Top Chef Andrew D'Ambrosi Wants to Play at Harding Dinner Series at Josh's

Bravo's Top Chef season four contestant Andrew D'Ambrosi sat down with Short Order to discuss his new Harding Dinner Series pop up, which will be hosted at Josh's Deli June 7 through the 10th.

Despite our intention to stay on a diet, D'Ambrosi took us behind the line for a few demos and tastings. We headed into the cooler for a show and tell, and then he divulged his dreams, hopes, and desires.

The first of which is that you attend his pop up.

If D'Ambrosi wrote this, he'd start out by asking a few questions: Do you like food? Would you like to expand your culinary horizons? Do you like bacon? Are you single? And if you've answered yes to any one of those questions, D'Ambrosi implores you to allow him to tantalize your taste buds. "I like cooking and I like laughing -- I also like putting those two together," he said.

While the general trend in Miami is for pop ups to show diners a conceptually new route to food pleasure, D'Ambrosi hopes to kick it back to basics on June 7. "I understand pop ups wanting to do something new and exciting, but I think every chef is a construct of their past, present, and future," he said. "And I want to show those three things to everyone who comes in through my cooking."

What can we expect for the seven-course menu? D'Ambrosi is still working on the final details (and by final details we mean the "menu" is chicken scratched on the front and back of a tiny piece of paper that he keeps safe in his pocket). It was clear the energetic chef has the intentions of keeping his options open before having to commit to a set menu. "You'll be seeing a little bit of everything, it'll be a broad range," he said. He's aiming to change the proteins on a day-to-day basis but expect duck, pork belly, fish, and lamb belly (we'll get back to lamb belly in a second).

Throughout our chat, the chef reiterated that he really intends on focusing on classical techniques, "but I still want to play." "Do I want you to come here and celebrate me? No. I want you to come to celebrate you for coming to see me," he said.

After a lengthy talk with D'Ambrosi who quite frankly interviews like an old-school game of Pong, ("I'm pretty big on tangents," he reassured us), we got our hands dirty in the kitchen.

Pong chef showed us special curing salt that he'll be using for a good many of the proteins available during the pop up. Then he exposed his deepest dream: to become a hand model. "I got a mani and a pedi so even my toes look good," he beamed.

"Do you want me to make you some lamb belly?" Never one to turn down a meal, we happily accepted the offer (or bribe). Handling an eight-inch chef's knife with Jedi precision, D'Ambrosi sliced a few pieces of lamb and added them to a hot pan. He then sprinkled them with salt and pepper.

"That's it?" we asked.

"That's all you need," he said.

Perhaps eight minutes and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice later, we were eating mouth-wateringly tasty lamb belly straight from the pan. If that's any indication of what his pop up will be like, we're there like swimwear.

Throughout our stay, Josh Marcus and D'Ambrosi raved on and on about magical Brussels sprouts that were so good, they could turn a unicorn into Pegasus.

Before we knew it, D'Ambrosi began to put a few in a hot oiled pan with the promise that these would be the best Brussels sprouts we'd ever have in our life. The bet was made for 20 bucks. We agreed that if in fact they were the best, we'd Facebook message him from our deathbed to arrange the 20 buck collection. The hot, crunchy, salt-and-peppery vegetables emerged from Marcus's tiny convection oven. D'Ambrosi handed me the plate with a halved lemon and after a Brussels sprouts cheers to good wagers, I put aside the twenty dollar bill that I'll give to him on the fateful day. Well, fateful for me, but rather ca-chingy for him.

Marcus is currently taking dinner reservations for D'Ambrosi's pop up. $79 per person. Call 305-397-8494 to book a seat and D'Ambrosi will promise to do a high-five-run across the bar for everyone's victory.

Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alex Rodriguez