It's the first Friday of 2015 and you're pondering where to have your inaugural brunch of the year this weekend. If one of your New Year's resolutions is to think (and eat) outside the box, then head to Michael Shikany's culinary wonderland for an unorthodox brunch spread that includes nori macarons, wild boar hash, and crispy suckling pig head served with leche de tigre.
And because no brunch is complete without some booze, your first Bloody Mary, bellini, or mimosa is on the house. It's Shikany's way of introducing the newly launched Sunday meal to the Wynwood area, which Short Order was invited to taste.
Although Shikany opened in April of last year this, Sunday will mark the restaurant's fourth brunch service. "People in this area want brunch," says Shikany. "We didn't do it before because we had to have the right dishes and all their components in place. We feel like we've come up with a pretty good collection of brunch items that still speak to what we do."
Again, your first brunch libation (Bloody Mary, mimosa, or bellini) is on the house (for a limited time). Go for the mary -- it has a smoked salt and cayenne rim.
The first half of the brunch menu pulls from Shikany's dinner offerings. If this is your first time here, you definitely want to attack some of those staple items that showcase the chef's whimsical flair in the kitchen. Don't be taken aback by the 10 plus ingredients in each one - this (along with degustation menus) is his trademark.
Exhibit A would be the nori macarons ($11), which come three to an order. The bite-sized wonders are made of seaweed and stuffed with ginger-spiced tuna tartare and avocado mousse, then served with white soy foam.
Heirloom tomato salads grace menus all over town, but Shikany has taken a different spin on the localized classic. A cylinder of Peruvian causa (potato and aji Amarillo) takes center stage on the plate. Around it, tomatoes have been dehydrated and steeped in oil with tapioca, transforming them into a pinkish powder. Green splatters of yuzu vinaigrette add contrast in both color and flavor, and a dehydrated tomato chip and orange marmalade flowers finish the dish off. It's unlike any other tomato salad you'll have (in a good way), but at $18 it's also more expensive than any other tomato salad you'll have.
Black grouper cheek tacos are another dinner item that's been transferred to brunch. "Who doesn't want tacos for brunch?" asks Shikany. "This is a dish that was my executive sous chef actually came up with." That would be Ryan Harrison, formerly of Taperia Raca and Preservation. The tacos are made in house from empanada dough and filled with grouper cheeks that have been sliced down and deep-fried with panko and cayenne. They are finished with turmeric pickles, spicy shisho oil, and mango jalapeno chutney. On the side, lime powder and watermelon spheres act as a palate cleanser.
As you move your way over to the brunch specific items, things get bigger and better. "We're known for doing small samplings of things, but for brunch we really wanted to create dishes that were filling and could stand on their own."
Crispy duck confit and waffle ($12) is another one of Harrison's creations. Duck confit has been cooked down in duck rendered fat and deep fried right before serving. The impeccably prepared bird was crispy on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside. It's served with a bourbon vanilla waffle with lemon curd, strawberry citrus, and a tiny bit of compounded maple butter. A crispier waffle would have made this dish a home run.
Wild boar cheek hash ($14) has brunch-tastic written all over it. Boar cheeks are braised in maple syrup and cayenne and then combined with lemon zested crispy leeks and maitake mushrooms. A flawless 63-degree egg floats atop the dish. Truffle and cognac sauce finish it off. Our only complaint is that the maple syrup was overbearing. After we told the chef, he agreed and said they were working to change this.
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The best brunch dish was hands down the Chambord braised venison shank ($18), which uses fresh deer from Kansas. Shikany came up with this on a whim. It's braised in Chambord and red wine, and served with a crispy lardon taleggio mascarpone mash, as well as a sunny-side-up egg and charred sofrito. "I was really hungover one morning when I came in and made this. After a few bites I was like wow this tastes really good."
Another winner, the frittata ($14), is a dish that Shikany's been making for a very long time (and quite often). "I actually make that for my girlfriend on Sundays." There's so much going on here that you won't be able to wrap your head around it -- don't. Just let the crispy lardon, sweet potato, taleggio, mascarpone truffle crème, Persian limes, and sumac speak for themselves.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha