Friday, February 01, 2008
The Smoking Rabbit, Miami
The hospitable crew at The Smoking Rabbit, a new South Beach resto, invited us for dinner the other night and a great time was had by all. Owners are local Miamian Armen Minasian (Leo Boutique) and New York restaurateur Robert Fautz (Burger Joint, Gin Lane) and it's hard not to see how excited and earnest they are about this undertaking. The restaurant is of the gastropub variety - upscale pub food, ski-lodge decor (wood paneling, antler heads and various taxidermy mounted on the walls) and an extensive beer list (that's still in development).
It's about time Miami welcomed the gastropub phenomenon to our tropical ecosystem. It's a huge hit in New York, mostly because it evokes a relaxed atmosphere where you can kick back with friends, drink delicious beers and listen to good music. Sort of like a high-end rec room for grown-ups. The restaurant inhabits the former 510 Ocean spot and it's a petite space which serves the concept well. There's also a nice garden in the back with additional seating. The menu is a mix of American comfort food (grilled cheese and tomato soup) and Euro-style pub grub like rabbit, roquefort-topped burgers and pork chops with cabbage. Not all menu items were available the night we went (no bangers and mash for us) but we did get to try a bunch of things like the mac & cheese, oozing with just the right amount of cheese and perfect al dente noodles.
They top it with panko bread crumbs and blow torch it for a nice crust. The pumpkin salad was a hefty bowl of baby spinach, grilled chicken, roasted hunks of pumpkin topped with pine nuts and goat cheese - big enough for two to share as a starter. Portions are generous - the side of fries was a bowl big enough for four. We also had the coriander-crusted tuna (above) accompanied by a cilantro pesto and roasted red and yellow peppers and a side of carmelized endives and roasted tomatoes. The menu is divided into categories that include bar snacks and small and large plates. Prices are reasonable for Ocean Drive ($13 for the mac and cheese, $16 for the burger and climbing to $38 for the filet, the most expensive item). You could easily craft a meal with two small plates and be satisfied. For dessert we had the ice box cake which was a mix of vanilla and chocolate puddings topped with mint cookies, in keeping with the plebeian aesthetic.