The interior at Ember 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.