Despite a Zika scare and a scorching-hot day, Wynwood's Alter was alive on a recent Saturday afternoon. Servers deftly moved through the room while diners sipped glasses of Whispering Angel and perused the Miami Spice menu.
Like last year, Alter offers Miami Spice only for lunch. Served Tuesday through Saturday, the $23 prix fixe is a great value because you get a three-course meal from a chef who has won so many accolades. In 2016 alone, Bradley Kilgore was named Best Chef by New Times and was acknowledged as one of Food & Wine's best new chefs. Kilgore was also a James Beard Award semifinalist, and Alter received Johnson & Wales University's Zest Award for Best New Restaurant. Consider the fact that a burger and a beer at many Miami restaurants can cost an Andrew Jackson, and you'll see that Alter's Spice lunch is a steal.
Each of the three courses offers several options, and unlike some eateries with choices like salmon or chicken, Alter puts care into your selection. "I have always taken Miami Spice as a challenge. To make an interesting menu that tastes great is intriguing," Kilgore says, adding that doing so is cost-effective for both the business and the guest.
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Kilgore describes his Spice menu as "cuisine with no boundaries." The chef points out his Italian ricotta cavatelli with tonkatsu broth and raw Bay of Mexico scallops with aguachile and shiso as examples of items to try. "There's little bit for everyone."
And that was true of Saturday afternoon, when nearly every table shared dishes in order to try as much on the menu as possible. Whatever you order, however, will be colorful, artistic, and flavorful.
There are four appetizer options, including the above-mentioned bay scallops served with radishes and drizzled with culantro oil tableside. Pan con tumaca and a roasted vegetable salad are two other options.
For a $5 up-charge, however, get the restaurant's signature soft egg with sea scallop espuma, chives, truffle pearls, and Gruyère. Be a baller and splurge for a dollop of caviar for an additional $10. The egg is a decadent bowl that combines comfort food with refinement. It's sort of like a warm hug from Helen Mirren or Dame Judi Dench.
For entrées, you have a choice of cavatelli or smoked cod over potato purée with local burrata and potato crisps. The cavatelli is the heartier of the two and has a rich, nutty broth.
The smoked cod with potato purée is somehow a classic play on protein and starch, but without weighing you down after eating it. The potatoes are light as air, and smoking the cod packs it with flavor for balance.
Sirloin steak with Peruvian panca chili, autumn squash, pomegranate, and shiso is available for an additional $5. Truth be told, it should have been included on the menu without an additional cost. Unless you're dying for red meat, the two other entrées are more than sufficient to choose from.
For dessert, there's a rotating cheese plate, but order the whipped malted chocolate for sheer Instagram-worthiness. In what looks to be something found in a gallery during Art Basel, a ring of chocolate snakes around the dish, festooned with pumpernickel croutons, hazelnuts, roasted mango, and chocolate twigs.
Insist your dining partner order the chèrve panna cotta with olive-oil cake, pickled peaches, and bay-leaf meringue so you can have a taste of the sweet, tart peaches and goat cheese. It's a fitting finish to an excellent meal.
Miami Spice is offered at Alter Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are strongly suggested and can be made at altermiami.com.