L'echon, the Pubbelly Team's French Brasserie, Is a Glimpse of What's to Come
While navigating Miami Beach's treacherous construction traffic, you zip past the Hilton Cabana. Damn! You circle the block for another pass. The red pin on your cell phone's map must be out of place. It's doesn't seem possible that a hip restaurant sits amid the dozens of hotels on Mid-Beach's chopped-up Collins Avenue. As you turn the corner and creep up the street a second time, you see it. There, on the hotel's white-stucco façade, is a cartoonish pig-head logo bathed in a halo of blood-red light.
billwisserphoto.com Raie à la Grenobloise (skate wing) at L'echon Brasserie. View the full slideshow of photos from L'echon Brasserie.
It's easy to miss the Pubbelly Restaurant Group's latest creation, L'echon Brasserie. The French-style bistro is hidden about four miles from the restaurant company's birthplace and spiritual home in Miami Beach's now über-trendy Sunset Harbour. It is also starkly different from its predecessors -- Pubbelly Sushi, Barceloneta, and four others. L'echon is the group's first foray into French cuisine and also its maiden effort in a hotel.
billwisserphoto.com Stracciatella at L'echon Brasserie.
The place sits in the rear of the stark-white lobby. A squat pig statue, tuxedoed and holding a "Bienvenue à L'echon Brasserie" sign, greets you. A hostess guides you past a bar where a seemingly endless array of French red wines are tucked away, and then you spot Pubbelly's signatures: the meticulously inscribed chalkboards rehashing the menu, the open kitchen, and the funky light-bulb trios with blinding filaments. The view out to the ocean is more tourist than urban hipster. And though the place is only a few weeks old, it's jammed.
L'echon is the both the beginning of a new chapter and a big test for the blossoming restaurant group. There are plans to open restaurants on Miami's mainland soon. And the company recently announced it would open four places across Mexico, from Monterrey to Mexico City. It's clear the Pubbelly formula is successful, but there is a risk of repetition and uniformity with such breakneck expansion. It won't be easy for three Miami guys to keep tabs on almost a dozen restaurants at home and abroad.
Since launching their Asian-themed namesake in 2010, Andreas Schreiner, Jose Mendin, and Sergio Navarro have opened a handful of gastropubs as multicultural as Miami itself. Pubbelly Sushi began proffering clams and pork belly rolled up in sushi rice in 2011. Barceloneta, their ode to Spanish tapas, came the same year. In 2012, Macchialina, an unctuous-small-plates twist on Italian cuisine, opened with former Scarpetta chef de cuisine Michael Pirolo, who a year later bought out the restaurant. PB Steak launched in the early days of 2013. That restaurant shuttered in late July owing to the landlord tripling rent, though Schreiner says it will reopen elsewhere sometime this year.
Like its predecessors, L'echon, which opened in late June, prominently showcases pork in all its glory alongside interpretations of French bistro fare. The menu, however, speaks more about Pubbelly's obsession with powerfully flavored, pork-fat-glazed, multiethnic dishes than the brasseries of Paris or Lyon.
Take, for example, the steak frites. At L'echon, the classic preparation of grilled beef and French fries features an aggressively seasoned and seared 16-ounce sliced strip whose succulent marbling and spot-on medium-rare preparation make it worth the $36 price tag. The kicker is the dug-out canoe of beef bone marrow. You can chop some up for French-fry dip. You can smear it on the crusty baguette that lands on the table shortly after you're seated. There's so much it could double as styling gel.