1.5 stars for Ice Box Cafe's bigger, pricier Sunset Harbour location

 

Struggles with basics while charging premium prices for some of its new dinner entrees.

ice_box_cake

By Evan S. Benn

When visitors came to town and we wanted them to taste the sweets that earned Oprah’s raves, we took them to Ice Box Cafe’s Lincoln Road nook for a tall, fat slice of German chocolate or coconut buttercream cake. And when we need a preflight bite of sustenance, a fresh Thai chicken salad or simple hummus-and-spicy feta sandwich from Ice Box’s quick-service shop at Miami International Airport always does the trick.

But with Ice Box’s newest endeavor (it moved in May to bigger digs in South Beach’s hip Sunset Harbour Shops after 15 years next to Lincoln Road) the sweet, the fresh and the simple can be hard to find. Instead, Robert Siegmann’s Ice Box seems to struggle with basics while charging premium prices for some of its new dinner entrees.

 

Ambience: The setting is bright and airy with white accents; modern-rustic, in a Restoration Hardware sort of way. The space feels open and comfortable even during busy breakfast and lunch hours, but at night, the lighting can be jarring and less than romantic. During weekend brunch, the 120-seat restaurant is packed inside and out with mimosa-sippers, stroller-toters and yoga pants-wearers.

What Worked

  • A standout appetizer of sopes - thick corn shells about the diameter of drink coasters with juicy, shredded rotisserie chicken & zippy chipotle cream; smoky pulled pork & black beans; or mushrooms & mild queso blanco
  • Tender, meaty pork spare ribs glazed with tamarind sauce
  • A side of spicy, funky kimchee
  • Simple, fresh sides that accompany dinner entrees
  • Wilted kale, edamame and shiitake salad
  • Deeply caramelized brussels sprouts
  • Guava-filled French toast - steaming-hot housemade brioche stuffed with sweet, tangy guava and served with a thick piece of bacon and a side of butterscotch sauce
  • Tall, fat, moist & wonderful cakes
  • Carrot cake that tastes just like it’s supposed to with plump raisins and shredded carrots peeking out from cream cheese frosting

 

What Didn't Work

  • $36 for a beef filet served rare but ordered medium-rare, with an ice-cold slab of yuzu butter on top
  • $27 for weakly seared scallops with tough “catch” muscles still attached
  • Scrambled eggs that arrived with hardened, stale wheat toast
  • Cold potatoes that had been fried some time well before ordered
  • Servers that fill coffee cups only halfway with something that leaves you yearning for the ground-bean goodness next door at Panther Coffee
  • Undercooked filet
  • A $14 salad of arugula, avocado and seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower) that  is served without dressing
  • A to-go order for an oatmeal raisin and a peanut butter cookie that yielded two oatmeal raisin cookies

 

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