In what was a tense competition, Tongue & Cheek emerged victorious after a rough start on last evening's episode of Best New Restaurant.
The SoBe restaurant competed against Austin's Porter Ale House for the "Battle of the Burgers."
Once again, Tom Colicchio was joined by Maggie Nemser and Jeffrey Zurofsky for the Cheek's pressure test, during which DeRosa and his general manager, Gustavo Rech had two hours to provide a full meal service for 30 diners.
Before the service, Tom tried Chef DeRosa's crispy pig ears and beef cheek burger and was impressed, saying, "The chef has got an amazing technique. This is the best of both worlds -- a fun place with really great food." Tom, however, cautioned that the restaurant was still quite new and, although DeRosa has decades of experience, having your own restaurant is a much different experience.
Tom's words proved prophetic when service broke down. Most diners opted for a hand-crafted cocktail, which overwhelmed the one bartender on duty. Ironically, though the bar was swamped, the kitchen had yet to fire up any dishes because the servers were waiting for guests to get their drinks before taking food orders. The result?
Many diners waited 30 minutes or more for their food and drinks, and trying to compensate for lost time didn't work. The Tongue & Cheek team ran out of time and failed the pressure test.
Maggie Nemser said the fact that DeRosa is such a good chef "tugs on her heartstrings."
Porter Ale House in Austin is the dream of partners Joe Bixel, Neil Joiner, and Trevor Lane, and the work they put into the gastropub has paid off, with restaurant wait times sometimes an hour or more. Tom said the guys should have no problem on their pressure test because the restaurant is always packed -- and things did seem to go smoothly. As the kitchen wound down with a few minutes still left on the clock, one final order came in. As the chefs scrambled to plate the last surprise dessert, they ran out of time and failed their pressure test by one minute. Tom was still optimistic for the guys.
For the second round, each restaurant team met in New York City to prepare two dishes for a group of VIP diners, including Nemser and Zurofsky. The service at both restaurants ran smoother.
Tongue & Cheek showcased some of its dishes, making a braised lamb belly with hand-cut rigatoni for the first course and a blondie coffee custard with Dippin' Dots and edible flowers for dessert. Maggie Nemser said the rigatoni was "to die for."
Porter Ale House prepared a pumpernickel crepe with smoked salmon for the first course and a deconstructed shepherd's pie with pirogi for the second course. Although the food was flavorful, Tom didn't think the food strayed too far from the restaurant's roots.
Tongue & Cheek was declared the winner, and it -- along with the Federal Food Drink and Provisions and Dolce Italian -- advances to the semifinals to represent Miami. (R House, also featured on the show, did not advance to the next round of competition.) Buns & Buns will be the last Miami restaurant to face the initial pressure test, but so far, Miami is doing exceedingly well on this new show, and it looks as if one of our favorite restaurants will, ultimately, be declared the Best New Restaurant.
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