Latin American cafeteria grub gets globalized at Albert Cabrera’s new Bread + Butter in Coral Gables. Some in the rice-and-beans crowd may find it too precious, but if you’re open to trendy homages to classic Miami dishes, you’ll be tickled by what this native son conjures up.
Cabrera is dreaming in Cuban, and these dreams are psychedelic. Paired with a robust craft beer and wine menu, his gastropub creations court culinary trends while clinging to their Miami roots.
A doughy Chinese steamed bau bun is stuffed with Cuban roast pork and pickled garlic. The complimentary fried “crackling of the day,” — a chicharrón served on a cigar-sized tasting plate as an amuse bouche — came out one night as buffalo, with a dollop of blue cheese cream. Dessert beignets are kneaded from yuca and served with five-spice sugar syrup.
More than a dozen small plates invite sharing, although several will encourage your selfish side, particularly the smoked oxtail with garlic on a moist polenta cake topped by a runny fried egg. Another swooner: The Frita China, a juicy chorizo-and-beef slider with kimchi, cilantro, onion, fried shoestring potatoes and sriracha sauce.
An affordable carne mechada, one of four entrée-sized plates, showcases the ultra-thick, seldom-seen tri-tip, cooked sous-vide. A chunk of chorizo inserted in the middle amplifies its hearty flavor. The steak comes with glazed root vegetables, a creamy garbanzo-brown-butter puree and luscious, wine-enriched bordelaise sauce.
There isn’t a bore among the seven salads, with a best bet the sweet-tart roasted beet salad with pistachios, goat cheese, orange and apple slices and celery.
Cabrera, 37, has no formal culinary education, but trained in some of South Florida’s top kitchens, including Baleen with Robbin Haas, Norman’s with Norman Van Aken, STK and, most recently, The Local. This is his first venture as chef-owner and he’s clearly reveling in his independence.
A 15-stool counter of repurposed wood runs the length of the shoebox-sized restaurant. Old family photos adorn one chalkboard-black wall, and white subway tiles line the other. Keeping it casual are bare bulbs and exposed air ducts overhead, a raw concrete floor underfoot and brown butcher paper on the eight tables. Water is served in camp cups.
Not every experiment succeeds, and not all diners will enjoy dabbling in the hit-and-miss menu. The bacon-wrapped plantains are overly sweet and slimy, with an overwhelming five-spice sauce. The goat cheese flan served in a can was cute … until four of us tried to share it.
Crowded weekend nights can overwhelm the small space — and the kitchen. On one occasion, we were delighted with a swordfish steak special — golden on the outside and surrounded by brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes specked with salty cured-beef bits — until we reached its raw middle.
A truly caring waiter who excelled at explaining dishes won back the night, delivering a dreamy French toast dessert made from house-made Cuban bread and evaporated and condensed milk and topped with house-made cream cheese ice cream.
If Cabrera wants to keep experimenting, we’re willing to suffer through some lab mishaps to see what he comes up with next.
Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense.