In many cases, it also meant hiring outside people to do things they once thought they could do themselves. Like the expediter that cost about $3,500 to get the inspection-related paperwork moved quickly through Miami Beach’s approval process. At the last minute Reginbogin also decided to bring on an accounting firm that specializes in the restaurant industry. For $3,000 a month the firm will handle paying all vendors, managing receivables, payroll and more. They quickly caught the fact that Tongue & Cheek had not filed for its local business tax receipt application with Miami-Dade County, something that must be done long before opening day.
“I’m so overwhelmed that things are starting to slip through the cracks, which we can’t allow,” Reginbogin said. “I don’t have the luxury of sitting in an office and figuring it all out. It’s important to do this right.”
For DeRosa, who has always spent all his time in the kitchen, it’s been an eye opener learning what goes into an opening from the financial and construction side. He’s happy to retreat to the kitchen where he can focus on creating a menu that is an eclectic mix with influences from various cuisines and parts of his life. Dishes like Iberico ham, Spanish-style tortilla and Boquerones (white anchovies) pay homage to his mother’s Basque heritage. The Vietnamese-style pork jowl with soba noodles and Beijing-style green beans with dried shrimp reflect the time DeRosa spent living in Asia. During a recent trip through the South and up the East Coast with his wife and baby he found inspiration for such dishes as cheddar pimento cheese with country ham and fried chicken with pickled red cabbage.
“I just took a journal and starting writing down what people seemed to enjoy eating and writing down ingredients that I wanted to work with,” he said. “The trend today is that people want to be able to identify what they’re eating.”
What DeRosa loves most is putting his unique twist on even the most typical dishes. It’s why you’ll find his version of chicken and dumplings made with chorizo, or the specialty burger of the house made from beef cheeks with pimento cheese.
The plan is to keep everything on the menu under $30 while offering a mix of snacks, small plates, main dishes and sides so people can mix and match. The average check for dinner should be around $50. Lunch and brunch menus will be phased in after opening.
DeRosa showcases his creativity in dishes like lettuce wraps with crispy pig ears, cauliflower panna cotta with uni and American caviar and crisp lamb belly with barbecued octopus, roasted eggplant and romanesco. But for those who prefer simple comfort food there’s fish and chips, meatballs and gravy and fried clams
“I’m very serious about my food, but I’m a playful person,” DeRosa said. “The menu is about that whimsical sense of humor on a plate. It’s fun, but there’s a serious side in the execution.”
The Washington Avenue location for Tongue & Cheek in the South of Fifth neighborhood has seen its share of successes and failures over the last two decades. Tuscan Steak opened in 1997 and was a South Beach landmark for more than a decade. But after owner Jeffrey Chodorow shuttered the space in 2009, nothing has really stuck. Chodorow’s son had a short-lived run there in 2010 with El Scorpion Mexican Kitchen + Tequila Bar and most recently it was home to Kane Steakhouse, which lasted less than six months before closing in Nov. 2011. But for much of the last several years it has sat vacant.