By Laine Doss
By Lyssa Goldberg
By David Minsky
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
By Laine Doss
By Laine Doss
By Jen Mangham
Alberto Cabrera is one of Miami's more innovative chefs. His resumé reads like a recital of our most daring (and, excepting Norman's, ill-fated) restaurants: the Ferran Adrià-inspired La Broche; Norman Van Aken's original namesake venture with its groundbreaking New World cuisine; Robbin Haas's Chispa, which highlighted contemporary Latin plates; and the $25 million nightclub/supper club Karu & Y. Cabrera's cuisine at Karu was often terrific but got lost amid the media mockery of ownership's extravagant miscalculations. In fact, meals at Karu impressed more than those at Cabrera's latest venue, the Local Craft Food & Drink.
150 Giralda Ave.
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Region: Coral Gables/South Miami
Admittedly, this isn't a kosher comparison. Karu was much pricier, and the chef's mission at the Local is as far removed from his task at that glitzy arena as can be. Here Cabrera uses fresh ingredients from American farms (occasionally local) to fashion a modern-day gastropub bill of fare. Originally divided into sections called "Snacks," "Plates," "Farm," "Sea," "Land," and so forth, the menu has since been revised. Most items are now squeezed together under two umbrellas: "Small Plates" and "Large Plates." Most could also fit beneath the narrow awning of "Honestly Sourced Bar Snacks." Whatever the categorization, the offerings are intriguing and the execution inconsistent.
There is no worker at the door to greet and seat diners when they arrive, and no bread or other predinner treat to keep them sated before the first course. Luckily, the series of small plates we ordered didn't take long to appear. Plump strips of lukewarm fried clams came bundled in thick, fluffy, barely cooked-through breading flecked with fresh dill. Thin slices of cornichon and three rings of fried lemon rinds served as garnish on top; the plate was cold. Smoked pimenton aioli alongside sounded tepid notes of garlic and smoke.
The enticement of salt cod chicharrones likewise proved to be a letdown — just a few fried chips of salt cod the wispy width of potato chips (but much larger in circumference) intermingled with rectangular strips of fried malanga. Guess this snack goes all right with a glass of beer, but it should be called "chips of salt cod and malanga" so expectations don't lean toward meaty nubs of fried bacalao.
Buffalo-style sweetbreads appeared just as advertised: fried, breaded nuggets coated with blue cheese-infused hot sauce and sprinkled with a julienne of chayote and green apple. It was undeniably tasty, but I kept thinking that if T.G.I. Friday's ever served sweetbreads, this is how they'd do it.
Tomato salad components were parsimoniously parceled: three little rings of palm hearts, a couple of orange sections, a light smattering of teeny ricotta salata cubes, and barely enough Meyer lemon vinaigrette to register. And the Rabbit Run Farm heirloom tomatoes had a pale, flat taste, as if the heritage was handed down from the Publix produce department. Perhaps the kitchen crew recognized this flaw, because riper cherry tomatoes were mingled into the mix.
Many locals belly up to the long, aged mahogany bar backed by a large mahogany-framed mirror and a full stock of liquor. The space, formerly housing Randazzo's Little Italy, features high-top and regular wood tables and chairs on a black-and-white checkerboard floor, with white tin patterned walls rising above a stained wood chair rail. Old, faded, enlarged black-and-white photos of Coral Gables hang on these walls — and that's about it in terms of décor. It has the comfortable feel of an unassuming neighborhood pub that has been around for years.
A chalkboard that hangs on a light brick wall behind the bar lists two dozen domestic and imported craft brews on tap (most $6). "Crisp & Refreshing" drafts include Leffe Blond Belgian ale and Magic Hat #9, a fruity pale ale from Vermont. "Bold & Flavorful" pours range from Brooklyn Brown Ale to Guinness to Harpoon Leviathan from Boston. Bottled beers, categorized in the same manner, range from $6 (Strongbow) to $11 (Gulden Draak) — to $3 for the requisite Pabst Blue Ribbon. Cabrera has mentioned that his Local partners — Jose Mallea and Mauricio Lacayo — are the beer experts in the house. They have composed an enviable list.
The same chalkboard notes some of the night's thoughtfully sourced artisanal American cheeses and cured meats, served on wood boards with garnishing accompaniments. Among the options are famous Humboldt Fog goat milk cheese from Cypress Grove in California, and Tomme, a Parmesan-like semihard cheese culled from raw milk and made in Florida's Winter Park Dairy ($8 each, $20 for three). Some of the charcuterie is made in-house, such as merguez sausage and head cheese. Others are brought in from respected national producers, including San Francisco's Molinari mortadella and country pâté from Palmetto Creek in Florida.
The Local's real strengths are the cheese/charcuterie/beer selections — along with a quartet of menu items aptly categorized "In a Jar." That's how they are served, whether it be potted duck rillette with red wine jam; chicken liver mousse with ham bits and pickled shallots; or dark wedges of grass-fed flank-steak jerky delectably dried with soy, gochujang (a pungent Korean condiment), and sweet brown sugar to counter. It probably pairs better with drinks than dinner, but this jerky definitely gives diners some good flavor to chew on.
Been here twice now because the menu looks so inviting- this review is spot on. I really want this place to be better.
Hey "Enough", I can understand you wanting to meet Lee Klein, but I think you ought to be looking for William Labbee instead, as he appears to have written this review. Maybe you can work out a deal and meet both of them in the alley and they can take turns bitch-slapping you silly.