Man wearing white chef jacket and black apron pouring a white cocktail into a glass

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Ember is the Hot New Design District Restaurant. These Six Dishes Prove the Hype is Legit

Published June 2nd, 2019 by Ember

interior of Ember restaurant

The interior at Ember CARLOS FRÍAS CFRIAS@MIAMIHERALD.COM

A brown earthenware bowl of mashed potatoes arrived at my table at Ember, and they looked so plain I didn’t even bother taking a picture — not with fried chicken topped in caviar butter, a 30-layer lasagna and curled escargot shells already crowding the table.

The swirled soft serve off-white cream was topped unironically with a pat of butter.

Then I smoothed my spoon into potatoes so creamy they evoked crema Catalan, the texture itself a luxury. Folded inside was a smoked gouda cheese foam and roasted garlic that infused the dish with the warmth of childhood.

The lesson: Brad Kilgore’s comfort food will make you gush over mashed potatoes.

That’s the sleight of hand Kilgore has managed in his week-old restaurant in the Design District, where he applies the advanced cooking techniques that made him a James Beard award finalist for best chef in the South to dishes diners recognize.

Poutine. Beignets. Beef Stroganoff. Mozzarella sticks. It’s a far cry from his groundbreaking Wynwood restaurant, Alter, a concrete laboratory, where the dishes resemble art installations with names to match. Ember may just be a gateway drug to his other restaurants.

The portions are generous. The tables all seat at least four. The restaurant encourages you to come as a group and share — just like a family dinner should be. People are clearly interested: Thirty five reservations were booked on Open Table on a recent Wednesday alone.

Ember is a throwback. The curving terrazo and marble floors are designed to evoke a 1920s train station. The playlist was all 1980s, from Prince to Tears for Fears. And the food is an ode the dishes that Kilgore grew up loving as a boy in Kansas City.

The ‘80s called — and Kilgore is sending out dishes we wish we’d had.

These five dishes remain with me and make me wonder how Kilgore would handle a TV dinner.

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