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February 7th, 2013
Inside Miranda Restaurant, Chef Sasha Miranda cooks a mix of Latin American and Italian flavors while concentrating on healthful cooking techniques.
A Host and Sommelier Mauricio Miranda creates a global wine list with a focus on Italy, Spain, South America and California. Collectively the couple brings their years of restaurant experience to the table with the hope of making guests feel as if they’re in their home. Since opening Miranda in 2007, Sasha and Mauricio have aimed to use local products when possible and patronize other Brooklyn businesses for their goods and services. Seeking to maintain the integrity of the building in which their restaurant is housed in, they used sustainable materials in the creation of the restaurant, they installed energy efficient equipment and they have recycled some unique pieces into their design. Sasha and Mauricio are striving for a responsible establishment in a community that deserves nothing less.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn is a wonderful location for Miranda. Was Brooklyn the first and only location for Miranda?
My parents moved from Queens to Ulster County (NY) and we (Mauricio and I) considered following them and possibly opening a place up there when we first became serious about our own restaurant. We looked at several spaces in Ulster and Dutchess Counties but we decided it might be easier to start a business in NYC since we had both been living and working there for years. A family friend had a commercial space in Greenpoint and although that didn’t work out, he showed us around the Northside (Williamsburg) and we knew instantly that it was where we wanted to be. Mauricio and I also went on our first date at Planet Thai, which was one of the first better-known restaurants in the area in the early 2000s.
The building location of Miranda is in a 120-year-old building. Explain the design and install process of Miranda. Any sustainable materials, energy efficient equipment, if so, what products?
We completely gutted the space we occupy, installed new electrical lines, plumbing and central ac as well as the kitchen ventilation system. Using a photo we found of the location taken in 1941 when 80 Berry was a popular neighborhood bakery, we tried to restore the façade to match that. With great big windows that open and close, we are thankful to be able to allow fresh air in to the restaurant on nice days rather than constantly running our ac system; our guests seem to enjoy the breeze and open feeling as well. We had a local carpenter create our tables using bamboo. We also purchased energy efficient refrigeration and we use energy efficient lighting.
We hear Miranda has some unique recycled pieces built into the Miranda design. What’s that all about?
In order to restore the façade, we popped bricks out to reveal the cutouts for huge windows and we recycled those weathered, graffiti covered bricks into a dining room archway. We used wood beams from the ceiling and laid them into the floor design. My dad collects antiques and he helped us to find our lighting, mirrors and many of our fixtures from his collections as well as from some great spots throughout the Hudson Valley.
Talk a little about the BOH. Was it a challenge working in a historic building to meet the challenges of designing a functional kitchen? Limited space?
I wasn’t sure how the kitchen would function with such a small space, but I have grown to love it. It forces us to keep our ordering accurate, our storage space neat and organized and it also allows my staff to learn other stations more quickly since we work in close contact with one another.
Miranda cooks with a mix of Latin America and Italian flavors all while trying to concentrate on healthy cooking techniques. Explain some of your techniques and how you meet the needs of health conscious guests.
First and foremost, we make just about everything in-house, which allows us to know exactly what we are serving. We cook with flavorful vegetable broth rather than meat stocks so aside from having a number of vegetarian options on our menu, we can also make some other dishes vegetarian as well. Our soups are always cream-less. All of our sauces are vegetable based without the addition of unnecessary fat from butter and cream, just extra virgin olive oil if appropriate.
Mauricio is from Southern Mexico and Sasha is from Flushing, NY with Dominican and Irish-American descent. Why not just focus on Latin cuisine. How and why do you incorporate Italian cuisine into your dishes?
Mauricio and I both love to cook and eat Italian food and we have both worked at a number of Italian restaurants, which helped us to develop our knowledge of Italian cuisine. I attended an intensive six-month course in Italian food, wine and language at the CIA after graduating from the main Culinary Arts program. I also grew up with a lot of Italian-Americans who invited me to dinner with their families and those home cooked multi-course meals (on a school night no less!) had a big impact on my appreciation for Italian cuisine.
You both have a great deal of experience working in some of NYC’s hottest restaurants. How did the experience help open Miranda?
Having worked on the opening teams of 3 restaurants allowed me to learn the ins and outs of permitting, design, construction, HR, hiring, menu development and all of the other nuts and bolts of creating a restaurant. Mauricio was part of the opening service staff for L’Impero and he was able to see the restaurant grow and evolve.
Restaurant kitchen and wait staffs are crucial for the dining experience and repeat business. How does Miranda go about choosing the right support?
We look for people who are genuine and eager not just to work but also to learn something new, whatever that might be. We try to keep a positive work environment and bad apples usually drop off on their own.
What’s Miranda’s buying approach? Do you go out to bid on a regular basis or do you look for loyalty from vendors?
We work with a lot of the same companies we have developed relationships with but we are open to change if something seems off. We also get much of our produce directly from farms in Ulster Co. in the warmer months.
How often does Miranda’s menu change? Inspired by the seasons?
We keep many of our dishes on the menu year-round, but we change their accompaniments depending on the seasons. We also have additions to the menu, which are always based on seasonal produce.
Does Miranda use a pastry chef to bake your dessert offerings? In your opinion, do you think a guest can tell the difference from a dessert baked on premises or something purchased from a food distributor?
We make all of our desserts in-house. I do think guests can tell something that is house baked and I also think it is important to continue the menu concept right through the end of the meal. I don’t think anyone would be able to sell me something that would be able to mimic our twist on Italian.
Miranda has a top-notch global wine list focused on Italy Spain, South America, and California. Any focus on signature cocktails or local craft beers?
Mauricio has come up with a great cocktail list, which includes all his unique creations. Two favorites are the coquetona with mezcal, tamarind-infused tequila, maracuya and honey syrup and the basilico with Greenhook Gin, Limoncino, basil and juniper berries.
A guest can have a three-course meal at Miranda for about $30. But there’s little you can do when food prices jump, short of changing your menu every few weeks. How do you keep you menu offerings priced competitively to keep customers coming back?
We eat at Miranda almost every night and while we don’t pay for our own meal, we think about what we would expect to pay if we were regular diners.
Looking in your crystal ball, where do you see yourselves in five years?
Hopefully continuing to come up with recipes Mauricio and I get excited about and enjoying going to work each day.
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