Restaurant News & Reviews

It already has fancy stores — now Design District’s getting two fancy new restaurants

Kilgore, the chef/owner at Alter and Brava in the Arsht Center, will open two new restaurants in the Design District next year.
Kilgore, the chef/owner at Alter and Brava in the Arsht Center, will open two new restaurants in the Design District next year. Handout

Miami’s Design District has a plan to convince shoppers of Rolexes and Prada purses to linger a little longer: The way to their wallets is through their stomach.

The area’s major developer has signed one of Miami’s hottest young chefs — whose restaurant is among the Miami Herald’s best reviewed — to open two new restaurants in the Design District .

Alter chef/co-owner Brad Kilgore, 31, will open a Japanese-inspired cocktail lounge above a wood-fire American bistro in a massive 6,000-square-foot building that developer Craig Robins has entrusted entirely to him. Kilgore’s restaurants, Kaido and Ember, will be part of a collection Robins is assembling, like a culinary art gallery, in what will be the revamped north section of the district called Paradise Plaza.

“It’s an incredible opportunity … to express myself as a chef,” Kilgore said.

Kilgore’s restaurants, which he is opening without his Alter partners, will join a pair by internationally recognized French chefs Joël Robuchon and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Robuchon’s L’Atelier and Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen will open this winter, Robins said, in time for the season — along with a pair of new shops where you can spend big bucks, Gucci and Prada.

“Brad is one of the young star chefs in our country, and we’re fortunate to have him Miami-based,” Robins said. “I love him and I love his food. … He’s that rare individual that has it all.”

READ MORE: What’s next for Miami’s Design District? Gucci, an Estefan Kitchen, yoga

This is no overnight moonshot for Kilgore. He worked for some of the country’s best chefs, including Vongerichten in Miami, before opening Wynwood’s Alter in 2015, where he experiments with advanced cooking techniques and earned a pair of James Beard Award nominations. Last year, he took over the fine-dining restaurant at the Arsht Center, renamed Brava by Brad Kilgore. It’s that initiative and creativity that Robins wanted to bring to the Design District.

A Kansas City native, Kilgore will experiment with barbecue, grilling and smoke at Ember. Kaido will be “a cocktail lounge that has fantastic food,” Kilgore said, the drinks created by Nico de Soto, whose Parisian bar, Danico, is a finalist for the Sprited Awards’ Best New International Cocktail Bar.

“The Design District is all about experimenting and trying new things,” Robins said. “If you don’t want to try new things, you’d open a Burger King and a Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

Not that the Prada crowd doesn’t enjoy a carton of chicken fries, but the restaurants in the Design District have skewed to the higher end since Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink opened 10 years ago to help bring people back to the neighborhood. The excellent M.C. Kitchen remains, while one by Michelle Bernstein, Sra. Martinez, closed down, and a longtime local French favorite, Buena Vista Bistro, was forced to remodel to cater to the evolving upper crust shoppers. The Estefans also opened the first of their branded higher-end Cuban restaurants, Estefan Kitchen, earlier this year.

Carlos Frías: 305-376-4624, @Carlos_Frias