804 Ponce de Leon, Coral Gables, Fla.
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Most restaurants in Miami can fall under one of the following categories: surprisingly good hole-in-the-wall; unsurprisingly bad hole-in-the-wall; generally decent yet unmemorable weeknight drop-in; Instagrammable clubstaraunt with subpar overpriced food; or foodie must-go. Lion and the Rambler happens to fall into the foodie must-go category.
Lion and the Rambler is the sort of place where you bring your food snob friends. They’ll appreciate the seasonal menu, farm-to-table ingredients, and elaborate explanations that accompany every dish. However, you don’t have to be a die-hard foodie and have read “Kitchen Confidential” to enjoy Lion and the Rambler. The premise of the restaurant is elevated gastronomy with local ingredients. Simply put, that means you won’t understand half the menu. But the food is good, and you’re supporting local farmers—so go you.
The menu constantly changes in regard to what’s in season. Even if you order the same dish from one time to the next, it’s likely to be a little different. Drinks are limited to sake, beer, wine, and cocktail derivations of those. That may sound like a bore if you’re a hard liquor enthusiast, but trust me, you want to remember what your food tastes like here. Because, if you’re coming to Lion and the Rambler, you’re coming for the food. Besides the smooth yacht rock playlist in the background, much of the atmosphere is to be developed. You’re likely not going to run into Bad Bunny or chat up some hottie at the bar while you’re slathering whipped ricotta onto a piece of sourdough.
Like so many other foodie-must go’s, the best strategy at the Lion and the Rambler is to share a bunch of small plates with a friend or two. This way you can create your own tasting menu without being forced to drop $150 on a brussel sprout course you despise.
What we drank:
Blushing Lady Made with sake ‘gin,’ Honjozo sake, lemon, and pomegranate
The blushing lady falls true to its namesake. It’s light, and a little flirty, but she also didn’t catch our attention enough to go ask for her number. The strongest flavors in this drink are pomegranate and the in-house spice-infused sake. Overall, she’s a decent sake cocktail, but not terribly memorable.
Lion’s Blood Made with rotating house red wine, nectarines, pear, and apple
The lion’s blood is your classic sangria. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a good accompaniment to a lot of the dishes we ordered, and if you don’t know what to get, we suggest this.
Angelina Made with Nigori sake, egg white, lemon, and strawberry
Angelina, named after one of the co-owners, definitely does her justice. We had to talk ourselves out of ordering another one. It goes down super easy and feels like you got let off of work early on a Friday. The strongest flavors in this drink are the best combination of strawberry, bubblegum, and cotton candy.
The Bitter Truth Made with Martini Fiero aperitiv, Dolin vermouth, Ban Ryu sake
This drink couldn’t be more appropriately named. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you like peppery martinis with a bit of spice and blunt honesty, then this is the drink for you.
What we ate:
Rouge de Bordeaux Sourdough Bread with House cultured butter Whipped Ricotta, Del Signore Honey, and Sesame
Some people say that a restaurant is only as good as the complimentary bread they serve. I’m not sure who, if anyone actually says that, and Lion and the Rambler’s bread isn’t complimentary. But if we had to judge the restaurant based on its Rouge de Bordeaux sourdough, we’d say it’s a pretty good restaurant. Made with Sonora flour, one of the oldest surviving varieties of wheat in North America, Lion and the Rambler’s sourdough is definitely worth trying for a brief warm-up to the oncoming dishes.
However, what makes ordering the bread worth it, is the house cultured butter that comes with it. A lot of restaurants make their own butter, and most of it is indiscriminable from the stuff that comes in a plastic container. But Lion and the Rambler’s house butter tastes like they kidnapped an Amish grandma and convinced her to churn butter in the back, i.e. the most heavenly, creamy butter ever to grace a slice of sourdough.
Also, if you’ve committed to ordering the bread, you have to add in the whipped ricotta spread. Being extremely partial to whipped ricotta, we like to consider ourselves ricotta connoisseurs, devotees to one of cheese’s best forms if you will. So when we tell you this is good ricotta, we mean that Lion and the Rambler may have also kidnapped someone’s nonna and forced her to make ricotta in the back. However, we’re not judging, because Lion and the Rambler took grandma’s ricotta, dressed her up with local Miami honey and sesame, and made her sexy.
Although this dish was pretty good, we’d probably say you could pass on it, and enjoy some of the better things on the menu. The presentation like all things at Lion and the Rambler was impressive. However, even with all the bells and whistles on this dish—whipped cashew, aleppo pepper, chives, pataleo cheese, and dainty, white elysium flowers atop crunchy, slightly acidic cucumbers—it still wasn’t anything notable. The best thing we can say about this dish is that it’s everything a classic cucumber salad wants to be: light, fresh, well-balanced. However, it’s still just that.
