Every once in a while I am joyfully humbled by a new restaurant. Stubborn Seed in Miami is one such place. Under the direction of Top Chef winner, Jeremy Ford, the dishes are ambitious and complex, with a modern twist. Chef Ford, formerly of the Matador Room, says he takes local, honest ingredients and elevates them. To me, he more than elevated them. You will have a sensory and gastronomic experience – it’s a unique journey showcasing some outstanding dishes.
The restaurant is in the former Tiramasu space at 101 Washington Avenue. It is a small, casual, corner restaurant, near Milos and Joe Stone Crab. It seats approximately 60 people – including the bar – in a modern, industrial yet casual space. There are a lot of hard surfaces so the place tends to get loud which also competes with the music, making quiet conversation somewhat hard. If you can overlook this, you will be in for an evening of dynamic and distinctive flavours. The industrial decor has a large window looking into the kitchen and you can see the team working away.
I recommend the 8-course tasting menu if you are going for the first time. It’s a small taste of some of the chef’s standout dishes, giving you a chance to see what he can do. At $95, it is a relative bargain, considering the cornucopia of show-stopping dishes you will receive. Each one is elevated with things like caviar or truffles, which you will not receive on the regular menu. The kitchen will also work with any dietary restrictions. You could get an all vegetarian or vegan meal if you so desire.
There were so many notable highlights. Our meal began some homemade potato bread, served with a garbanzo chili dip, that left me wanting more. Next, we were served raw oysters in a Thai mignonette and Fresno chili oil, served with crab meat, corn fritters, shavings of truffles, and hollow crispy potatoes with an egg yolk sous vide. The dish was not on the main menu, but made specifically for the tasting. My favourite course was the crispy lavash bread topped with a creamy chicken liver butter and a smoked chili jam. It was sensational. We also tried a Hawaiian fish ceviche called Kajiki, done in a fermented chili, buttermilk, kombu, with sea grapes and thin slices of Asian pear.
Every dish was bursting with flavours, which is such a treat after eating in restaurants that only know how to over-salt. Then we moved on to a tempura of warm celery root with crackling maitake mushrooms, in a creamy mustard aioli with a blossom, mint and tarragon herb topping. Our last appetizer was a smoked foie gras with quince, Marcona almonds and kabocha squash. I have foie gras only a couple of times a year because of the richness of the dish. I’m glad I saved one of those times for here.
We were then given a honey crisp apple sorbet to cleanse our palate before moving on to the mains. We had the Maine lobster in a spicy green curry sauce with caramelized cauliflower. Watch out for the crunchy garlic, I found it too strong and it overpowered the dish. That is my only complaint for the entire meal, which is pretty incredible for me. I would leave out the garlic and the dish could stand on its own. Next up we had the umami short ribs, which were so tender, done with trumpet mushrooms, heirloom carrots done four ways, foam, puréed, pickled and roasted in a miso butter sauce.
Dessert was also a triumph of butter ice cream, meringue, corn purée custard and blackberries. It reminded me of Massimo Bottura’s iconic, “Oops I dropped the lemon tart” dish.
There is a nice selections of wines, beers and sakes but we went with some artisanal craft cocktails, and we were glad we did, as they were creative, playful and tasty. My Thyme Traveller had Bombay gin, Thai chili infused elderflower liqueur, cucumber, lemon, and thyme. The Eye-Catcher had Absolut Elyx, pineapple shrub, pomegranate, ginger, lime, cardamom and chamomile and is a great choice if you are looking for something on the sweet side. All the other cocktails going by were so aesthetically pleasing and well crafted.
This really could become a Michelin Star restaurant, if they just polish up the service and perhaps add some valet parking.
The menu changes daily depending on what they find from their suppliers. This restaurant is part of the Grove Hospitality Group. Chef Ford will be opening a second restaurant under their umbrella and I only hope it won’t take away from the quality of this one. However, I am sure it will be in capable hands under the Chef de Cuisine, Joe Mizzoni, and Dessert Chef Wynn, formerly of Ariete.
Miami really is becoming a top culinary destination, but South Beach was lacking in this department. What a welcome addition of fresh, deftly seasoned, and avant-garde concepts. This is cooking with passion, and you can taste it in every bite.