Friday, May 4, 2012

Eating House

A good friend of mine suggested I visit a relatively new restaurant located in Coral Gables. She talked to me about a couple of the dishes she'd had and how awesome they were, and I got to admit she peaked my curiosity. Then as coincidence would have it, I noticed a lot of buzz circulating on this particular restaurant and chef: how it was a "Pop-Up Restaurant" sensation; how the Miami born and raised chef had been the city's only winner at Chopped on the Food Network, and how their menu changed daily. That's all I needed to know, so I hightailed myself over to Eating House on a Friday night, which is located in Cafe Ponce, at 804 Ponce de Leon Blvd, and decided to see for myself.

Let me start by giving you a little background about Eating House and how it came to be. Chef and co-owner Giorgio Rapicavoli, formerly of 660 at the Angler's, competed in January of this year against three other chefs in the popular Food Network program Chopped, and won. He took his winnings and put them into opening a pop-up restaurant in an existing breakfast and lunch place, Cafe Ponce; and began by serving dinner a few nights a week. It has been a hit; the talk of the town, and in a few short months, Eating House is now open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday, and Sunday for brunch. The secret to his success in my opinion? The incredibly original and inventive combination of ingredients in his dishes, and the obvious passion he puts into his creations.

I arrived at Eating House at about 8:00 pm on a Friday night and the place was packed. It isn't very big, and there were people standing outside and at the entrance. The wait ran about an hour and you could see Rapicavoli and the rest of his staff running around, trying to accomodate everyone as quickly as possible. Their menu is rather small, but includes a nice variety of items, including desserts. At first glance, I couldn't quite envision the dishes from reading their description. I mean crispy brussel sprouts with korean bbq sauce and a sesame fried egg? Or maple leaf farms duck breast, with among other things, johnny cake crumbs and Dr. Pepper syrup? But being an adventurer and all, I said here we go...

Homestead Tomatoes
"Head to Tails" Tostada
I started with the Homestead Tomatoes. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Think again. Let me quote the menu as I tell you what they came with: "lime, ginger, nuoc cham, peanuts, frozen coconut milk, herbs, and paradise farm flowers". I know what you're thinking. Frozen coconut milk with peanuts and tomatoes on the same plate? Well, dang they were good! All I could think as I pinched each tomato with my fork and scooped up the coconut milk and peanuts with a spoon was, how did he come up with this? That medley of flavors was genius. When all I had left on my plate was the melted coconut milk, I secretly wanted to use a straw and slurp it up. A couple of minutes later, out came the "Head to Tail" Tostada.  Just thinking about how it tasted, is making me hungry all over again. It was crispy pig ears and tails on a toasty tortilla with avocado creme, cabbage slaw, fresh cheese and lime. Everything came together so good that there was a burst of flavors in every bite. I didn't want the moment to end and it quickly became a favorite for me.

Pasta Carbonara
Niman Ranch Park Pork Belly
I really wanted to try their Fried Chicken Thighs since they looked so scrumptious, but since I had waffles for breakfast and the dish came with buttermilk waffles, I was torn. I asked the waiter to recommend another popular choice, and he suggested I try the Pasta Carbonara, explaining it was one of their signature plates. The Pasta Carbonara came with chunks of applewood smoked bacon, black truffle, sprinkles of toasted bread crumbs, an egg yolk and parmesan cheese. I am a fan of Pasta Carbonara, and again, Chef Rapicavoli's version sounded very interesting. However, I found it tasted OK and although the sauce was original, it wasn't my favorite dish of the night. The pasta was too firm, which is not my preference, and the overall flavor was a bit understated in comparison to the other items I had tried. However, when the next dish came out, I was once again giddy with excitement. It was the Niman Ranch Park Pork Belly. These were two slider sized potato roll sandwiches, filled to capacity with deliciously seasoned pork belly, cilantro, pickled cucumbers, scallions and a guava hoisin glaze. Phenomenal! The mixture of flavors worked well together; creating a sweet and tangy little wonder. As much as I enjoyed them, I could've ordered a couple more of these tasty treats.


Lemon Cake
Breakfast
Finally, it was time for dessert. I saw two items on the menu I liked: The Lemon Cake; a zesty sampling of whipped cake batter, yuzu frosting, small scoops of lemon ice-cream, cake crumbs and a touch of lemon zest; and my favorite, the Breakfast: a frosted flake cereal mousse, with milk panna cotta, candied flakes of cereal on top, and housemade coffee salt. I'll start with the Lemon Cake. It was very refreshing; a perfect balance of sweet and zesty without being too tart. But the Breakfast was the one that "took the cake" sort of speak. I had to lick the spoon slowly because I wanted to make sure I savored each moment. I can only describe it as so very creamy and different; the candied flakes on top brought a rich and decadent flavor to the airy pannacotta on the bottom. Definitely want to have it again.


Eating House is going to be big. They have already earned a following and it's no wonder why. Their innovative style, delicious food and great service is going to take them far. Add to that the freshness of their ingredients and the fact they focus on supporting local farmers and producers and you got yourself a recipe for success. Having a sense of adventure in common with this place, I can't wait to return very soon. I got a date with a certain Fried Chicken Thigh that I don't want to miss.
For more information, you can contact them (after 5:00 pm) at (305) 448-6524 or  visit them online at http://eatinghousemiami.com/.



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