When Michelle Bernstein announced the closing of her eponymous Miami staple, Michy's, she promised naysayers the restaurant would return with a new lease on life. Now, nearly a year later, chef Bernstein has made good on her word with the opening of Cena by Michy.
Though the space has been revamped, it's less of a rework and more of a paring down to the essentials of what this restaurant wants to be. Wooden floors are stripped down only to uncover beautiful terrazzo, flecked with aqua and gold tones. Whitewashed walls are adorned with oversized mirrors polished so brightly that you'd swear your doppelgänger is dining in front of you. Brass wall murals and Sputnik lighting fixtures give warm tones to the room, and a bar has been added to the Biscayne-facing side. The full effect is strikingly minimalist-meets-Mad Men. You'd fully expect Don Draper to be wooing some leggy brunette over dinner here.
Chef Bernstein's new menu features fare that's infused with flavor and color. At first glance, the menu disappoints with the absence of her famous fried chicken. (Though we wouldn't count our chickens before they're fried. The chef has been known to change her menu and bring back favorite items.)
At a second glance, there's much to explore. Cena by Michy offers bright options like cauliflower steak with pickled garlic aioli ($12) and the sunchoke potato hash ($14). Carnivores will be satisfied by the sweetbread tacos ($14) and grilled quail ($22) — and those are just starters. Big plates range from a variety of pastas, including the chef's carbonara ($26); a whole boneless snapper ($34); and slow braised short rib, a variation of the staple Bernstein had on her original menu ($34).
On the evening we were invited to try some dishes, chef Bernstein was working the kitchen, while making frequent stops at the front of the house. At one point, she stopped to greet a young couple next to us, who were smitten by the goat cheese cavatelli and their dessert, a pair of fried apple pies a la mode. They were discussing the famous chef when Bernstein, herself, walked up to the table and spent a good amount of time graciously accepting their praise, as she chatted up the couple. It's safe to say those people will remember their meal for a long time.
Cocktails reflect the MiMo district the restaurant resides in. The Juan Draper is a play on both the fictional ad man and the Old Fashioned he drank.
Brandy-doused trumpet mushrooms are served with a mushroom jus shooter ($12).
The beet sorghum risotto is an inspired mashup of the classic Italian rice dish and an Eastern European borscht. It's toothsome, tart, and sweet and topped with a dollop of horseradish crème fraîche ($18). If you love beets, it's a must-have. If you don't love beets, it's a gateway to this now-trending root vegetable.
Chef Bernstein loves her colors. Green gnocchi lies on a bed of kale puree and parmesan broth. The plate is a colorful and fresh take on traditional pasta ($24).
Slow-braised short rib of beef is served over cauliflower puree ($34).
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The fennel panna cotta with rhubarb compote and ginger snaps is the perfect little something to finish a meal ($9).
If you want to go big before you go home, Michy's bread pudding is the decadent choice. Served warm in a casserole, it's filled with chocolate chunks,raisins, and topped with a scoop of ice cream ($9). Don't think of the calories — just go for it.