When you mix flavors that come from the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico, the end result is bound to be caliente, and a recipe you tout as “Caribbean.” When I was invited to Bradley’s first Cuban Night, I was fairly confident that their executive chef Edwin Bermudez’s menu was going to fuel Bradley’s revenue fire. I may be right. And I also have a feeling that his blood lineage had something to do with that.
Half Cuban, half Puerto Rican, chef Edwin Bermudez wants to share his roots and the recipes he learned in his mamá’s kitchen. Bermudez grew up listening to Latin music and savoring natural ingredients like those you find in ‘el sofrito’—that essential Spanish mix of garlic, onion, green bell pepper, oregano, cumin, paprika, tomato sauce, olive oil, salt, and vino seco [dry wine]. Add fish, pork, chicken, or beef to that, and a generous blend of citrus goodness—sour oranges, lemons, and limes—and what you get is authentic sabor latino. And that’s exactly what you’ll find on Bradley’s new and eclectic menu.
Before Chef Bermudez came into the picture on July 4, E.R. Bradley’s Saloon had a reputation. Established in 1984, the restaurant was inspired by Colonel E.R. Bradley, a business man who made casinos popular in Palm Beach in the 1890s with his Palm Beach Club and went on to own The Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach Times and Palm Beach Daily News. Since E.R. Bradley’s Saloon opened, this modern day landmark at 104 N Clematis St, has been attracting locals and visitors to try out this place simply for its look and feel.
The Caribbean cuisine scene is steadily on the rise, giving us more of an excuse to explore Chef Bermudez’s new menu. His touch can be tasted in his Lil’ Gordo’s Cuban Quesadilla, consisting of pork in mojo, Bolo ham, mustard, pickle, Swiss cheese, in a garlic wrap, and Pik Nik sticks. Paired with the refreshing Caribbean Coconut Mojito and RumHaven, the result is an exquisite food and drink experience.
I had the pleasure to sit down and chat with chef Edwin Bermudez, and sample his delicious $35 three course meal served on Bradley’s Cuban Night on October 6 and November 10, that also featured Catabella, a fantastic Cuban band from Miami.
What made you think of adding Cuban Nights at Bradley’s? I used to run many of these events on the Palm Beach Island. They had never had any Latin night here at Bradley’s, nor any kind of Latin cuisine. Nicolas Coniglio, one of the owners of Bradley’s, came up with the idea to do what I do best, which is creating Cuban Nights.
So what did your menu consist of for the two Cuban Nights? For the first one, I roasted a pig in our conventional oven, nice and slow. I put it in the oven since 7am, at 125 degrees, with plans to keep it in there until the next day at 4:30pm. I kept checking it, basting it. And it was done to perfection. Fo the next one on November 10, I’m pulling out the Cuban Caja China and cook it outside in the garden.
Can you explain what a “Caja China” is for those who might not know what it is? It is a slow-roasting grill made out of a large wooden box with a grill on top.
And how do you prepare the pig? I place the pig skin side down on a large work surface. Then, I prepare the mojo: that Cuban marinade sauce consisting of sour oranges, lime, lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper, un poquito de comino [a little bit of cumin], apple cider vinegar, a touch of oregano, which gets it nice and flavorful.
What’s your secret ingredient there? Citrus power is the secret there. You mix the mojo in a bowl and using a large syringe, you inject the mojo into the meat of the pig every 3 to 4 inches.
And when do you do this? I marinade the pig the night before, injecting it with mojo. If I’m using the Caja China, I baste it, but don’t touch it! I just let it cook slowly until it’s time to turn it.
How is a conventional oven different from a Caja China? With the oven, you can pull the pig out to wet it or baste it. Wit the Caja China, it’s best to not open it too much. You can roast the top nice and crispy to get “chicharrones,” finish the pig’s head. The ears are the best part and the cheeks. So, you can’t go wrong with that.
And which method do you prefer? I prefer the Caja China, but the oven it’s always a good way to cook a pig.
What else are you preparing for the Cuban Night? I’m also preparing some Ropa Vieja [Shredded Beef in Tomato Sauce], so I’ve got some flank steaks marinating right now. We’re also going to be doing red pinto beans, with a little mojo sauce, sweet plantains, and some saffron rice to go with it.
So, you’re deviating a bit from the Cuban tradition of white rice and black beans…I’m adding my little Puerto Rican touch in there with my saffron rice, adding a bit of color as well…
I see that… Yes, traditionally, the white rice and black is more Cuban. Red beans is more Puerto Rican, which is what I grew up with.
Will you have an appetizer to start with? Yes, we are making two types of empanadas: de carne molida [minced meat] y de pollo [and chicken]. I’m also making a snapper and shrimp ceviche, with lime, cilantro, tomato, and olive oil. I will serve it with some tortilla chips, and that will be the fist course.
