It turns out longtime Miami caterer and restaurateur Ken Lyon is running the bar at the Wynwood Yard. It's the one that requires you pay a corkage fee for your bottle of nigori sake before you sit down for Ryo Kato's omakase at Myumi. The Yard's founder, Della Heiman, turned to Lyon, who helped revitalize Lincoln Road when he opened the gourmet market Lyon Frères et Compagnie in 1992, to get her food truck up and running in the summer of 2015.
Then, last summer, Heiman approached Lyon about what to do with the gravel-covered space adjacent to the main yard. The former owner of the now-shuttered Fratelli Lyon tapped Little River Cooperative to install an edible garden and brought in refurbished shipping containers as shelters for a temporary restaurant, Charcoal Garden Bar + Grill (82 NW 29th St., Miami; 786-646-2998), which opened in February.
The focus here is the Josper, the Spanish hybrid grill/oven that's also the hub of kitchens at Deme Lomas and Karina Iglesias' newly opened Arson and Klima in Miami Beach.
"My idea for this was to try to cook very simple food, very analog, retro — just charcoal-grill it and serve it with a few nice sides, a salad, and sauces," Lyon says. "All the meats being served are Florida-raised, and we're trying as much as possible to use local vegetables."
The format of the menu is similar to those of southern Latin American restaurants, such as Francis Mallmann's Los Fuegos and Quinto La Huella in Brickell City Centre, that specialize in fire, protein, and produce.
At Charcoal, the menu is split into a handful of sections that span American-made cheeses and charcuterie from Iowa charcutier La Querica, followed by the main events.
A smoked fish dip ($9) is a solid way to start, and the accompanying crackers are sturdier, puffier, cracklier versions of saltines that can stand up to as much of the velvety, salty dip and pickled onions as you can pile on top.
From the two fish options that appear on the menu, the daily variety, in spite of its $30 price tag, is a far better choice than an off-the-plane branzino. On a recent night, it was mutton snapper, gently seasoned and attached to its skin, which had been crisped on the grill while leaving the flesh just cooked through and moist.
A half Spanish octopus ($24) is simmered until tender and finished in the Josper to crisp its tentacles. If it's beef you want, opt for the hanger steak ($26), which, like all other dishes, arrives trailed by hints of smokiness from the grill. With this one, be sure to cut across the grain to ensure you get the maximum tenderness from each bite. Also take every opportunity to grab a server's attention, because they often seem to disappear, leaving empty plates and water glasses for lengthy periods of time.
Even a skillet cornbread gets the grill treatment, and its crust is blotched by char marks that enhance the barely sweet bread ($9). The vegetable side ($9) is constantly changing depending upon what the kitchen can get ahold of, but on a recent night, a bed of blanched English peas was topped with some grassy asparagus spears and aggressively roasted romanesco broccoli florets.
Each week, the kitchen also breaks down a whole hog, offered in its constituent cuts to patrons. It's a move that hasn't been seen since José Mendin at the now-shuttered PB Steak would bring in whole, dry-aged prime cuts of beef and offer them to dinners for about $3 per ounce.
"We're shooting for regional food," Lyon says, "and we're trying to push the off-the-industrial aspect of the food grid."
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