Just when we’ve grown accustomed to sharing small plates and accepting the willy-nilly randomness of food hitting our tables whenever it’s ready, leave it to Design District dynamo Michael Schwartz to throw a white tablecloth on it all and remind us of the pleasures of fine dining.
Bone up on your cutlery etiquette, Miami, because there hasn’t been this much silver in front of you since the season finale of Downton Abbey.
In keeping with Cartier, Hermès, Prada and the other luxury brands boutique-ifying the Design District, Schwartz’s latest creation, The Cypress Room, is fashionably upscale. Waiters in vests and ties sharply synchronize the delivery of dishes beneath glittering chandeliers and wall-mounted deer heads in a charming, Victorian dollhouse of a space.
A sherbet-green banquette hugs the pecky cypress wall. Wooden casks behind the bar hold the promise of barrel-aged liquors in cocktails named for a bygone era. Bone china and pink floral toile wallpaper add a dainty touch.
Just blocks from Schwartz’s other wildly popular Design District restaurants, Michael’s Genuine and the 2-year-old Harry’s Pizzeria, Cypress Room is the latest addition to a rapidly expanding Genuine empire that includes restaurants on two cruise ships and outposts in Grand Cayman and the Raleigh Hotel on South Beach.
While the new digs are decidedly more formal, the food sensibility remains the same, with an emphasis on quality, local-if-possible ingredients and dishes of contrasting textures, colors and temperatures that are the product of a disciplined imagination.
Sweet, tender bits of royal red shrimp join cucumber, coconut, lime and — surprise! — puffed rice in a scarlet appetizer that weaves multiple layers of delightful flavors and mouth sensations. Beets prepared three ways — raw and shaved, roasted and smoked — are matched with soft Italian robiola cheese and crunchy pistachios in another striking starter.
The James Beard Award-winning Schwartz and his chef de cuisine, Roel Alcudia (fresh from New York and Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto), salute the latest food trends in their precise menu. Lamb tartare (the new beef tartare) tastes clean and smoky on toast, sporting a quail egg top. Braised bone marrow is mellowed by preserved lemon and a delicate flower petal salad. Braised and chopped antelope games up baby turnips, apricots and Japanese mizuna greens.
It’s their takes on simple, classy classics that will have you lunging for the proper fork. Our fish-of-the-day on one visit was firm, lean tilefish, a mild, deepwater Florida fish that soaked up the flavors in a slurp-worthy bouillabaisse of garlic, fennel and artichokes.
Rack of lamb, the thick, individual ribs leaning into each other like a majestic tipi, was crackly on the outer edges and melt-in-your-mouth warm and juicy on the inside, with bean ragout and eggplant caviar adding woodsy appeal.
Prices reflect the place’s Gatsby-like glamour, but before the bill sends you into the Great Depression, make sure you sample executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith’s petite, knockout desserts. The Florida citrus chess pie with roasted white chocolate, tarragon, huckleberries and buttermilk, gets all the attention, but the toasted hazelnut parfait with dried caramel, puffed faro and pickled cherries is the real stunner.
Paired with impeccable service and a boisterous, unstuffy atmosphere, contemporary American food hasn’t tasted this grown up in awhile. We could get used to this elegance.
Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense.