A New Eater on the Edge of the Gables Pushes the Notion of Edgy Food
Chef Michael Bolen knows that most upscale restaurants in the Gables wouldn’t dare serve their customers anything resembling a Dorito, a snack more often associated with football Sunday than fine dining. Bolen, however, doesn’t care.
As the owner of the city’s newest tasting restaurant, Lion and the Rambler, Bolen wants to win the hearts and minds of adventurous diners with a nine-course tasting menu as much inspired by the three-Michelin-star Denmark restaurant Noma as the humble Cool Ranch Dorito.
And although his “infladita,” a puffed chip filled with koji buttermilk and finished with a salty seasoning powder, won’t likely fool any potato chip lovers, Bolen is confident it will satisfy the customers. “It’s mind-blowingly good, and I think that’s the kind of fun we want to have,” says Bolen. “But it’s very sophisticated too, and I think that’s kind of what we’re going for here.”
After working his way through restaurants like Boston’s since-closed French mainstay Sel De La Terre, a Julia Child favorite, Bolen says he’s aiming to provide a more casual dining experience without sacrificing the quality. “I don’t really want to do the tablecloth thing anymore,” says Bolen. “It sounds serious when I talk about the food and the depths that we’re going to, to make something really special, but we want the diner to come in and just have fun.”
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bolen moved from San Diego to Coral Gables with his wife Angelina and their two daughters, ages three and eight. Shortly after the move, his team took over the property at 804 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, formerly home to chef Giorgio Rapicavoli’s popular Eating House, itself a shrine to wildly inventive American cuisine. Bolen renovated the interior to reflect both his dream restaurant and the city he now calls home. Inside, stone-gray walls reflect warm light in a cozy interior, where smells of soy and herbs waft from the kitchen. The restaurant’s handmade ceramic dinnerware is an aspect he planned years in advance.
As you might suspect, at Lion and the Rambler, everything is made from scratch, from the crème Fraiche down to the finishing salts, which are extracted from Miami seawater and hand-delivered to the restaurant by a local fisherman. “The whole goal here is that it’s almost a workshop for chefs to go deep, deep, deep into technique,” Bolen says. “I don’t think there’s a single dish on this current menu that takes less than 10 days to make.”
Months before his restaurant’s June 1 opening, Bolen tinkered with his nine-course menu of fermented plantains and spicy poblano guava, of Mandarin curd, and sweet potato with caviar, working at every detail to the point of near insanity. “The menu literally changes every other day,” says Bolen. “I obsess over every little detail of every dish.” Now you can see – and taste – if it was worth it.
Lion & the Rambler
804 Ponce De Leon Blvd.