1826 Restaurant & Lounge: Magnificent on Multiple Levels
The menu is separated into three sections: the Harvest, the Hook, and the Hunt. It's difficult to gauge portion size. Our server offered some pointers: The dishes listed first in each section are usually smaller. She recommended six to nine ($8 to $52 apiece) for two people. If that seems like a lot, it is. Five plates plus dessert were more than enough for my two-top.
Photo by billwisserphoto.com Artichokes barigoule and gnocchi.
According to Grant, the menu was designed so the kitchen gets hit in waves. Food comes out as it is ready. Our first arrival was Florida avocado salad with grapefruit, palm hearts, and citrus emulsion. It was more elegant than similar salads at other restaurants around town.
Much of the rest of the food arrived at once -- so quickly that the server had to deliver two spoons for removing final tiny cubes of cucumber from the shared salad plate.
Four croquettes from the Harvest section brought big flavor. The crunchy exterior remained intact while the center oozed with potato, a mild sheep's milk cheese, and a hint of black truffle. The recipe was born in Grant's apartment when he first moved to Miami from Chicago.
Sweet corn and garganelli pasta included summer squash and zucchini ribbons. The plate celebrated the season with spring onions and black truffle.
A heartier dish was the artichokes barigoule and gnocchi. Artichokes are nearly impossible to pair with wine, difficult to prepare, but ultimately satisfying because of their hearts. Grant has mastered how to highlight the most romantic of thistles. He braises them in an aromatic liquid comprising smoked bacon, oranges, onion, carrot, white wine, and chicken stock. Then he strains the liquid, braises the cleaned chokes, and cools them in the same liquid. He then reiterates the flavors in the delicate gnocchi, and with the addition of the black truffle butter it becomes a rich stew of bold flavors. Crisp, salty hunks of guanciale -- cured pork cheek -- don't overpower the meaty, triangular-cut artichokes.
Less than perfect were the Florida shrimp. They were rather tasteless prior to being wrapped in phyllo dough for a fun nest effect. A dip in the mint-coriander sabayon, though, perked the prawns right up. The roasted cod garden cassoulet with arugula and heirloom tomatoes was light and delicate, with strong kicks of dill.