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Turning the tables

By Betty Cortina-Weiss

Without doubt, it’s been Miami’s most anticipated restaurant opening—and for good reason. For some time now, there’s been talk that the man who put homey, casual dining on the South Florida map, who has potato chips and onion dip on his menu, whose servers wear T-shirts that read “free from pretense and affectation” would be making a turn. That he’d be pulling out white table cloths, setting fine china and, generally speaking, getting old-school on us. The 305’s well-fed and well-heeled have been wondering, how would chef Michael Schwartz—Mr. fresh-simple-pure himself—pull it off?

The answer: deliciously. Just three weeks ago, Schwartz debuted The Cypress Room a few blocks from his original Michael’s Genuine in the Design District, but worlds away in concept. His fourth restaurant to date, this one’s an unapologetic appeal to refinement, to elegance and to...femininity? “I don’t know what it is, but I think I’m more tuned in to my own feminine side now,” Schwartz said. “Maybe it’s that I have a 16-year-old daughter, or maybe it’s that I’ve been thinking about all the women chefs I’ve worked with, about how more thoughtful and controlled they are in their cooking, about what I have learned from them over the years.”

Such awareness influenced virtually every creative decision Schwartz made as he planned the opening over the course of several years, something diners will notice the moment they enter. For one, flowers are everywhere: on the vintage pink wallpaper lining the walls, on the antique plates gracing the tables, even on the dishes and in the cocktails coming from the kitchen and the formidable bar. As the plans came together, Schwartz said, “I thought about what I like right now and what I want to feel right now.”

But make no mistake, Schwartz is still Schwartz, and so all the softness is balanced with unmistakable hints of masculinity, several mounted deer head decorations being the most obvious. “It was really about striking a balance between the feminine and the masculine,” said Schwartz, sitting for a rare break from the kitchen and nibbling on the menu item that, perhaps, best captures his concept: crosscut beef bones filled with marrow and topped with delicate leafy greens and edible flowers. He moved on to taste an appetizer of frog legs brought in from the Everglades and sautéed in brown butter, a savory reminder that his dedication to all things local remains as strong as ever.

Schwartz invited Indulge into the restaurant a few weeks before its opening for a very personal tour of this most personal project.