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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Federal: Making Myth into Reality

Any restaurant that can make pigs fly and that is known for concocting a decadent dessert so elusive it has been nicknamed "the Unicorn" is bound to deliver a bit of magic.  The geniuses behind Phuc Yea thankfully didn't keep us waiting too long before opening another venture, bringing some life to a stretch of Biscayne in need of some quality options.  Unlike the heavily Vietnamese influenced cuisine of their last pop-up, the Federal is nothing short of 100% American inventive comfort food.  While the inside has the whole cozy inn-vibe going on, complete with stuffed animal heads hanging over a fireplace, the outdoor area is charming, with strings of white lights setting the scene for a pleasant meal.  You almost can imagine that any minute Thomas Jefferson himself might be walking through the door to grab a seat at the wooden tables inside the Colonial-style pub. 
Now that they've gotten settled, the Federal offers quite the impressive (and informative) wine list, along with some great beer options (Collaboration Not Litigation and Oskar Blues "Imperial Stout" by Ten Fiddy), and some tantalizing cocktails.  I personally really enjoyed the "American Violet" a refreshing drink made with muddled thyme, violet infused syrup, rosé wine, and cocchi americano.  When you're ready to order, make sure to start with some of their honey cheddar biscuits.  Hands down the best biscuits I've ever had, I wolfed mine down in no time smothered with that creamy rich butter.  Balancing the sweet and savory dichotomy, these delicious little cakes are addictive!
 The jar-of-duck is definitely one of the more unique options.  Slow cooked Hudson Valley duck is shredded and served with toasted bread, a heaping pile of candied sweet potatoes, and a fluffy cloud of toasted marshmallows.  It is almost like being at a gourmet friend's idea of Thanksgiving dinner.  I highly recommend trying to get all the components onto one piece of bread for a truly decadent mini sandwich.
    Another gem is the "pig's wings."  The Apocalypse must be close because pigs are flying and their meat is quite delicious!  Ok fine, in reality pigs can't fly, but whatever it is falls off the bone in one fell swoop of the knife, and it's cooked with a nice tangy buffalo sauce.
   Don't you worry, they do try to find uses for the rest of the pig.  I had first been introduced to pig ears at Phuc Yea.  Taste-wise it's not that out there from bacon, however there is a bit of a textural twist from the cartilage.  I personally really enjoy it, but I could see how it might take others some getting used to.  Long gone are the days of the traditional breakfast potato hash, bacon, and eggs, this is a far cry from your average "Blue Plate Special."  Contrarily, you get a heaping portion of crunchy pig ears alongside a sweet pumpkin hash that plays off the smokiness in the home-spun sausage, and a perfectly pached duck egg, that is both crisp around the edges and gooey in the center.
Part of what I had really loved about Phuc Yea was their ability to push the envelope without producing really heavy dishes.  The plates were flavorful, but not neccessarily too much.  The Federal menu does seem to be more upscale American traditional-inspired, which means it isn't quite as light.  However, the day boat scallops were every bit the delicate, flavorful pièce de résistance I had hoped for from this team.  Paper thin slices of ultra fresh scallops in a graceful, fruity broth, it was an exceptional alternative.
    As for the entrees (or Big'Uns as they are called here), the lamb special with rutabaga and apple is killer.  A primal manifestation of a meal, the meat falls right off the massive shank bone, tender and hearty.  The rutabaga had that stewed consistency that made it palatably sweet to offser the lamb in a perfect complimentation.
The lamb burger is definitely not your ordinary burger, thick and juicy meat served with harvest moon goat cheese, a bold horse-radish mustard, chow-chow relish, and a pretzel bun.
If you're looking for a lighter choice, the charbroiled fish is prepared with finesse.  The skin peels away nicely to reveal lush, fresh fish beneath.  The night I went it was being served with a corn and zucchini succatash that was absolutely phenomenal.

The dessert menu varies frequently so it's kind of a surprise each time.  That being said if it is a possibility the elusive "Unicorn," the Pineapple Upside Down Cake, is every bit as fantastic as has been claimed.  I'm not much of a pineapple fan myself but even I can't deny that the moist airy cake with it's brown sugary carmelization, sops up that incredible vanilla coconut rum sauce in a masterfully winsome way.
Come indulge in the clever creations, and check it out for yourself at:
               5132 Biscayne Blvd
               Miami, FL 33137
They've also recently added a Sunday brunch!  To sign up for their mailing list or for more information about their menu you can also follow the Federal on twitter @TheFederalMia or visit their website at
The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions on Urbanspoon

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