3 Stars for Midtown's "Michael's Junior" - have you been to Sustain?
Midtown, 3252 NE First Ave, Miami
Hours: Lunch weekdays, brunch weekends until 3pm; dinner 6-10:30pm Sunday-Thursday, 6-11:30pm Friday and Saturday
Prices: Bites $4-$6, appetizers $6-$16, entrees $16-$24, sides $6-$7, dessert $6-$10.
FYI: Reservations suggested. Metered street parking; weekend valet $7.50 with validation. Full bar; $20 corkage for wines not on the list. AX, DS, MC. VS.
With reasonable rents, loads of parking and a streetscape that actually encourages walking, Midtown Miami has become a restaurant hotbed - a sort of Williamsburg for Miami. One of my favorite newcomers is Sustain, where the ingredients are front and center. Since its December opening, it's been called "Michael's Junior," and it does pay homage to Michael Schwartz's Design District mecca with its daily printed menu of local bounty, from heirloom tomato salads to wood-roasted whole fish. But the locally sourced chef, 37-year-old Alex Piñero, has worked in some of South Florida's best kitchens, beginning with Dawn Sieber's at Cheeca Lodge, and also references his gigs with Michelle Bernstein at the old Strand, (love that buttermilk fried chicken), Andrea and Frank Randazzo at Talula and Sergio Sigala at Casa Tua.
The best items on the mostly Mediterranean menu are those that keep with the mission statement: "To provide consumers with the purest and finest local ingredients and to support farmers who take such great pride and passion in their work."
Ambience: The setting is as welcoming as owner Brian Goldberg, managing partner Jonathan Lazar and their energetic young staff, who don't hover but glide by with an occasional "How is everything?" Quite good, actually. The décor works with the theme. Deep eggplant-colored cushions on roomy benches, reclaimed-wood tables and mangrove "bones" create a bright, earthy feel, and a subdued but hip soundtrack allows for conversation.
- Bite-sized, ricotta-topped pork and beef meatballs in a rich mushroom demiglace Gorgeously scorched pizza with a see-through swirl of sauce, gently caramelized onions, smoked mozzarella and gloriously fat leaves of emerald green spinach
- The 50-mile salad - a mélange of Miami's best: wood-roasted beets; pickled purple onions; a deep green mix of Paradise Farms mizuna, arugula, mustard greens and other peppery leaves; and crumbly bits of fresh goat cheese from Redland cheesemaker Hani Khouri
- A bowl of perky baby black mussels in a buttery broth speckled with slivers of bacon served alongside thin, herb-dusted fries
- Skillfully seasoned farro that forms the backdrop for a fist-size hunk of juicy local lobster grilled to a golden hue
- A beautifully roasted half chicken with a maple glaze served in a cast iron skillet
- Delicious deconstructed Key lime pie
- A thick-crusted, bourbon-spiked individual pecan tart with hazelnut ice cream
What Didn’t Work
- Beet fettucine with a flabby texture and an oddly heavy sauce of corn, zucchini and feta
- A shortage of by-the-glass pours on the diverse, ever-changing, 100-bottle wine list
- 3 stars for exceptional cooking at Lippi in Brickell
- 2.5 stars for pizzazz and promise at The District in Buena Vista
- Restaurant Michael Schwartz checks in with 3.5 stars at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach
- 2.5 stars for Key Biscayne’s Milanezza
- 3 stars for Miami Beach's "refreshing" Fuor d’Acqua
- 2 stars for Downtown Miami's Biscayne Tavern
- 3.5 stars for Gables gem Palme d’Or at the Biltmore
- 1 star for Brickell's Brasileiro churrascaria
- 2.5 stars for Love is Blind in Coral Gables
- 3 stars for charming small plates at Buena Vista East’s Embassy