1.5 stars for Batch Gastropub: "A better bar than restaurant"

If Batch aspired only to be a bar, it would be a very good one. But Batch, a sharp-looking space that opened last month in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood, calls itself a gastropub.

Its wings are cooked confit and garnished with “dust” and “espuma.” Its website provides a definition of gastropub, audaciously compares Batch to Manhattan’s Michelin-starred Spotted Pig, and throws around words like “foodie” and “chef-driven” that have long lost their buzz.

Partners Kevin Danilo and Jerry Flynn have been working on opening Batch for the better part of the past half-decade. That was before Miami eaters had places like Pubbelly, Barley & Swine, The Local, The Federal and OTC to go for craft beer and creative, elevated pub grub.

Danilo and Flynn brought in consulting chef E. Michael Reidt, formerly of Area 31, to create the menu. He did, then handed it over to others to execute. And therein lies Batch’s gastro-problem. Food coming out of the kitchen shows a serious lack of fundamentals. On my visits, timing, temperature and seasoning all were consistently off.

Take a $19 plate of quinoa, an entree that landed at our table before several snacks and small plates we ordered. Dressed with pesto, shaved asparagus and a handful of (chef-driven?) Craisins, the quinoa was labeled as toasted but was quite oily and served cold. The grain also would have benefited from a more thorough precooking rinse; I had several gritty bites.

Serving dishes in cast-iron skillets is a gastropub-chic thing to do, but it only makes sense if the skillets are hot. In the case of Batch’s chili-glazed wings and blistered shishito peppers, the skillets were merely for show. The wings were room temp (and that espuma is really just creamy blue cheese), and the one-note peppers were devoid of any blistering or the advertised Keys sea salt.

Similarly, it makes sense to ask for customers’ meat-temperature preference only if the kitchen will hit it somewhere in that ballpark. Hanger steak skewers, requested medium-rare, came out well-done, tough, chewy and unseasoned.
The same pesto and asparagus from the quinoa setup tops a “Farm Fresh” pizza, which also includes a “Farm Egg” on a too-sweet, crumbly crust. It costs $16 and tastes like it should be $8.

Batch’s burger is the best thing I ate on my visits. Fatty ground brisket keeps the patty juicy, and a slice of maple-smoked Cheddar brings a sweet, smoky touch to the salty beef. I also enjoyed a breakfast-for-dinner plate of vanilla-spiked French toast with peppered duck confit and a fried egg. The dish displayed creativity and playfulness — the duck reminiscent of breakfast sausage — but suffered from being tepid.

Batch’s problems were confined to the kitchen. Friendly servers and floor staff are well-trained in hospitality and well-versed in Batch’s menu.

Danilo and Flynn put a lot of work into Batch’s modern-meets-pubby design, and it shows. The place is cool for after-work drinks and polished for date nights. An innovative bar program features pre-mixed “batches” of cocktails, poured through a tap system for speed and consistency, as well as barrel-aged drinks and wines on tap.

Gastropubs also are known for their craft brews, but Batch’s beer list is uninspired. Miller Lite was on special one recent night for $5 a pint.

As a fan of craft beer and creative pub grub, I want Batch to be better than it is right now. The bones of the place are solid, and a strong chef could make it a real gastropub.

If not, Batch Bar has a nice ring to it.