Though “cheffy” touches are certainly on the menu (cauliflower panna cotta with uni and caviar, anyone?), Tongue & Cheek – the new 150-seat restaurant owned by Chef Jamie DeRosa and Michael Reginbogin – promises to be much more than just a foodie haven. “We designed Tongue & Cheek to be that neighborhood place you can happily call your own,” says DeRosa, who has spent close to 20 years as a professional chef. “There is a great sense of personality in all things – from the design and décor to the menu and our drinks but it, ultimately, is a hospitable spot for a great meal at an affordable price or a drink with friends.” Located in South Beach’s more residential “south of Fifth” neighborhood on South Beach at 431 Washington Avenue, Tongue & Cheek is now open.
Positioned to be Miami’s next savory sensation, Tongue & Cheek features approachable, ingredient-driven, American fare with just the right amount of whimsy. “We didn’t call it ‘Tongue & Cheek’ for nothing,” comments DeRosa, whose dishes benefit from tons of technique but a conscientious lack of self-indulgence. “We want to wow people with simple yet sophisticated food they’ll want to eat every day,” DeRosa adds. Inspired by DeRosa’s travels and multi-ethnic gastronomic obsessions, the menu is diverse without being unwieldy or unfocused. Much like the “snack bar” that welcomes guests as they enter, the Snacks section of the menu ($5-$15) gets things started. House-made rye crackers come with country ham and cheddar pimento cheese – a luscious Southern treat. A trio of Boquerones (white Spanish anchovies), mellowed by a bright citrus marinade, is served atop baked planks of media noche bread. A deconstructed Spanish-style tortilla is served in delicious layers with a sous vide egg, potatoes and deep fried scallions. 100% pure Iberico de Bellota ham is sliced to order and served with pickled vegetables and bread. “We’re not a tapas or small plates restaurant but we want to give diners a way to sample and enjoy different flavors and textures,” says Reginbogin, who co-designed the restaurant and brought his exacting tastes to the restaurant’s menu concept.
Appetizers ($9-$18) embrace both classic American favorites as well as more unusual offerings. Fried clams, inspired by DeRosa’s wife’s Rhode Island childhood, come to the table fried to order in a basket with cherry peppers and smoked aioli. A definite standout is a salad of raw and pickled peaches, served atop whipped French feta, greens, topped with candied hazelnuts and peach sorbet. Lettuce wraps have never been better, served here with crispy pig ears, Florida oranges and salted peanuts. And there is, of course, the aforementioned cauliflower panna cotta with uni and American caviar.
Technically complex but deceptively simple and delicious, Mains ($20-$30) deliver big flavors. Suckling pig is served with a succotash of fresh peas and morel mushrooms, dressed with garlic cream. Crisp lamb belly comes accompanied by barbecued octopus, roasted eggplant and Romanesco sauce. Day boat scallops get the Florida treatment, served with hearts of palm, popcorn puree and spicy yuzu. House-made chitarra pasta is served Carbonara-style with salted & cured pork belly, sweet corn and Fregola. Fried chicken with Tabasco® hollandaise shares the stage with a basket of fish n’ chips and the classic American hamburger is given a must-try-it-to-believe it spin – beef cheek is ground in-house and formed into a six ounce patty, cooked to perfection, served with caramelized sweet onions and pimento-infused cheddar cheese on a house-made brioche bun.
Though destined to be a menu staple, the duo has no plans on making the Tongue & Cheek menu burger-centric. “A lot of work goes into that burger and we won’t be making a ton of them,” says DeRosa. “We haven’t figured out what the magic number will be but we’ll only make a certain number a day and when they’re gone, they’re gone.” Sides ($10) are large enough to share and run the gamut from Bejing-style green beans with Szechwan pepper and dried shrimp and Brussels sprouts with whipped ricotta, pistachios and orange to “poutine” pastrami-spiced fries. Desserts ($8-$10) run the gamut, from salted pretzel ice cream, cashew Praliné and coffee cake to a killer Cracker Jack milkshake with house-made “Baby Ruths.”
A great selection of beers, wines by the glass/bottle and an array of whimsical hand-crafted cocktails ($13-$22) round out the offerings. Sure to be bar staples are Bourbon for Apples – Buffalo Trace, Green Apple, Fresh Thyme; Cucumfortably Numb – Tito’s Handmade Vodka, cucumber and dill; and The Walking Dead – Death’s Door gin and Matt’s Farm strawberries.
The restaurant’s interior design, décor and ambiance reflects the concept’s sensibilities, with art commissioned by DeRosa and Reginbogin and an eclectic playlist rich with old school hip hop, classic and alternative rock. Design wise, think rustic yet polished. The cozy bar, comprised of rich woods, an internally lit marble top and gleaming subway tile, features a fabulous signature cocktail list as well as two large televisions, camouflaged behind mirrors. Seating 15, the bar also features the restaurant’s “snack bar,” a live action station from which most of the items from the Snacks menu originate. Gorgeous, modernist lighting will play off the charm of comfortable, simply set tables of solid wood. Seating is broken up by a central, two-sided banquette, a private dining room (seating 14) and intimate patio. All artwork is original by local artist Claudio Picasso, including a haunting pastoral mural in the private dining room and impressionistic aerial views of the Miami skyline in the main dining room.
Prior to Tongue and Cheek, Reginbogin served as General Manager of Estiatorio Milos, also on Miami Beach, and Regional Director of Operations at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. Most recently, DeRosa served as executive chef of Tudor House at Dream South Beach hotel. It was there that the two met and forged the friendship that would lead to the formation of the Social Dining Concepts LLC banner in 2012, under which Tongue & Cheek operates.
Located at 431 Washington Avenue on South Beach, Tongue & Cheek will open to the public on April 15, 2013. Dinner served nightly – 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, ‘til midnight on Friday & Saturday. The snack bar opens at 5:00 p.m., with Happy Hour specials on handcrafted cocktails, beer and wines by the glass nightly from 5:00 p.m.
to 7:00 p.m. Telephone: (305) 704-2900; www.tandcmiami.com.