When it comes to steak tartare, we have three reactions: meh, this isn’t that great; eh, good but it’s the same steak tartare we’ve had everywhere else; and holy shit, this is really fucking good. Fortunately, Lion and the Rambler achieved the ultimate response: holy shit, this is really fucking good.
First of all, this is one of the more interesting takes we’ve seen on steak tartare. It’s served with Shelburne’s two-year aged cheddar from Vermont, green blueberry capers, chives, elysium flowers—like we said Lion and the Rambler has a thing for presentation—, and grilled Rouge de Bordeaux sourdough bread. We know we just threw a lot of words for you, so let’s break it down the important parts: green blueberry capers. I repeat, green blueberry capers. Instead of drowning the lighter notes of a perfectly good steak tartare in a distinct “caper-y” flavor, Lion and the Rambler subs the traditional unripened flower buds of the caper bush for unripened, green blueberries, giving the dish just a subtle tang that doesn’t overpower other elements in the dish.
Secondly, these cows had a good life. You can taste it, and as the main element in steak tartare, the quality of the meat can take you from “meh, this isn’t that great” to “holy shit, this is really fucking good.” And the meat in this steak tartare is “holy shit, really fucking good” quality. So, all in all, if you’re a fan of steak tartare, you’ll be pleased with Lion and the Rambler’s take on the dish.
Salt Roasted Beets
After trying this dish, we’d come to the conclusion that some things at Lion and the Rambler will make you want to run through the streets singing the “Sound of Music” and some are just “eh, it’s good but unimpressive.” Sadly, the salt-roasted beets are good, but that’s about it. We had high expectations for this dish when we saw black mission fig, pistachio, horseradish, and goat cheese creme fraiche: a combination that usually makes us feel like the hills are alive. But, it fell short. The one thing that does save this dish though, is the goat cheese creme fraiche. We suspect it may something to do with the grandmas in the back.
Gratitude Garden Maitake
It seems like mushrooms everywhere are having a moment. From Netflix’s series adaptation of Michael Pollen’s book, “How to Change your Mind” to the New York Times predicting mushrooms might be the ingredient of the year, mushrooms have recently been thrust into the spotlight, and many restaurants are rushing to incorporate them into their menus. Whether Lion and Rambler’s maitake dish is a product of recent trends or chef Michael Bolen’s genius, we don’t care. Because this dish was easily the best thing we ordered.
Maitake mushrooms, bathed in escargot butter sit atop a fluffy, green pillow of parsley and garlic sabayon. The dish comes with rectangular sticks of Sonora wheat brioche to shamelessly sop up the leftover sabayon. Of course, the mushrooms are the star of this dish, and they’re amazing. But the sabayon… well, to put it bluntly, is the hotter supporting actor who actually wins the Oscar. We normally encounter the sweet variety of sabayon, but this savory version is everything we didn’t know we needed. It has the texture of a Tempur-Pedic mattress—in the best way possible. And rather than being overwhelming, the garlic and parsley complement each other nicely and make for a sauce that’s worthy of licking the bowl.
When we first read the description of this dessert, we had our reservations. Light airy pavlova clouds sound like a dream. We love vanilla creme, and we’re big fans of blackberries. However, sweet dumpling squash mousse doesn’t sound particularly appetizing or “dessert-y”. But after trying it, we must admit, we were wrong. We’re most definitely sweet dumpling squash mousse converts.
As far as the pavlova goes, it’s pretty good. But the magic in this dessert is in the combination of vanilla creme and sweet dumpling squash mousse. It’s sweet without being too sweet, It’s light, airy, and most likely made by baby cherubs. And the sweet dumpling squash mousse is a unique fall flavor that gives pumpkin a much-needed break. Overall, we would definitely recommend this.
Frozen LNB Grove’s Namwa Banana Mousse
While the pavlova gives us baby cherubs flitting from cloud to cloud vibes, this dessert has more of a grown-up banana split feel. The frozen namwa banana mousse is really more of a semifreddo than a mousse, and it comes from LNB Grovestand, a family farm store in the Redlands. The dark chocolate cremeux, ginger and date caramel, and peanut brittle add some richness to the dessert while frozen banana mousse balances it out. We liked this dessert a lot, but we wish would’ve ordered Lion and the Rambler’s seasonal ice cream instead.