How many courses will you have and how much will it cost per person? This three-course meal is $35. It’s going to be a fun night. The main entree will consist of a little Lechón [pork], Ropa Vieja [shredred beef in tomato sauce], beans, rice, sweet plantains. And third course [dessert] you will have the Tres Leches [Three Milks] with merengue and cherry on top, and you should be happy!
And who’s coming to this fun night? Well, so far we’ve had a great turnout, with lots of reservations. My boss’ wife is Cuban so they’re bringing all their Cuban friends.
And I hear you have a live band too. We have Catabella, a Cuban band out of Miami. I’m super excited to hear them tomorrow. I hear that they’re phenomenal!
So when did you start cooking at Bradley’s? I started in the kitchen on July 3, 2017. Fourth of July was my big day here at Bradley’s. It was my first time with a busy, high volume restaurant like Bradley’s and everything was great. The atmosphere here is super awesome, and you can’t go wrong with the view of the waterfront.
How long have you been in the culinary industry? For fourteen years now. And I’ve been an executive chef for the Coniglio brothers [Nick and Frank] for nine years. But, working for the company, ten years now. I started as a salad guy at Nick & Johnnies, one of their establishments. I had just graduated from Florida Culinary school.
And how was that experience? I was always over the chef’s shoulder, checking out what he was doing. I’ve worked in restaurants since I was fourteen. I’ve been a dishwasher, a bartender, a sous chef. You name it, I’ve done it.
What is it about the industry that you like so much? I’ve always loved food, hence the weight! [laughing] I enjoy food very much, I feel like everybody should taste different flavors. You can go to the store and get anything that’s generic. You go out to dinner and it should be something that’s modified, different and delicious. That’s what I plan on doing here at Bradley’s. Our new menu is coming out, and it has a lot of my Spanish influence.
Such as… Snapper that’s fried with a nice Chimichurri sauce on top, served with the saffron rice and beans. Plus, a ton of other items, heavy on the fish and seafood dishes. I’m changing quite a bit on the menu.
How do you like the ambiance at Bradley’s? Everyone is pumped that I’m here and they’re doing a great job selling my special dishes. And just overall having me here. The environment has been really friendly and its been an awesome experience so far.
Every chef has a particular style, what’s yours? The past few years, I’ve done a lot of seafood. So, I’m going to say I’m your seafood guy. You give me scallops, shrimps, or really anything, and I’m going to cook it topnotch. At first, I was a steak guy. I’d cook you the best steak, basting it, etc. But leaning towards seafood now is something that I enjoy. I love to select fresh fish; I order a lot of local fish. Local Mahi or Swordfish right out of our waters—right from local fishermen that come in. I want the freshest fish I can find, and that’s from our local fishermen.
There’s no need to get something from overseas when you have it in your backyard… That’s right!
So then seafood is your thing… Seafood is my forte. I always add my Latin touch to everything I cook, but I also leave your generic healthy options that people are trending to, like new vegan options that’s kind of what’s in right now.
So you keep with the times… Yes, of course, I learn new recipes and techniques, keep reading books, and keep going…that’s kind of what I look forward to.
So, where do you see yourself five years from now? Hopefully in my own little spot. That has always been my goal.
Here in West Palm Beach? Either here, Wellington or Royal Palm area. But yes, I plan to stay local. But hopefully if all goes well… I mean, I’ve always planned on being by own boss. Not that I don’t appreciate what Nicholas and Frank Coniglio have done for me, because I’m incredibly appreciative of the wonderful opportunities they’ve given me. But you know, it’s natural to think of the future. And sometimes you need to venture out and get a feel for yourself. But for now, here I am, and so grateful for the opportunity. This is a busy place. When you have Sunfest, Lagoon Fest, the Boat Show, you’re talking: thousands of people who pass by and you cover about 600 or more at a time. It’s intense, it’s a great place to be, and it’s a good environment.
Do you participate in West Palm Beach’s GreenMarket, which is right next door to you on Saturdays during the season? We do not participate, but we do get a good overflow of people coming from there. I have a plan with the GreenMarket, and this is something that I’ve thought about for a while…over at Nick & Johnnies on Saturdays, I used to work with local farmers, using their produce to create wonderful dishes. I plan doing the same thing at Bradley’s. Calling it, “My GreenMarket Special.”
Offering what exactly? So, basically I’ll go shopping at the GreenMarket and pick some produce then come back and create some dishes, and those will be my specials for the day. Whether it’d be a vegetarian option or if I add a protein or fish to it, but whatever I buy from the GreenMarket will be incorporated into the ‘Special for the Day.’ That’s my plan for Saturdays, GreenMarket here.
Anything you’d like to say to our readers? Come visit me at E.R. Bradley’s Saloon. Ask for Eddy and I’ll make sure that you’re taken care of and you enjoy your meal for sure.
If you visit, E.R. Bradley’s Saloon is located at 104 N Clematis St, West Palm Beach, 33401. It opens every day, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Q&A with E.R. Bradley’s Saloon’s Executive Chef Edwin Bermudez. He has a new menu at the restaurant, Cuban nights, and fresh new ideas for his patrons.