Tongue & Cheek, the new 150-seat restaurant owned by Chef Jamie DeRosa and Michael Reginbogin, opened in South Beach, Florida, on April 15, and features approachable, ingredient-driven, American fare with just the right amount of whimsy.
“We designed Tongue & Cheek to be that neighborhood place you can happily call your own,” says DeRosa, who has spent close to 20 years as a professional chef. “There is a great sense of personality in all things—from the design and décor to the menu and our drinks. But ultimately, it is a hospitable spot for a great meal at an affordable price or a drink with friends.”
Located in the more residential “south of Fifth” neighborhood on South Beach, at 431 Washington Avenue, the Tongue & Cheek menu boasts chef touches such as cauliflower panna cotta with uni and caviar.
“We didn’t call it ‘Tongue & Cheek’ for nothing,” comments DeRosa, whose dishes benefit from tons of technique but a conscientious lack of self-indulgence. “We want to wow people with simple yet sophisticated food they’ll want to eat every day.”
Inspired by DeRosa’s travels and multi-ethnic gastronomic obsessions, the menu is diverse without being unwieldy or unfocused. Much like the “snack bar” that welcomes guests as they enter, the Snacks section of the menu ($5–$15) includes house-made rye crackers with country ham and cheddar pimento cheese—a luscious Southern treat. A trio of Boquerones (white Spanish anchovies), mellowed by a bright citrus marinade, is served atop baked planks of media noche bread. A deconstructed Spanish-style tortilla is served in delicious layers with a sous vide egg, potatoes, and deep fried scallions. Pure Iberico de Bellota ham is sliced to order and served with pickled vegetables and bread.
“We’re not a tapas or small-plates restaurant, but we want to give diners a way to sample and enjoy different flavors and textures,” says Reginbogin, who co-designed the restaurant and brought his exacting tastes to the restaurant’s menu concept.
Appetizers ($9–$18) embrace classic American favorites as well as more unusual offerings. Fried clams, inspired by DeRosa’s wife’s Rhode Island childhood, come to the table fried to order in a basket with cherry peppers and smoked aioli. Another standout is a salad of raw and pickled peaches, served atop whipped French feta and greens, then topped with candied hazelnuts and peach sorbet. Lettuce wraps are served with crispy pig ears, Florida oranges, and salted peanuts.
Technically complex but deceptively simple and delicious, main dishes ($20–$30) deliver big flavors. Suckling pig is served with a succotash of fresh peas and morel mushrooms, dressed with garlic cream. Crisp lamb belly comes accompanied by barbecued octopus, roasted eggplant, and Romanesco sauce. House-made chitarra pasta is served Carbonara-style with salted and cured pork belly, sweet corn, and Fregola. Fried chicken with Tabasco hollandaise shares the stage with a basket of fish n’ chips.
A great selection of beers, wines, and an array of hand-crafted cocktails ($13–$22) round out the offerings.
The restaurant’s interior design reflects the concept’s sensibilities, with a cozy bar, comprised of rich woods, an internally lit marble top, and gleaming subway tile, features a signature cocktail list as well as two large televisions, camouflaged behind mirrors. Seating 15, the bar also features the restaurant’s snack bar, and a live action station from which most of the items from the Snacks menu originate. Gorgeous, modernist lighting will play off the charm of comfortable, simply set tables of solid wood. Seating is broken up by a central, two-sided banquette, a private dining room (seating 14), and an intimate patio. All artwork is original by local artist Claudio Picasso, including a haunting pastoral mural in the private dining room and impressionistic aerial views of the Miami skyline in the main dining room.