After a ten month closure and a complete renovation, Michy’s, the landmark restaurant from James Beard Award-winning Chef Michelle Bernstein and husband/partner David Martinez, reopened its doors as Cena by Michy in May 2015 with a completely new look, new menu concept, and new spirit.
The acclaimed husband-and-wife culinary power couple closed the restaurant in July 2014, just short of its ten-year anniversary. “We had an amazing run with Michy’s and as our anniversary loomed we knew it was time to go back to square one and bring it back refreshed and renewed. The address is the same but fans will find a new restaurant in Cena by Michy; we’re excited about the changes we’ve made and are sure diners will be, too.”
The menu at Cena (translated from Latin as “the most important meal of the day”) is approachable yet adventurous, offering an array of dishes inspired by Bernstein’s current culinary obsessions. “Michy’s was never meant to be a ‘fancy,’ special occasion restaurant,” Martinez says. “We opened it around the corner from our house because this neighborhood needed a restaurant the locals could call their own.” The new menu reflects that neighborhood vibe but, in keeping with Bernstein’s reputation and creativity, often travels into unexpected and exciting directions.
Cena by Michy re-affirms the spirit of communal dining that was one of the signature features of the restaurant’s earlier incarnation with a menu that offers a cornucopia of small plates, known here as Starters. Divided into categories— Vegetable, Meat, and Sea—these dishes ($12-$24) work well as shared communal appetizers or as the basis of a meal, with plates chosen to mix and match. A survey of offerings include beet sorghum risotto with roasted beets and horseradish crème fraiche; sweetbread tacos with salsa verde, huitlacoche crema, and pickled cabbage; crispy porchetta with jerez braised peaches and honey-grain mustard brown butter; and scallops tempura with smoky potato salad, pickled mustard, and tartar sauce.
Big Plates ($18-$34) include composed dishes as well as nightly selections from the restaurant’s new rotisserie. Dishes include a killer MB favorite burger comprised of prime aged beef and short rib topped with American cheese, caramelized onions, and house sauce; green gnocchi with spring vegetables, Parmesan broth, and kale pesto cavatelli; steak frite—prime skirt steak served with béarnaise sauce and house duck fat fries; and whole boneless snapper, stuffed with leek, fennel, and served with preserved lemons and braised lettuce.
Desserts ($9) are a study in refined simplicity. Fennel panna cotta arrives with rhubarb compote and ginger snaps; two delicious pockets of fried apple piece are served with cider caramel and vanilla ice cream and a not-too-dense, not-too-light chocolate cake comes compete with cherry chocolate ice cream and cherry gastric.
In addition to a European and Mediterranean-centric wine list that Martinez says “offers the right acidity for Michelle’s food,” Cena offers a full bar, serving classic cocktails as well as a handful of signature selections ($12). Cena’s creative cocktail menu boasts a unique take on a variety of classic libations including Juan Draper— Casamigos blanco tequila, mole sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, muddled with a slice of orange and house brandied cherry and the Cena bramble—Deaths Door vodka, lemon juice, mango compote, and mint crown.
Gone are the eclectic, cottage chic décor and bright colors Michy’s was known for. The restaurant’s design, like the food, is stripped down. The space’s original terrazzo floors have returned and the roof has been raised, supported by exposed wood beams coated in a polished gray hue. An eye-catching brass wall installation—picture a gold, fractured wave—is an artistic centerpiece. Bernstein says, “This art piece reminds me of this neighborhood. It’s beautiful and strong, no matter what surrounds it. It’s spirit, like brass, will never corrode.” A clean white color palette is complemented by a trio of dark chrome starburst chandeliers. The bar has moved to the front of the restaurant, its glass bar-back overlooking bustling Biscayne Boulevard. In the bar’s original space is the food bar, seating six and offering a fabulous view of the kitchen and the rotisserie. The restaurant seats 62 both indoors as well as on the intimate back patio.
Joining Bernstein in the kitchen is chef de cuisine Mikey Mayta, a Michy’s alumnus and Johnson & Wales graduate.