the federal – miami (part two)

thefederalpart of our Miami jaunt also included dinner from my bucket list.  The bucket list mostly contains restaurants that appeal to me either for their chef, their menu or sometimes a recommendation from a friend.  It mostly doesn’t include chains although sometimes small or regionals do make the cut.  The Federal was one of two actual dinner spots on my Miami list and we were able to get a last minute (24 hour advance) reservation. We struck out from our hotel back to the design district to find the restaurant which was in a very unassuming strip mall next to a Dunkin’ Donuts. A little on the down side was that they had blocked off all the spots for valet parking, which, as far as I’m concerned was unnecessary. I don’t know what it would be like on a Friday night or outside of a holiday, where most people head to the beach, weekend but we got our keys back at the end of the night and walked to our car…so, you decide about that.

We walked in through outdoor seating and a small chef’s garden of herbs (someone was weeding and picking herbs through most of our dinner) and were fairly quickly seated. It is a small place and full-on eclectic with lots of found and folky objets and furnishings. The menu is really centered around the idea of sharing, holding both small shares (the more the merrier it says) and ‘big’uns’ and sides listed as complement’uns. We settles on a couple of small shares to start that includes Smoked Floribbean Fish Dip which was listed as ‘smoked daily catch, chives, lemon zest, potato chips. It was indeed a cool smoked fish salad that was topped with micro herbs and caviar ~so not quite as described but still tasty. I like the idea of smoked fish on salty chips. I don’t think it had the lemon zest and maybe would have benefitted for me with that bitter flavor although the micro herbs did give some of that. We also ordered Jar o’ Duck. This was a slow cooked (so melted) duck in a little glass ramekin-sad it wasn’t in a small jar actually. The accompaniments to this were interesting-toasted (read flamed!) marshmallow fluff, cold glazed cooked sweet potato and crisp (but cool) buttered toasts. I really enjoyed this dish. It was complex and interesting. The duck was rich and buttery and that was cut well by the sweet flavors of the marshmallow and sweet potatoes. For our mains we shared a BBQ’d Pork Shank that was served on some corn chow-chow and had fresh mint on top. The sauce was really good, not too spicy but really great when paired with that mint. The meat was falling apart and so savory. I usually say I don’t like mint, but really I think I do. This was a fresh unsweet mint and was great with that pork. On the side we had the most delicious brussels sprouts with molasses vinaigrette, sweet and sour apples and onions. My. Word. How did they achieve that? They were crispy and earthy and the vinegar of the vinaigrette just makes your mouth water. Which is so weird and yet so good. We finished with a flaming dessert. It wasn’t flamed in that throwback way but was a key lime pie covered in marshmallow and 151 rum that they set on fire at the table. I just love lime and that creamy bitterness of this was totally counterpointed by the burn on the rum and the sweetness of the marshmallow. It was just that good. I was overall pretty impressed by the food. One off point (besides that ridiculous parking) was the lack of a cocktail program. I’m don’t exactly live or die by it but I do enjoy a creative and complex cocktail hour and this was the type of dinner I would have thought could benefit from that. This meal was definitely worth the trip.

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