The Vagabond Restaurant hasn't even opened yet and already it's one of the most talked about places to open in Miami.
It could be the restaurant's setting, at the newly refurbished Vagabond Hotel, a MiMo gem on Biscayne Boulevard, or it could be the chance to see art and food integrated together, with pieces curated by partner Alvaro Perez.
Ultimately, it's the anticipation of eating chef/partner, Alex Chang's food. Chang found notoriety when his underground restaurant at an on-campus apartment at the University of Southern California was made into the documentary, Paladar, by filmmaker Gil Freston.
The young chef has moved to Miami to helm the kitchen at Vagabond, which will feature both crowd pleasers like dry-aged burgers and sandwiches using Zak the Baker's bread and dishes that incorporate innovative ingredients like chapulines (small grasshoppers usually found in Mexico) and beef hearts. As partner Chris Wang puts it, "the chef is so talented, we want to let him do his thing."
The chef held a small dinner party last evening. About 20 people gathered at a communal table to try Chang's dishes for the first time, which were colorful and balanced. Here's a sneak peek at what to expect at Vagabond. (Note: prices have not been set.)
When the chapulines and almonds came out, there was a split-second moment when we looked at each other to see who would go first. Here's some advice: take a spoon and dig right in. The chapulines, small grasshoppers that are a popular addition to meals in Oaxaca, Mexico, are roasted and seasoned. They taste grassy, spicy, and earthy. Combined with the sweetness of the almonds, they could be the next big thing for a bar snack.
Chef Chang went for a monochromatic theme with his endive and hearts of palm salad.
One of the best dishes of the evening, the black grouper crudo with Calabrian chili hit all the right marks. Arranged with fresh hibiscus leaves and teeny cucumbers that resembled beans, the crudo was bright, with a hint of heat from the Calabrian chili.
Roasted squash, served over a bed of chicken liver mousse, was garnished with starfruit for a sweet and savory experience.
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Grilled short rib was served with plantain grilled in the skin and radish. The sweet pudding flesh of the plantain is dug out of its blackened shell with a spoon.
While this looks like a micro forest, it's really an ethereal pistachio cake, served over roasted white chocolate nibs, garnished with a touch of fennel and key lime yogurt.