Michelle Bernstein’s Reimagining of Michy’s is Pure Miami Modernism
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Michelle Bernstein’s Reimagining of Michy’s is Pure Miami Modernism

Alex Markow

More than ten years ago, the James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein and her husband/partner David Martinez opened Michy’s, a cozy restaurant in the then-squalid upper Biscayne Boulevard. The pioneering eatery was named Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Restaurant 2006, and ushered in more development to the neighborhood. Today, a newly trendy Biscayne Boulevard is the culinary corridor of Miami—and Bernstein has re-imagined Michy’s as the brand-spanking new CENA by Michy.

She spent ten months on a complete renovation. While the original Michy’s was done up in the bold colors of her childhood playhouse, CENA by Michy sports a lighter MiMo—or Miami Modernism—look with exposed terrazzo floors, chandeliers with a starburst effect, celadon-colored walls and sea anemone-shaped sculptures.

The food at CENA (Latin for “the most important meal of the day”) is similarly re-engineered. It’s what Bernstein—also the chef at Seagrape at the Thompson Miami Beach—considers “healthier, cleaner, and in step with the way people want to eat now, without all that pork belly and bacon.”

A few of her old standards, such as “Michy’s Bread Pudding” with cognac and chocolate, remain on the menu, but the food reflects contemporary Miami. A “Chalk Air” cocktail is made with organic honey from Paradise Farms, a mainstay of the agricultural community near the city. Whole boneless snapper is fresh from South Florida waters, filled with leeks and fennel, and radiating healthiness.

For Bernstein, her namesake restaurant has fulfilled her early dreams. “We had high hopes in the beginning, even when the neighborhood was all fleabag motels. But now, it’s a great neighborhood—we live nearby—and CENA by Michy is the kind of neighborhood place we’ve always wanted.”

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