Miami Spice 2015: Alter's Lunch Menu Is a Great Value

Alter could be Wynwood's most anticipated restaurant. Chef Bradley Kilgore, who made a name at restaurants such as Grant Achatz's Alinea in Chicago, Azul at the Mandarin Oriental Miami, and J&G Grill at the St. Regis Bal Harbour, finally opened his own house to much buzz about three months ago.

The small dining room is packed almost any time of the day or night, with the chef preparing a rotating menu of dishes that feature local ingredients and adventurous flavors. If you haven't yet been to Alter, a good introduction is the restaurant's Miami Spice lunch, offered Tuesday through Saturday (the restaurant doesn't offer a Miami Spice dinner). The three-course lunch, however, for $23, is one of the best values in town — at least until the end of September.

Chef Kilgore says he decided to offer a Miami Spice lunch because it fell in line with what he wanted to present for lunch at Alter anyway. "I liked the way it was formatted into a prix-fixe-style menu, which is what I wanted at Alter for lunch anyway. The timing worked out well to coincide the opening of lunch with August's Miami Spice to get our chops before season hits."

Kilgore says his Spice menu is "light in conception, strong in flavor." He points out his scallop carpaccio, a starter option on the new September menu, as a prime example. "It's served with dill oil, raw celery, yuzu kosho, and a cucumber-lemongrass consommé. It's rich in flavor but light so you can get back to your day without wanting to take a nap." The lemongrass, by the way, is grown by Kilgore.
Kilgore's lunch menu is different from the à la carte dinner, with only one dish sharing both menus — a soft egg, which is offered at lunch for an additional price. "It's important to me to have items that are purposely designed for either lunch or dinner. Most items would not make it on both menus."

The Spice menu just changed for September. Starters include the scallop carpaccio, tendril and herb salad, and a blue crab shumai, the only holdover from August. Kilgore explains, "I decided to keep the shumai because it was such a huge hit during August. It is hand-rolled and steamed shumai with a Thai green curry sauce, a culantro relish, and local kumquat purée."
Sadly, a sublime chicken thigh dish, which sang with all the notes of an autumn day, was rotated off the menu, but Kilgore is equally excited about his new menu options. "I enjoy doing a play on a classic sandwich. Last month I did an elegant BLT, and this month I am making a rock shrimp roll on toasted brioche with tarragon and Meyer lemon aioli, topped with spicy bacon lardon and frisée. It's fun and rich but not too heavy. We also do an 'eggplant pastrami' that is seasoned like pastrami and is smoked, then roasted, and served with an acorn squash purée and pickled pears, as well as a brisket that is glazed with peppercorns and finished with a Tuscan kale and raw Brussels sprout slaw and pumpernickel crisps."
For dessert, there's yogurt-and-lychee panna cotta with cherry-lemongrass sorbet and coconut snow, or chocolate mousse with mint ice cream, chocolate streusel, and hibiscus. A more savory option is the Floridian tomme, with nectarine compote and rhubarb, served with long pepper lavash.
What does the chef recommend? "To suggest a single one is hard. It matters how you are feeling that day!"

In all, Miami Spice is a good intro to Kilgore's inventive dishes, and the chef couldn't be happier with the reception. "Miami Spice has treated us at Alter well, but even better, the people of Miami since our opening have treated us amazingly, with open arms, and continue to drive us to make us the best we can be."

Miami Spice is offered at Alter Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are strongly suggested and can be made through OpenTable.