Much more than salad at North Miami Beach’s Lettuce & Tomato
The Place: Lettuce & Tomato Gourmet Gastrobar sounds like it should be peddling upscale sandwiches, but it is a gourmet bistro in a 30-seat space done in white and black with tables on the sidewalk fronting a strip mall on West Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach. This is a friendly space, with the owner’s mom helping wait tables when it gets busy at lunch time (somehow despite the sort of hidden location people find it by word of mouth). There’s a small wine bar with bottles overhead and high back stools, white brick walls and faux wood tiles on the floor.
The History: Founder/owner Roy Starobinsky is from Buenos Aries of Polish and Ukrainian descent. He came to Miami with his family when he was 18 and went to culinary school at the Cordon Bleu in Miramar after working as a busboy and waiter in restaurants. Although no longer in the kitchen, Starobinsky created the menu and hired Argentine sous chef Pablo Melgarejo and chef Pete Curry from Miami to man the stoves. His first place opened two years ago a block away with only six tables; he now has a larger space and an expanded menu. Starobinsky’s mother Lidia, a former doctor, makes the desserts from scratch.
The Food: The menu is modern with tostas (open face sandwiches), salads, steamed buns, a few seafood dishes, burgers, half a rack of lamb, a 16-ounce NY steak and Hudson Valley duck leg confit. The best seller is the truffle tuna bite, with ahi tuna topped with sturgeon caviar, harissa yogurt and avocado puree. There’s also lump crab salad mixed with mustard and mayonnaise with chives on small toasts, and house meatballs in tomato jus on garlic bread with Manchego cheese and ricotta curds. Vegetables include crispy cauliflower steak with broccoli puree, quinoa risotto with porcini mushrooms and potato and celery root gratin with gruyere and parmesan. Mains include braised short rib poutine with ricotta and a duck egg; huevos rotos with jamon serrano; seared octopus on potato puree with caramelized shallots; and seared scallops on corn puree topped with caviar and roasted slices of carrot. There’s also braised pork belly with kimchee slaw and pickled onions, and baked brie with berries. For dessert try the dulce de leche tart or dark chocolate terrine.
You Didn’t Know This: Huevos rotos, literally “broken eggs,” is one of those Spanish dishes that seem so simple and basic that it can be a surprise when you realize how delicious it is. The trick is to fry the eggs until perfectly over easy and to break the yolks with the tip of a knife just before eating. They are also known as “huevos estrellados” (star eggs) for the star shape that forms in the yolks when broken. The eggs are traditionally served over French fries fried in olive oil and tossed in sea salt. Poutine is a French-Canadian dish of fries topped with cheese curds. The version here swaps short rib for the spuds and ricotta for the cheese.