Out on the Town
When most of us think of Town Kitchen & Bar in South Miami, we think of a fun social scene in the afternoon and evenings and a great place to have a quick lunch or dinner. The restaurant promotes itself for its inventive menu of global comfort food (and you certainly have that with the over-the-top burgers, well-crafted sandwiches and entree salads). But if that is your mindset, it’s time to change it up and explore.
Town is owned and operated by locals John Janette and Chef Michael Altman. They bring a breadth of knowledge to the local restaurant industry that is not to be taken lightly. Janette was the general manager at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Chicago for nine years – the youngest GM in Morton’s history. Meanwhile, Altman was cutting his teeth at Café des Artistes in New York City and at the Charlie Palmer Group. Janette and Altman have collaborated on several restaurants in Miami, including Smoke’t BBQ and Sake Blue Asian Kitchen & Bar. Town has been operating for ten years under their able hands in management and cooking, respectively.
To start, Town’s wine list is far above what you would expect at a reasonably priced restaurant. Wine Spectator has given it the “Award of Excellence” for seven straight years, and it’s obvious from this wine lover’s vantage point that it is well deserved. It is a meticulous list of both well-made standards and some very interesting newcomers. On Tuesday nights, Town offers half-off bottles with price points ranging from $26 to $99. This is an opportunity to do a personal wine tasting at your own table.
Kurt was our server for the evening. He has been with the Town crew off and on for six years (he hiked the Appalachian Trail in between). He was knowledgeable, courteous and unobtrusive while still maintaining high-quality service. He was genuinely interested in the food he was serving and was able to discuss it with us throughout the evening.
Chef Altman prepared an interesting menu of both tried-and-true classics, plus some new offerings that were added to the menu in May. The restaurant is known for its calamari – crisp, non-greasy and tossed in a sweet chili sauce. The tuna tartare is another classic, coated in a soy marinade, topped with wasabi and served on a bed of seaweed (delicious!). New additions include the rock shrimp, glazed with a kimchee aioli and mixed with Fresno peppers and diced pineapple, and the tuna tacos – hand-cut ahi with a chili crema, stuffed into crisp corn tacos with a jicama-chipotle slaw.
Another unusual newcomer: the Shishito peppers, which are flash-fried and tossed with a ponzu sauce and finished with a Japanese spice mixture. They are not too hot, and are the perfect accompaniment to a cocktail or as a starter for your meal. We sampled a grilled short rib with a smoked bacon-Parmesan sauce that is served with a sunny-side up egg and garlic bread. Every component worked to make this a standout.
For our main course, we enjoyed the seared scallops, which are served over a bed of braised short-rib risotto and finished with veal demi-glace. This is Janette’s favorite dish on the menu and I can see why. The contrast of the perfectly prepared scallops against the backdrop of the risotto was magical. I paired the dish with a zin/cab/syrah blend from Orin Swift Cellars called “The Prisoner,” and I was delighted. We also tried Town’s latest salmon offering: a pan-seared steak served with a truffle cauliflower mash, garlic Broccolini and crisp parsnip. Again, Chef Altman cooks the salmon to a perfect opaqueness. Finally, we savored the Kansas City Strip, a 28-day dry-aged bone-in NY Strip that is served with up to five different sauces.
We wrapped up our meal by sharing a serving of warm chocolate bread pudding and Key lime pie served in a jar with marshmallow fluff.
Next time you are at Town, branch out and share a few plates from Chef Altman’s creative Asian-inspired menu. You’ll be glad you did.
Town Kitchen & Bar
7301 SW 57th Court, South Miami