The Freehand's 27 Restaurant: Broken Shaker Extravaganza
27 Restaurant's chef James Seyba with local fish in curry broth with Israeli couscous.
The best meals are often found simmering within the welcoming homes of fawning grandmothers. As sunset burns the sky orange and red, slowly cooked roasts and stews that began bubbling at daybreak are hoisted onto well-worn tables before wide-eyed friends and family.
Nostalgia for your granny, bubbie, or abuela's work awaits at 27 Restaurant & Bar, the 65-seat sit-down spot attached to the hip hostel Freehand Miami and the lauded speciality bar the Broken Shaker.
The revamped, 1930s-era home at 2727 Indian Creek Dr. (hence the name) retains its generations-old charm by forgoing a central dining room in favor of a layout that unfolds like a country house. Separate rooms are stuffed with ancient-looking liquor bottles, mismatched tables, and eclectic place settings. Floors are lined with brilliant cerulean Cuban tiles. There are wooden picnic tables, striped upholstered couches, and fireplace mantels lined with 1960s-era liquor ads alongside black-and-white photos of vacationers enjoying bucolic Florida landscapes.
Since opening in late November, the place has attracted the hip crowd that's been a fixture at Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi's Broken Shaker since its early days in the once-forgotten Indian Creek Hotel. Here, it's hard to tell which bearded flannel-wearer is your waiter and which is another diner.
Over the past year, the Sydell Group, which developed New York City's Ace and NoMad hotels, shepherded the once-decrepit house through a massive renovation. An extra floor was added to accommodate an upstairs bar that showcases new cocktails from Zvi and Orta, whose company Bar Lab oversees the whole restaurant. You can try an old-fashioned infused with miso-honey syrup, or check out the rye whiskey flecked with smoked strawberries and a splash of the Italian herbal liqueur amaro. There are also savory cocktails like smoky mezcal, similar to tequila, shaken with egg whites, charred squash, and the pungent Indian spice garam masala.
Across a cobblestone patio soaked in the sounds of the Broken Shaker's intoxicating bustle, the kitchen (in a brand-new building) is led by 33-year-old, Iowa-born James Seyba. After moving south in 2010, he spent a year at Michael Schwartz's flagship restaurant. "I had an obsession with fish -- I had to move to Miami," he says. Later he helped Schwartz open his first restaurant on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
After an eight-month stint at sea, Seyba moved to New Orleans, where Zvi tracked him down and lured him back to Miami in 2013 to run the Shaker's pocket-size kitchen for a year before 27's opening.
During the interim, dishes and ideas were constantly tested to develop a menu encompassing what's best about living and eating in Miami. "It's the food your grandma cooks depending on where she's from," Seyba says. There are Jewish, Caribbean, and Hispanic classics all packed into a place that rejects every spray-tanned, coke-fueled South Beach archetype and, like the Pubbelly Restaurant Group's locations, proves the island is ready for something different.
After stepping through the front door, you're greeted by a chalkboard listing the sources of ingredients. This kind of thing is becoming increasingly common as diners demand to know their meal's provenance, and chefs aspire to connect farmers and guests. At 27, mushrooms are pulled from Paradise Farms, and tomatoes come from Teena's Pride. Homestead's Verde Community Farm provides the squash, and Bee Heaven brings the honey. Seyba's fish comes courtesy of Trigger Seafood, a popular purveyor that specializes in local, line-caught species.
The kitchen butchers the day's catch into an ever-changing trio that dominates the one-page menu and includes a crudo, a whole fried option, and a composed dish. Scraps are reserved for stocks and sauces. On one evening, a supple, juicy tilefish fillet was doused in a coconut-curry-infused fish broth that was assertive but not overwhelming. The broth's heat and perfume of ginger, garlic, and scallions mingled effortlessly with a cold Israeli couscous salad studded with chunks of sweet Florida avocado.
The savory, assertive fish broth is also deployed in a classic clam dish that swaps bacon for spicy, smoky chorizo. Florida middlenecks are meaty with a clean ocean tinge but improve when combined with vibrant, razor-thin slices of watermelon radish and grassy flat-leaf parsley. The best way to enjoy it all is to soak one of the accompanying slices of Zak the Baker bread in the briny broth and top it with a clam, a hunk of crisp chorizo, and the vegetables.
That bread makes multiple appearances throughout the menu in dishes such as shakshuka, an Israeli classic of eggs simmered in a spicy, aggressively seasoned tomato sauce. On another plate, a thick slice of it is topped with luscious, slowly scrambled eggs and meaty oyster mushrooms bearing the mossy aroma of the forest floor. Some nasal-tingling bourbon mustard along with verdant parsley help pare back the richness, while shaved Parmesan steps in with a bit of salt and savory to intensify each bite.
The toast is one of several vegetable-focused offerings that highlight the kitchen's ability to delight without meat. The most stunning is a lasagna presented in a cast-iron skillet that crisps the edges of the house-made pasta and shaved calabaza, adding an addictive crunch to every bite. The kitchen swaps ricotta for a luxurious lather of brown butter and sage. It works perfectly here, adding a layer of richness and complexity while remaining simple. Just as understated yet attention-grabbing is the miso-tahini-massaged kale. The flavor and textures ring similar to a caesar salad's, but thanks to a creamy, umami-packed dressing with olive oil, vinegar, and honey, they go far deeper than the tired steak-house classic. Crisped chickpeas mimic croutons but build another layer of flavor that's lightened with shaved fennel and a squeeze of citrus.
Such sharp, assertive flavors are also piquantly present in the griot and pikliz, a small bite inspired by the restaurant's dishwasher. The Haitian dish consists of braised pork shoulder that's fried until almost charred and served with a carrot, onion, and cabbage slaw fired up by habanero peppers. Seyba, who always refers to the restaurant as "the house," says it's a dish most often served at home. That makes sense, because 27 is a place that is instantly familiar and one you'll want to visit again and again.
- Griot and pikliz $9
- Florida middleneck clams $18
- Vegetarian cast-iron lasagna $19
- Miso-tahini-massaged kale $9
- Paradise Farms oyster mushrooms $10
- Daily catch with coconut curry broth, Israeli couscous, and avocado $20
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