Bird & Bone, Richard Hales' restaurant at the Confidante, opens today, November 30, with a host of Southern-inspired dishes.
The chef, best known for his midtown Miami restaurants Blackbrick and Sakaya Kitchen, marks new territory with the opening of his latest endeavor. This is the first time Hales will have a restaurant in Miami Beach. It's also the largest venture for Hales, who will take over the Confidante's in-room food and beverage and catering operations too.
For his part, Hales says he's up for the challenge. "I've never even worked on the Beach. I realized I was on the Beach when we opened Nina's House [the property's outdoor bar] and the crowd was rowdy and I was cooking."
Hales is transforming Michelle Bernstein's old Seagrape space via repurposed wood and a rock 'n' roll country-house vibe.
The restaurant, which serves breakfast and dinner daily (Sunday brunch is expected to launch in the next month), will offer the chef's take on Southern cuisine. Menu items include crispy skin snapper with heirloom pole beans, tomato gravy, and whipped potatoes ($25); Florida cheddar and chive biscuits with Wife Hales' strawberry preserves ($7); and smoked fish dip ($12). But the restaurant's star menu item has to be the Nashville hot chicken ($22).
Hales starts with local chickens that are brined and then dry-aged for three days. The dry-aging intensifies the flavor of the chicken and dries the skin, preparing it for its flour coating. Though many chefs dry-age beef, Hales says people typically don't use that process on poultry, but Peking duck is a good example of dry-aging a bird.
Once aged, the chicken pieces are soaked in buttermilk and coated in a mixture of flour, paprika, salt, and pepper. Hales lets the chicken sit in the flour mixture until the second an order comes through. The pieces are fried until golden.
To turn fried chicken into Nashville hot chicken, the pieces are then coated in Hales' oil recipe seasoned with chilies and paprika. Then the pieces are placed on a bed of Zak the Baker bread. Finally, Chinese hot mustard and local honey are drizzled on the chicken, and the dish is finished with slices of house-made pickles. The chicken is crunchy on the outside and impossibly moist and tender on the inside. The heat creeps up on you — it's a subtle tingle on the lips rather than a death-defying endeavor. Again, Hales says this is his own interpretation of Nashville hot chicken. "I feel this is the sweet spot. There's still lingering spice, but it doesn't destroy your palate. This is my version. This is not traditional, which is more about heat than flavor. Here, you get the salt and the smoke as well."
If you're in the mood for something intenser, Hales has a special blend for you. "We have a dry spice from the hottest peppers in the world, grown in Arizona. We can give it to you on the side or sprinkle it on the dish." How hot is the spice? "I took a little bit and said, 'My God, why did I do that?' I was literally regretting it. If you like hot, you can sprinkle it all over, but good luck tomorrow."
Bird & Bone is open seven days a week . Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to noon. Dinner is served from 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.