Simon Stojanovic's TIKL was bustling with business types from nearby office towers on recent weekday. Though it's only officially been open since September 21, the restaurant's design, menu format and location seem to indicate that it will be a success.
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Whether the food will create repeat customers, however, remains to be seen. Brickell is fraught with bad, overpriced restaurants that seem to survive despite their faults.
Stojanovic joined forces with restaurateur Claude Giordano to create a small plate menu on the ground floor of 1450 Brickell, a gleaming 40-story tower that opened in 2010. Glancing over the offerings you might be reminded of Midtown's Sugarcane, managed by the team by Sushi Samba and headed by chef Timon Balloo.
Short rib "tacos" ($16) came out of the kitchen moments after being ordered. Butter-soft braised short rib meat is stuffed inside a dense bao bun topped with horseradish sour cream. The bun is not quite as hot as we like, and needed a squirt of sriracha. It's not the best, or cheapest, bun in the city but a fine, filling start to a meal.
The tables and walls are covered in greyish wood slabs that seems as though they were sanded and designed to look reclaimed. A false, exposed brick wall sits behind the bar and pictures of under-construction high rises add to the urban feel.
Meanwhile a line of translucent snapper slices ($10), cured for one hour in salt, arrived and was one of the most deceiving dishes. After the first bite, all I could taste was an orange tootsie roll pop. We're not sure whether this was Stojanovic's intent, but the combination of orange zest and an orange-infused oil on the plate overpower the fish and remind one of those childhood lollipops.
Stojanovic is present at all times, expediting food from the open kitchen and craning his neck to see how customers are reacting to the plates. A chalkboard across from the entrance offers daily specials like Hamachi collar and $12 sandwich classics, such as a BLT.
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Lastly came two skewers off the robata grill with perfectly grilled, boneless chicken thighs ($6). As a disclaimer this is one of my favorite proteins, and I'll gush even over a bad portion. Yet TIKL's are good, and come with a hint of smoky flavor from the grill and a slick of tare, a Japanese barbecue sauce made with sake and chicken drippings. The folded up skin could've been cooked a bit crispier, but wasn't chewy.
This one is worth a shot. Frankly, we're just thrilled it's not another soulless sushi joint or Irish pub.
For more follow Zach on Twitter @ZachIsWeird.