By: Dana Rozansky
If you're even remotely interested in the food scene in Miami, then the name Michael Schwartz will most certainly ring a bell. He's the mastermind behind local hotspots Michael's Genuine, Fi'lia and Harry's Pizza. Plus, he's a James Beard Award-winning Chef and cookbook author to boot.
So in case his resume wasn't impressive enough already, he decided to beef it up with yet another standout accomplishment: his latest restaurant, Amara at Paraiso. After checking it out for myself, I can say with confidence that it definitely lives up to the Michael Schwartz name.
We figured there's no-one better to tell you about Amara than Michael Schwartz himself, so here goes nothin'...
Miami Food Porn: Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to open your latest venture, Amara?
Michael Schwartz: The Miami itch finally caught up with me. It was time to feel what is around us every day and be inspired. And that view!
Miami Food Porn: What is the meaning of the restaurant’s name?
Michael Schwartz: Everyone wants to know what names mean. We liked the way it sounded?
Miami Food Porn: What can guests expect upon entering the brand-new space?
Michael Schwartz: Hopefully they feel good there. For me that's what hits me. There's something very comfortable about how the restaurant feels. You walk in and immediately are confrinted by this incredible light -- the open sky and blue of the water that changes with the time of day. The natural beauty of the environment is part of the design. It's effortless and cozy. It can go from lazy and breezy, to dramatic and special over the course of an hour! It's as dynamic as the city itself and why we live here.
Miami Food Porn: How would you describe the menu and what are some of your favorite items?
Michael Schwartz: It's a fresh approach to bold Latin American flavors. This isn't all about meat. We have a great grass fed, dry aged ribeye, a tender charcoal roasted beef short rib, sure... but it's about building rich layers of flavor no matter what the dish. We have empanadas, baked or fried with different fillings... There are 6 Amara 'Mother Sauces' incorporated into some dishes and also paired appropriately. The Banana Leaf-wrapped Cobia takes coastal ingredients and makes them the focus. An unadulterated, simple expression of a humble cooking technique that can become something really special on the plate.
Miami Food Porn: Have you done anything at Amara that was a first for you?
Michael Schwartz: No matter how many times we open restaurants, we learn something new. And we always learn we can do things better and smarter. This place gets dirty fast! Our doors are open to the bay breeze most days. Sure there is a method to how we run our restaurants and our genuine culture is a big part of that and making sure that's being taught and lived in new spaces. But what applies to one restaurant may not always be right for the next. Making sure the restaurant runs smoothly combines a host of elements. I'm a Chef so of course the food is important, but I care about all the little details of the experience. The lighting, the volume of the music, the type of music... It's an unrelenting process of discovery and tweaking and patience.
Miami Food Porn: Do you have any unique offers i.e. happy hour or brunch that you want people to know about?
Michael Schwartz: What's unique is the place. That's never going to get old!
Miami Food Porn: What’s next?
Michael Schwartz: Sunday Brunch!