We’ll root for any restaurant that gets bold with its bread and boasts a menu that reads like a world map.
On many levels, Buns & Buns in South Miami shows promise as a big leaguer. But in its attempt to be too clever, the eatery befuddles.
While carbs are billed as “rip it, dip it or stuff it,” some of the entrees don’t work with the concept. Fatty lamb ribs with bones make tooth-cracking stuffers, and there wasn’t enough of the tasty tamarind sauce to justify dipping. Fried snapper in an overwhelming beer batter is too heavy to eat with bread.
On their own, Buns & Buns’ buns and breads — from steamy cheese naan to brioche to focaccia with roasted peppers — are creative, fresh and as mouthwatering as a “Hot Now” flashing neon sign.
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Salads, too, go beyond the tired norm. Watercress, Napa cabbage, Swiss chard, tomato and watermelon will make you wonder why you ever wasted your time with Caesar.
We were even ready to embrace the fast-casual concept, with a menu organized by a handful of affordable price points.
Customers order at the counter then sit down to have the wait staff deliver the goods to the table, with food flying out of the kitchen rapid-fire, in time with the ’80s tunes beating out of the sound system.
With its white brick walls, large windows and wood-block tables, B&B has a comfy, fun vibe. Its young wait staff, although inexperienced, exudes genuine friendliness.
But even the staff seems a little confused about the concept and layout. At least three different servers or runners delivered food at different intervals, including some plates that were supposed to go to other tables.
The menu suggests pairing Chinese-inspired buns with bourbon-glazed pork belly or lime-chile shrimp. But the dough comes out flat and heavy, leaving little room for stuffing.
Putting the bread aside, some of the plates are real crowd-pleasers.
Cobia with a miso glaze was a light treat. Roasted golden beets in vinegar and sea salt were sweet, slightly firm and sizzling with flavor. Desserts make the best of all that bread, with bread pudding and hot chocolate buns doused in sweet creams.
Despite the menu’s diverse global inspirations, many of the dishes mimic the same heavy-handed, sweet-spicy theme, with no subtly or finesse.
And while over-the-counter ordering promises speedier service, the logistics of waiting to pay the bill until the end with a nontraditional wait staff can drag the meal on … and on. We had a hard time on our visits just catching the eye of a server so we could pay and leave our table of empty plates.
In the end, the bill does come in a nifty cigar box. Clever, but no cigar.
Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense.