choices, and while some were more impressive than others, there wasn't a clunker among them.
Highlights included delicate little veal meatballs in sticky-rich, sherry-fueled demi-glace (an antidote for those wary of the meatloaf-size meatballs that land with a thud upon local restaurant tables); a New England lobster roll that foregoes the traditional mayonnaise approach but bursts with the crisp flavors of a shaved celery/fennel salad (if a bit cheap on the namesake crustacean); five fried goat cheese croquettes composed of small, brittle-breaded spheres breaking way to hot, flowing chevre (membrillo marmalade on the side is the ideal yang to the yin); and steamy white pork buns brightened with apple kimchi and cilantro (the pork belly obsession evidently having morphed into a mass craving for Momofuku-style pork buns). More adventurous diners might elect to try tripe with kimchi or duck egg with beef tongue stew; vegetarians can venture toward Brussels sprouts with orange and sweet soy or golden beets boosted with burratta cheese and braised romaine (bravo to Balloo for bravery in boosting contentious vegetables like brussels sprouts and beets).
Torrejas, a custardy French toast served with apples and vanilla ice cream, is too heavy a finish for my taste. Hot, fresh, petit donut rounds dusted with sugar crystals and filled with quince jelly, on the other hand, were delectable with milk chocolate dip and hazelnut ice cream. Desserts come lighter still via vanilla panna cotta with clementine soda, and assorted flavors of sorbet.
3250 NE 1st Ave.
Miami, FL 33137
Region: Midtown/Wynwood/Design District
While the pricing concept for "small plates" is generally lauded as reasonable — most Sugarcane items are $10 or less — discussion of such is inevitably punctuated by the phrase "but it adds up." This can't be denied, but a single person could indulge in a filling and fulfilling dinner of wedge salad with blue cheese, tomato, and bacon ($8); a not-that-small Kobe beef slider with quail egg ($6); sweetbreads with capers, oranges, and arugula ($9); that yummy chicken yakitori ($8); and a strawberry cheesecake parfait layered with guanábana sorbet and Sapporo beer foam ($7), for $38 — the cost of a single entrée at one of our well-heeled spots, or a buck less than a "bargain" three-course Miami Spice dinner of similarly sized portions. Work the arithmetic any way you want: Sugarcane is a great deal. And it is a great restaurant.