El Portal isn’t a neighborhood that’s really known for its food. Okay, it’s not really known for food at all. But times are changing. Just like neighboring areas like MiMo and Miami Ironside have seen a significant uptick in restaurant openings, El Portal is seeing culinary growth of its own. And at the head of the pack is Pinch Kitchen.
The 50ish-seat restaurant, located on 86th and Biscayne, is led by two passionate chefs that are no strangers to the Miami food scene: John Gallo and Rene Reyes. The two previously worked together at Casa Tua and Pubbelly Restaurant Group’s Barceloneta and L’Echon Brasserie, and now they’re manning the kitchen at Pinch, whose name comes from the action of throwing in a “pinch of this” or “a pinch of that.”
We were invited to get a 5-course taste of their signature New American small bites, which ran the gamut from ceviche to octopus to orange chocolate souffle — a wide variety of flavors and presentations that opened our eyes to the magic going on in this cozy, homey eatery. The meal kicked off with a charred cucumber amuse accompanied by salted cantaloupe and buttermilk dressing; it was as refreshing as it was delicious. From that moment, the meal never let up in quality.
The ceviche, comprised of local fish, shrimp, white corn, red onion, aji limo and leche de tigre, is house sliced and comes with some addicting yucca chips. You can use them to scoop up the ceviche, but we preferred eating them on their own. The duo could make a killing selling those things by themselves. According to the team, the ceviche is among the best-selling dishes, and we see why — the flavors of the corvina, shrimp and other elements speak for themselves.
A beet salad with herbed goat cheese, rose water, golden raisins, pistachios and scallions looked beautiful and tasted even better. The sweetness from the raisins really popped and served as a great counterbalance to the beets. The pomegranate molasses with sherry lines on the bottom of the dish were a nice touch.
One of our meal’s highlights — the octopus — wins for Best Presentation of the Night. Served on a slab of pink Himalayan salt, we were eating with our eyes as soon as it was dropped on the table. The super tender octopus tickled our tastebuds as did the accompanying guava, which helped cut some of the spice.
While the octopus was definitely our favorite sea-related dish of the night, our overall favorite was the oxtail. It’s worth visiting Pinch for this dish alone. Cooked for 18 hours, the flavorful, tender oxtail could stand on its own, but the duo of Reyes and Gallo decided to take it up a notch with some crispy egg and polenta for good measure. It was so good, it hurt.
As for dessert, we got a chocolate souffle served inside a hollowed-out orange. You can see in the pictures that it’s a pretty generous portion size, which is great because you won’t want to share it with anyone. The chocolate — which is more of a dark, bitter chocolate — gets its light orange flavor through the peel; it’s not something already mixed in. We thought that was cool. #science
We like Pinch a lot, and we can tell that a lot of people do, too: Each time, we drive by the restaurant, it’s pretty full. There’s a reason for that: passionate chefs, quality food and a prime location in a neighborhood that’s only going to continue to see culinary growth. But with Pinch already firing on all cylinders so soon after opening, those new restaurants will have their work cut out for them.
PINCH Kitchen is located at 8601 Biscayne Blvd. in El Portal. For hours of operation and other information, visit their official website or call 305-631-2018.