It’s been whirlwind two years for Brad Kilgore since the opening of his restaurant, Alter, which has seemingly won every accolade under the sun including being tapped for The 21 Best New Restaurants in America for 2016 and The South's 38 Essential Restaurants by Eater’s roving food critic, Bill Addison. Also in the past year, Kilgore has also opened Brava at the Adrienne Arsht Center, and come next year he plans to open two new restaurants in the Miami Design District.
The restaurants are named Ember and Kaido, respectively. Ember is described a wood-fire American bistro, while Kaido will be a Japanese-influenced lounge with a beverage program by Nico de Soto, who was recently nominated for International Bartender of the Year at the Spirited Awards for his Paris bar, Danico.
Eater Miami sat down with Kilgore to learn more about these concepts and what’s up next for Alter and Brava.
You just signed a lease on two new projects, can you tell me a little about them?
Well I've always wanted to do a wood-fire bistro. I mean, I’m from Kansas City, obviously I love smoke and barbecue. Ember is not a barbecue restaurant, by any means, but just that ability to cook over natural fire is always a beautiful thing. The idea of it being a "bistro" is just in the meaning of approachableness. Taking things that you recognize and giving them a creative touch, in order for it to be a new experience, although it's comfortable and recognizable.
And then there’s a second restaurant?
Correct. Kaido is going to be a Japanese and Asian inspired cocktail lounge and restaurant. I definitely want us to be known for beautiful cocktails and also have fantastic food. The cuisine there is going to be a little bit lighter handed, as in, you can come there and order several dishes for your table. It's going to have a lounge atmosphere, not a formal dining thing, and you can relax where you can order a few different plates. Some of those plates are going to be experiential, like sharing, in that aspect, because I want it to be a crowd friendly place. You go with a group of friends, or you stop in for lunch while you're shopping in the Design District.
But they're going to be two completely different concepts — different kitchens, different staff?
Completely separate, but close to each other?
Kaido will be above Ember. Directly above, but different floor plans. Kaido is smaller than Ember. Ember, we're finalizing designs, but it'll have somewhere in the range of 50 to 60 seats inside, and 30 to 40 seats outside. A mixture of a covered patio and in the courtyard it'll have a canopy of the palm trees.
What’s the timeline on these projects?
We're looking at mid-2018, so I'm not going to put an exact date. If it goes well, it could open before the summer next year, but realistically, it could go a bit later.
And why did you choose the Design District?
It’s amazing opportunity to work with a company like DACRA or Craig Robins [founder of the Design District]. Obviously, he has a vision for the neighborhood and to be able to be a part of it is amazing. The entirety of that project is really incredible, he wants everything to be very artisanal and specific. There's not a single store or brand there that landed by accident. Looking into the future of the neighborhood and everything that was being built and designed just helped me really finalize the vision for the restaurant.
And you just hit your second anniversary at Alter, what’s next for that restaurant?
We’re about seven months in with the tasting menu format, which has really allowed us to have a lot of creativity. I really like the aspect of the menu where we have the enhancement section. We still have a $69 tasting menu, and we've had that since we’ve opened. We've stayed true to our concept, where you can come in on a Tuesday evening and have a great dining experience in less than two hours at an approachable price point. That'll never change. But the enhancement section allows you to go a little bit crazy, and allows us, as chefs, to get creative and bring in some beautiful ingredients without having to change the concept.
I think, for me, what I really enjoy as a chef, is the concept of the dish. For example, now we have the fluke mosaic. The idea is that it's an edible art piece. You're looking at an art piece, and then it's supposed to taste good. Even beyond that, on top of the fish, is the actual edible mosaic itself. That's really where I get my kicks — in executing a concept and making it taste good.
I want every dish to be able to have a conversation. I want each of them to be intriguing, and interesting and make the diners think. But, in a relaxed manner.
And how about Brava? What’s up next for that restaurant?
We’ll hit season two, act one, is what I call it, in October. That's when the show season starts. Last year was an incredible year. It was a great year to be a part of such a beautiful place, and really, the intriguing part for me is, we all work with so many different minds, people that aren't restaurant or food and beverage. You have people that are lighting experts, you have people that help you in setting up a stage. You have John Richards, the CEO, he's a great mind, and a very intelligent guy and incredible to bounce ideas off of. I'm a true believer in many minds are better than one.
Next year, we're going to do a little bit more Italian focus. Last year was French, this year we're going to do Italian. It's such a great opportunity there, because it's a performing arts hall. Just like a play, you're going to have different acts. I worked in Italy twice. Jeff [Maxfield, Brava’s chef de cuisine] ran multiple Italian restaurants. We both have a love affair with Italian cuisine, and we're going to do elevated, beautiful, Italian fare.
Is Brava planning to change cuisine each season?
Yeah, each year, there's going to be a new menu, for sure. It's a beautiful space, and it deserves food that matches it. We're already doing R&D. I've been working on it the last few weeks, and we'll have a lot of time before the menu, it's going to be great. Internally, we're all extremely excited about it.
Well you’ve certainly got a lot on your plate. Is there anything else coming up?
I've got some things lined up. We'll do some dinners internationally this year. We'll be cooking in Bali, and working on London and Bangkok. I'm doing a speech at CIA Napa, on innovation, and doing one at Chef Gardens, at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, also on innovation. It'll be the first time that I've ever done a speech. I mean, besides speech class in college. So, it's a lot of new challenges, a lot of exciting things, and it all revolves around harboring creativity. Which, I enjoy.