The goods: Midtown Miami, a chunk of town between Wynwood and the Design District, is slowly developing as a center for food and nightlife. Helping to make this neighborhood a destination is Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill, the latest offering from the SushiSamba people and a stylish addition to the condo canyon.
Ambiance: The cavernous restaurant is pure neo-industrial chic with soaring ceilings, restored wood floors and windows covered in salvaged ironwork. The décor nods to the post-colonial with antique mirrors, Moroccan tiles and mismatched tables and chairs. It’s one of the more handsome and comfortable interiors in the city. There’s ample outdoor seating as well, but until the area boasts more interesting street life, you’re better off sitting indoors where the vibe is spirited. Form follows function here as the restaurant’s identity rests on its three kitchens – a gleaming raw bar with seafood and sushi chefs on display, an exposed Japanese robabta grill where chefs sear meat and vegetables over charcoal and the hidden “hot” kitchen.
The grub: Eclectic global fare with a focus on South American cuisine. Chef Timon Balloo, formerly of the Design District’s Domo Japones and a Michelle Bernstein protégé, leads the kitchen staff for this globally-inspired menu. Bernstein’s influence is evident in certain dishes – the inclusion of sweetbreads, goat cheese croquettas with marmalade – but ultimately Balloo is interested in creating a warm, convivial environment where the dishes are shared and enjoyed “in the moment.” The menu is composed of small plates best ordered 2-3 per person and prices reflect that: tapas and robabata grill dishes are $5-$15 while sushi rolls and crudo plates are $7-$16. A chalkboard menu lists main dishes like a ribeye steak. If the roasted chicken with truffled fingerling potatoes and mushrooms is on the menu order it; the $29 bird easily feeds three people and will evoke French country kitchens.
There’s sushi here like a bracing hamachi roll with wasabi tobiko and crudo as well, like a refreshing salmon with orange and fennel pollen, but there are also Mediterranean dishes like roasted cauliflower topped with anchovy butter and a golden beat salad with creamy burrata cheese. Asian influences include Korean-style barbecue beef short ribs roasted Japanese eggplant, charred on the grill and seasoned with soy. Desserts include vanilla panna cotta with Clementine foam but if you’re looking for authentic Latin comfort food go for the torrejas, a dish that takes it cue from French toast but more resembles dense bread pudding. Here it comes with roasted apples and vanilla ice cream for a hearty finish.