With the wonderful Minnesota winter settling in and all the joy that it brings, it’s time to focus on warmer destinations….namely Miami.
Joanne and I spend a fair amount of time there during the winter as it offers a target-rich restaurant scene – ideal for gaining ideas that can be put to use across the PARASOLE family of restaurants.
Miami is a magnet for rock star chefs – though seasonality makes it a tough market to crack. Some of the best have flamed out. That includes Tom Colicchio at HABITAT, Rick Tramonto of TRU in Chicago, and even Steven Starr with THE CONTINENTAL on Collins Ave.
But for every closed door, another seems to open.
Let me introduce you to the STUBBORN SEED.
If Miami had to lose Tom Colicchio to make room for this cozy, 72-seat urban bistro, I’d say that’s a fair tradeoff, because this newcomer is a gem. Sandwiched between JOE’S STONE CRAB and RED STEAKHOUSE south of 5th on Washington Avenue, Stubborn Seed serves up one of the city’s best dining experiences.
Be warned, this place is pricey. And its small size can make for a tough-to-nab reservation. But Stubborn Seed is worth it.
Here’s what the Miami Herald’s restaurant critic, Victoria Pesce-Elliott, had to say about it: “Telegenic and
tattooed talent Jeremy Ford is turning out some of the most exciting, balanced and delicious flavors that South Beach has ever seen.”
I could not agree more.
Ford trained for three years under super chef Jean Georges Vongerichten at MATADOR in the chic EDITION HOTEL in Miami Beach. It’s one of our favorite Miami Beach restaurants, but with Stubborn Seed Ford may have actually eclipsed his mentor.
Let’s start with a cocktail, shall we? Stubborn Seed’s are DIY. Order a Negroni, for example, and it will come with all the fixins’ elegantly arrayed on a silver tray, complete with eye-droppers of houses-made bitters. It’s the kind of production you’d get at the Connaught Hotel’s legendary bar.
I’m not CERTAIN about the name, Stubborn Seed, but I AM certain about the food, which absolutely nails the yin and yang that define culinary artistry: warm & cool…dark & light…sweet & savory…high & low…cream & crunch…spice & mild.
Setting the tone for what was to come, our evening began with complimentary snacks (if that term even applies to what was laid before us): two delicious potato-encased lobster fritters accompanied by a duo of crispy hollow potato puffs, each crowned with a dollop of caviar. “OMG…not THAT again.”
Next came two Parker House-like rolls – except these were made from soft potato with bee pollen, and were served with an assertive, bright green garbanzo/chili spread.
A signature appetizer is a lavash cracker topped with a creamy chicken liver spread and dots of smoked hot chili jam. They’ll run you $8 each, and are worth every penny.
Another standout appetizer is Warm Celery Root with Crackling Mitake mushrooms, creamy mustard and “herbs and blooms.” And whoever thought that one could get hooked on celery broth? But that was the case with the Jojo Tea-Cured Cobia with Honeycrisp apple, compressed radish and fennel fronds.
In the “not-so-healthy (but-who-cares?)” department were the deep-fried Truffled Gooey Cheese Balls and the Smoked Foie Gras, featuring a fat lobe of pastrami-spiced duck liver with pickled cabbage, grainy mustard and crunchy rye bread crumbs. It cost a whopping $28. After eating it, however, you could easily skip your main course.
It would be the height of foolishness, though, to take a pass on Stubborn Seed’s simply prepared, but decadently delicious Butter Poached Lobster – or its Thai-flavored counterpart, prepared with lemongrass and crispy bitter garlic, and topped with green curry foam.
Another dish not to be missed is Joanne’s favorite: Sourdough Bread-Crusted Halibut with habanero carrot stew and Kombu broth.
(You may ask, “WTF is kombu?” It’s an edible kelp widely eaten in East Asia.)
Among the side dishes we enjoyed: Roasted Heirloom Carrots with fresh herbs, unknown types of seeds, yogurt and carrot puree; and the Charred Red and Yellow Beet “Napoleon,” accented with blackberries and micro flowers.
Desserts are a big deal as well. Joanne and I have two favorites. Hers is the Corn Pavlova, made from roasted sweet corn custard, bay leaf meringue, pickled blackberries and popcorn gelato ($11…not bad).
I don’t think I’ve had Snickerdoodle Cookies since Eisenhower was President, but I had four of them here (at $4 each) – and they were everything you’d expect in a soft, gooey, buttery, cinnamon-spiked dessert oozing with molten French premium Valrhona Chocolate.
A preponderance of my Minnesota readers winter in Naples and not Miami. My advice to you: Take an overnight to Miami Beach to dine at Stubborn Seed. You’ll be richly rewarded.
As I noted before, reservations are difficult (786-322-5211), so plan well in advance. Note that the restaurant is closed Mondays and serves dinner only.
Be prepared, too, to spend some money here. Appetizers hover around either side of $20 and main courses are in the $35 to $55 dollar range, so consider it a splurge night – but one that’ll be well worth it.