Possibly the best meal of my life. Five stars. Happiness. Joy. A twenty minute cab ride with a chatty Peruvian chef-by-trade, taxi driver-by-necessity brings you across the bay from shiny South Beach to the darker Miami Design District. A bright neon sign directs you to Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, a loud shadowy dining room with a bright bustling open kitchen at its heart. Date night types and important looking suits alike fill the place, alongside the hip beautiful people you imagine as the citizens of Miami. Lit primarily by big red fabric boxes hanging from the ceiling, the restaurant is New York-dark, and New York-packed. Waiters and their posse of assistants swirl around the restaurant, refilling water glasses with prettily repurposed wine bottles and explaining the unique menu.

Rather than apps, salads, and mains, Michael’s menu is organized like a clothing rack- small, medium, large, and extra large. Smalls and mediums are about equivalent to apps, a large a main, and an extra large either a shared plate or a very (very) ambitious main. Wanting to try as many of the enticing little dishes as we possibly could, the Larkwoods decided to get a smattering of smalls and mediums and share the whole lot. Excellent plan. After some good crusty bread, dishes started pouring out of the close-by kitchen, our little table overwhelmed by plates. Three perfect oysters (Dad’s favorite thing on this planet), mind-blowing mussels in a smoky tomato sauce with forbidden rice, lamb meatballs with feta that tasted exactly like Morocco, a warm smooth baked double yolk egg with salty cheese and crunchy sourdough toast, a salad of beets and meaty quartered heirloom tomatoes with creamy blue cheese, the most heavenly linguine topped with a sauce of shredded short ribs and handmade ricotta, an insane hunk of charcoaly grilled octopus with big beans and greens, and simply sliced okra broiled with salt and pepper.

This sublime smorgasbord all arrived in a ten minute span. I very nearly cried. Everything was so so so good. Not one thing was the tiniest bit off. The short rib stoked sauce melded with the soft ricotta into the most perfect pasta amalgam ever created. The meatballs made me feel like I had ducked into a little tiled restaurant off the Fes medina. The octopus had one of the best textures I’v ever experienced, coupled with this ashy summery charcoal taste, perfect on top of green olives and beans. The mussels themselves were heart-warmingly good, but the harissa tomato broth possibly even better. I wouldn’t let the waiter take the bowl till every last grain of forbidden rice had been fished out, every bit of broth sopped up with bread crusts. And all of this eaten with an eye on the kitchen, wrapped around the dining room and almost all in view, the Michael’s crew finishing their plates right by the bar, throwing pizzas and chickens in the big brick oven, carefully crafting perfect desserts right by the wait station. And… Seeing my five-pound camera, our charming waiter asked the kitchen if an over-excited little girl could perhaps take some pictures in the kitchen, to which they said yes! Trembling with happiness and excitement and fear, I scooted past the invisible dividing line between regular schmucks and kitchen gods and shakily snapped a bunch of pictures of the makers of my amazing meal. And after that, as if it could possibly get better, we got dessert.

 

 

Maple flan with a creamy cap, a tiny gingerbread ice cream sandwich, and a sweet poached pear. “A tent, a house, and a boat,” Dad said. Perfectly architectural and perfectly heavenly. (I’ve said heavenly about six times in this post.) Sweet smooth maple flan with this dense creamy topping, like Vermont and French heavy cream had  lovely lovely baby. Next to a smidge of spicy gingerbread ice cream sandwiched between crispy gingersnaps. Oh, heaven. Finished with chai tea for Annabelle, sweet German wine for poppa, happiness all around. A perfect meal. No food envy, no trying to describe a devoured dish, instead everything shared and tasted together. At Michael’s you see your kitchen, you see your cooks, you watch them make your meal, you think of them while you eat it and love it and share it and revel in it. The camaraderie of a home meal and the appreciation for the kitchen captured in a restaurant is something special.

P.S. all film shots, still learning.

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