In a classic example of what’s old is new again, in May, after a 10-month closure, Chef Michelle Bernstein reopened her landmark restaurant Michy’s under a new moniker: CENA by Michy. I had an opportunity to preview the restaurant’s new fall menu and, as usual, the James Beard Award winner is on point.
But it’s not just the name of the restaurant that has changed. The space has been totally retrofitted with a sophisticated feel. The original terrazzo floors are back, and the brass wall installation – a gold, fractured wave – is a focal point of the dining room.
“This art piece reminds me of this neighborhood,” Bernstein says. “It’s beautiful and strong; no matter what surrounds it, its spirit, like brass, will never corrode.” The restaurant seats 62 both indoors as well as on the intimate back patio.
The fall menu at CENA (translated from Latin as “the most important meal of the day”) is approachable yet adventurous, boasting just the right amount of soul-pleasing favorites as well as an array of dishes inspired by Bernstein’s current culinary obsessions. Joining Bernstein in the kitchen is chef de cuisine, Mikey Mayta, a Michy’s alumnus and Johnson & Wales graduate.
I began the evening with a refreshing craft cocktail, the Cena Bramble, which is made with Death’s Door vodka, lemon juice, mango compote and mint crown. The tried-and-true menu items from Michy’s days are still being presented, but I was at CENA to create some new favorites. New on the fall menu is Bernstein’s take on hummus, made with roasted pumpkin, pepitas, pickled onions and pomegranate. This chunky starter was unique and tasty. Roasted beets are on everyone’s menu right now and CENA is no exception. Bernstein’s version includes beets, poached pears, three kinds of watercress grown locally and chevre. It was a light and amazing dish. Her spin on broccoli and cheese croquetas was over-the-top and served with a burnt apple butter. The foie gras was the standout for me – served on a hoecake and presented with a house-made Concord grape marmalade.
Two of the new fall additions to the large plate menu include lamb moussaka, a baby eggplant stuffed with delicious braised lamb and seared arctic char, which is served with a potato gnocchi, celery root puree and trout roe.
Our desserts included Keily’s Pumpkin Pie with chocolate honeycomb, brown butter ice cream and pepita, and Autumn Spiced Doughnuts with muscovado ice cream and orange peel caramel. Both were great finishers – the doughnuts are a perfect dessert for the table to share.
CENA will offer a weekly chef’s tasting menu called OmaMichy on Wednesdays. A select few will have the opportunity to dine at CENA’s six-seat food bar and experience a multicourse menu. A play on Japanese Omakase dining (which translates to “I’ll leave it to you”), guests will enjoy a front-row seat while Bernstein and Mayta create off-menu items using the freshest local ingredients available. “I want to treat my guests to a one-of-a-kind event,” says Bernstein. “I love leaving a meal up to a chef. I love the spontaneity and sense of adventure that comes with it. We want OmaMichy diners to walk away dazzled and well-fed.” The multicourse tasting menu is priced at $75 per person and reservations in advance are a must.
CENA by Michy
6927 Biscayne Boulevard