Bread + Butter: Sino-Cuban Pan Con Lechon and a Secret Dining Room

After several months of planning what turned into two separate restaurants Alberto Cabrera, formerly of Karu & Y and The Local Craft Food and Drink, quietly opened Bread + Butter Counter (Pan con Mantequilla) about two weeks ago toward the west end of Miracle Mile.

The restaurant's décor and menu screamed Cuban gastropub. Black-and-white portraits of people and scenes from Cuba a half-century ago adorned one all-black wall. There was no shortage of subway tile, reclaimed wood, or industrial metal and ducting running along the walls and ceiling. Butcher paper placemats stamped with the restaurant's logo and fresh white roses in small mason jars were interspersed along a seating counter and about a dozen tables, all of which were spoken for on a Saturday night.

Cabrera said he's making small daily changes to the one-page menu. As expected it's designed for sharing with a few entrée-sized plates available each night. The hours have been fluid, but at the moment it's open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and dinner on Saturday. Sunday brunch is to start once football season gets back into swing.

We sampled the Pan con Lechon ($5 per piece), which was slow-roasted shredded pork shoulder stuffed inside a steamed Chinese bao bun topped with piquant mojo sauce and pickled garlic.

Tamal en Casuela ($14) was a small dish of sweet Florida corn pudding topped with smoky braised oxtail and a sunnyside-up egg. Obviously Cabrera already had brunch on the brain.

Coca de Camaron ($12) brought a crispy, wafer-thin flatbread topped with muted enchilada sauce, shrimp, sliced red onion, fried green plantains and smoked Idiazabal cheese.

While these items might no longer be offered if and when you choose to stop by there was also crispy barbecue chicken skins with yucca and green onion mojo, "fried rice" with cuttlefish, shrimp, smoked ham and whipped eggs. The "Frita China" was Cabrera's take on a Cuban frita with Napa Cabbage kimchi, cilantro, onion and Sriracha ketchup is likely to stick around.

His original plan after leaving The Local was the open a high-end frita shop. Cabrera said he found a space in Kendall, but couldn't find the right business partner.

"The project's been developed to the point where it's ready to go," he said. The "problem with it was I didn't want to sell the whole concept away and give up too much ownership."

Finally he told us there's additional space behind the main room and kitchen where he plans to do weekly chef's table dinners once the main operation is running smoothly.

It's "going to be a little different than what we're doing in the front of the house," Cabrera said, and "maybe eventually do some joint dinners with some chefs."

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