All the Details Behind the Californian Vibe at Lion & The Rambler
Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about Resy restaurants — our newly opened, old, and soon-to-be-favorites spots.
Here in Miami, we may be used to Californians coming to town since the onset of the pandemic, but this is worth taking note. Earlier this summer, chef Michael Bolen opened Lion & The Rambler, a modern Californian restaurant, where he’s showcasing the finest products from the country’s best farmers with an evolving seasonal menu of creative small plates.
Taking over the former Eating House space, Bolen has had a tough act to follow, but this newcomer to the Miami market is proving that Lion & The Rambler is eager to embrace the community and become Coral Gables’ new favorite neighborhood restaurant.
Here are five things you need to know about Lion & The Rambler.
1. Bolen is bringing Miami his take on modern Californian cuisine.
Bolen has worked in kitchens from coast to coast, primarily in Boston and San Diego. In Boston, at restaurants like Sel de la Terre and L’Espalier, Bolen was introduced to whole animal butchery, and ingredients were made from scratch. More recently at Mister A’s in San Diego, where everything is super-seasonal, he learned what it was like to have a hand-in-hand relationship with farmers and fishermen. “Working in those two regions really helped me form my culinary identity of working closely with farmers and using seasonal ingredients in a delicious and creative way,” Bolen says.
Bolen moved to Miami at the start of the pandemic, with hopes of opening his own restaurant — something he and his wife had been talking about for years. “I had been to Miami many times and always loved it. The food. The people. Everything about it. I have always wanted to make it out here, and at the very beginning of the pandemic, my wife and I realized we had two options: stay where we were and try to do something out of the house, or take a chance on something new and move to Miami,” Bolen says. “I had a feeling that Miami, which was already an amazing city, was about to go into overdrive with their restaurant scene.”
With the opening of Lion & The Rambler, Bolen brings that Californian culinary identity to life, in his ow kitchen where he utilizes seasonal ingredients from farmers, fishermen, and purveyors proudly listed on the menu.
2. This neighborhood spot offers you a new experience every time.
After Eating House’s 10-year run on a prominent Coral Gables corner, Lion & The Rambler opened in the same space earlier this summer as a tasting menu-only concept. But Bolen quickly (and we mean, within-two-weeks-of-opening quick) responded to feedback from customers that they wanted a neighborhood restaurant where they could return more often, by introducing a la carte options.
“Though this might be my first time as an owner-operator, I know enough to know that listening to your customers is key,” Bolen says. “So many of the most passionate and engaged guests we’ve had told me how much they enjoyed the restaurant and did like a tasting menu experience, but that having the option of ordering what they wanted off the menu made such a difference to them. It turned a special occasion dinner spot into an ‘any night of the week’ spot.”
Now primarily serving a rotating menu of a la carte small plates (though you can request the chef’s tasting experience), Lion & The Rambler is somewhere you can keep coming back for a new culinary experience each time, whether you want to make it a truly special night out or a laid-back dinner in the middle of the week.
3. The menu is ever-evolving, so come curious and ready to experiment.
At Lion & The Rambler, the menu changes daily based on the best ingredients. Everything else is made from scratch in their own kitchen, from the flour and flavored butters for their housemade breads (oh, that focaccia!), down to the finishing salts extracted from Miami’s own waters and delivered to the restaurant by a local fisherman. Bolen draws inspiration from these seasonal ingredients, past food memories, and beyond. The boniato (sweet potato) pelmeni, for instance — one of the few things that has stayed on the menu from the start — is inspired by his wife and mother-in-law, who make traditional pelmeni at home, which are Russian dumplings typically stuffed with ground meat like pork.
“I knew I wanted to do some sort of stuffed pasta with boniato, which I love and is native to around here. From there, it was just about tasting and adding and adjusting the flavors surrounding that beautiful pelmeni. Eventually I decided to serve it with macadamia, garlic, and orange — which in my head I thought would work really well together, and it did,” Bolen says.
The result is a dish with surprising layers of flavor — which can be said about almost every plate on the menu. Bolen says this creative process of figuring out the right flavor pairings involves tasting and experimenting — always keeping in mind which star ingredient he wants to show off. Sometimes that means blending ingredients that normally wouldn’t seem to go together, but actually end up bringing harmony to the plate. “It’s about balance. The goal is to make everything shine without overpowering each other and having them work together to build something that highlights it,” he says.
4. They’re as serious about service as they are about food.
Lion & The Rambler is the type of place where the host opens the door to greet you before you’ve even extended your own arm toward the handle. It’s evident through the most minute details how much the chef and his staff care. Table settings are changed out for every course, with distinct plateware pairings for each dish. This ceramic plateware is handcrafted by independent artisans from New York and Los Angeles, and the restaurant’s pink and purple cutlery is imported from France.
Plus, with Lion & The Rambler’s open kitchen layout, as much as you can peer in to see the action in the kitchen, you’ll notice that the chef is looking back at his guests, waiting for their reaction to the first bite of a dish. During our visit, Bolen even made a point of coming out to visit every table at some point during their meal, whether to grate his favorite aged sheep’s milk cheese on a pasta or to deliver dessert and tell you where he sourced the fruit.
5. Speaking of which, don’t miss out on dessert.
With only a few ice cream flavors on the menu for dessert, it would be easy to assume it’s an afterthought. But the ice creams here are made with butter instead of milk or cream, giving them a uniquely rich and creamy texture. It’s another example of the way Bolen and the team have embraced feedback. Noticing that ice cream was the biggest hit on the broader dessert menu when they initially opened, Bolen decided to lean into ice cream entirely with a selection of rotating flavors based on the best seasonal fruit he can find. Lately, that might be stone fruit like Suncrest peaches and Flavor King pluots from Frog Hollow Farm in California, or locally, Goldfinger bananas from Three Sisters Farm in Homestead.