Monday, March 10, 2008
Design District's Am(bitious) Brosia...
Brosia's Gazpacho Caprese
(Photo Courtesy Richard M. Brooks/Miami SunPost)
The problem with Brosia isn't the setting. It has a gorgeous, mosaic-ed courtyard with old oak trees, lots of space between tables to stretch out, a lounge area with softly-cushioned bentwood chairs and couches, colored glass lamps on the tables, and the open sky overhead. The interior is pretty slick, too, with long mirrors and vaulted ceilings. The problem with Brosia isn't the service. Informed and unobtrusive, many of the staff here having followed either the manager or the chef from previous establishments (when I lit up a Havana, the waiter replaced the cigarette ashtray with a large cigar ashtray). The problem with Brosia is not the bar service, where they will handcraft a muddled-fresh strawberry and basil vodka cocktail, or even make you a Ramos Gin Fizz with Plymouth Gin (although I prefer fresh sour to bottled). The problem with Brosia is not the wine list. A bottle of sparkling Spanish Cava, from Segura Viudas, goes for just $24, and there are three other wines under $30, although the reds are oddly California-heavy, for a pan-Mediterranean restaurant. There is also the Col d'Orcia 2002 Brunello di Montalcino for $98-not a great year, but just about twice the retail price, and a nice splurge. The problem with Brosia is not even the food, especially the Catalan Shrimp and Clams, with their chorizo and garlic-laden broth, reduced with sherry down to a rich sauce, which is just begging for an order of Creamy Polenta, foamy and cheesy with Parmigiano.
No, the problem with Brosia can be summed up in two words: Michael Schwartz. The chef-owner of the Design District's deliriously successful Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, has set the bar so high, especially for restaurants opening anywhere near him (Brosia is located one 'plaza' over from Michael's), that diners may be asking, “Why eat anywhere else?” And while there is certainly room for plenty of competition in the near-barren Double D, anyone who opens here needs to provide a creative counterpoint to MGFD's classy ambiance, relatively inexpensive but cutting-edge menu, and generous wine list (note the short-lived tenure of Michael Jacobs at Grass).
Brosia comes close to the standard on most accounts, misses on some others. The chef, Artur Artiles, has a pedigree that includes Chispa, Mundo, and Norman's. The cooking here is often stunning, as in the appetizer, Rabbit Stiffado, a meaty portion of the little fellow, served in a sweet, aromatic reduction, which is enhanced by little pieces of feta cheese, toasted walnuts, and a couple of pearl onions. A truly rustic dish, and the sauce also goes well with the Creamy Polenta. Some bread might be nice here, as well, although either way, you will have to hand-carry the rabbit to your mouth in order to rip the last bits of flesh from the bone with your teeth. The aforementioned Catalan Style Shrimp and Clams has some well-cooked shrimp and fresh little-necks, and the Moroccan Steamed Mussels, with fragrant herbs in a coconut curry broth, helps the ubiquitous steamed mussel to unexpectedly delight diners. The grilled bread accompaniments go fast, and you will want more for mopping purposes. The Piri-Piri Shrimp, which are four grilled shrimp, served with a small ramekin of cucumber sambal, are done right, but are really nothing extraordinary, and the cucumber sambal is basically chopped up, lightly marinated cucumber.
Of the entrees, the Grilled Pork Tenderloin is the standout, especially at just $15. Served over a bed of braised greens, which absorb some of the juices from the pink meat, the crunchy crust of the pork adds texture to the juicy, tender meat. The caperberries, cornichons, dijon mustard demi-glace, and a pool of what tastes like sweet, homemade apple sauce, are all traditional, yet somehow reworked pork-partners. You'll want to eat everything. The '12 oz. Grilled New York Strip' (the most expensive entree at $26), however, didn't appear to have made weight for that night's dinner, and the overcooked, dry meat had to be sent back and replaced with a medium-rare one. The steak was not overly flavorful, and a few bits of gristle had to be overcome, but it was cooked right the second time. Something other than the few drops of 'herb oil drizzle', might have helped, too. The 'blue cheese and caramelized onion stuffed piquillo peppers' that come with the steak were oddly bland, and the peppers, although I was assured they were roasted in-house, tasted like they came from a jar.
Perhaps it would be best, as I did on several occasions, both at lunch and dinner, to order a couple of the great appetizers, glom up some of the gratis white bean puree with pita chips, and split the pork tenderloin. Add some crisp, salty, 'Bistro' fries (although why a Med-focused restaurant would serve them only with a Heinz-like ketchup is beyond me), or the Creamy Polenta, and you've eaten more than enough.
I'd also like to go out on a limb and recommend ordering the flan. Flan? Flan. The candied orange-peel, and the drops of almond extract, give a subtle twist to an old dessert cliché, although $7 is a bit much. Have a glass of the 'Zolo' Torrontes ($7-probably about what they paid for the whole bottle), enjoy the cool night air, and keep in mind: restaurants and other forms of entertainment do not exist in a vacuum. They must keep their standards very high in order to win the fight for our dollars. Brosia gets a split decision.
(Courtesy Miami SunPost)
136 NE 39th St
Rabbit Stiffado ($11/Dinner Only), Catalan Shrimp and Clams($12), Moroccan Steamed Mussels ($11), Grilled Pork Tenderloin ($15), Creamy Polenta ($5), Bistro Fries ($5), Flan ($7).
No great standouts-more New World than Mediterranean. Go cheap, or order cocktails-$10 and up.