Good Idea! (Ideas Restaurant Coconut Grove)
Tried this for the first time tonight and were very glad we did. Ideas is a small upscale Spanish restaurant in an odd location in Coconut Grove - on Bird Road just past 27th Avenue, just past the Flanigans. As soon as we were through the door, it reminded me of places we went to in Barcelona. Very clean and modern, shades of tan white & black throughout with simple elegant furnishings, and a huge glassed-in open kitchen gleaming w/ stainless steel.
There's a menu of about a half-dozen + apps, an equal or greater number of mains (including several grilled seafood items and a couple paellas), and then an entire menu of specials with about an equal number of choices. When I asked, I was told the specials change every 1-2 weeks. The dishes generally fall somewhere between traditional Spanish and the over-the-top inventiveness of the Ferran Adria genre. We went with black squid-ink colored calamari croquetas (special), piquillos stuffed w/ bacalao (regular menu), pichon (a.k.a. pigeon or squab) 2 ways (special), and grilled cuttlefish (regular menu). Before these came out, we were served an interesting amuse bouche of a slice of duck "ham" w/ a sugar syrup. The complimentary amuse was one of the things I loved about dining in Spain and it was great to see it done here. A sprinkle of sprouts over the top seemed a little incongruous.
While we were there, Deco Drive was filming, and one of the owners was going around the restaurant asking (unintrusively) if guests would try their special "golden egg" dish and comment on it for the cameras. My wife volunteered and tried the "golden egg," a poached egg wrapped w/ pastry topped with a little gold leaf, which she said was delicious.
The croquetas were fantastic - the small order came with 4 dark balls colored w/ squid ink, perfectly fried and crispy outside, creamy inside and studded w/ bits of calamari. The stuffed piquillos were also very nice, though the best version of this dish I have ever had remains the one at El Carajo (which I've repeatedly touted on this board). The grilled cuttlefish were very tasty and nicely cooked, and served w/ a yummy garlicky aioli, but were a somewhat small portion (in fairness, the waiter did give us a little indication this was often served as a starter). The pigeon was excellent - breast meat cooked perfectly rare and sprinkled w/ crunchy sea salt, w/ the legs and wings done in a vinegary sweet and sour style (I could not resist picking these up and eating with my hands). Perhaps the best part was a delcious creamy mushroom risotto which accompanied. Dabs of puree of carrot and something green (spinach?) had good flavors but seemed a bit superfluous.
We finished off with a desssert of a chocolate souffle accompanied by a pistachio "biscuit" (more like a very crumbly shortbread). The souffle was perhaps undercooked, or maybe it was intentional, but other than a puffy outside, the middle was mostly a dense, intensely chocolately almost pudding texture. Whether purposeful or not, the flavor was excellent.
This was my kind of wine list, with maybe a half dozen whites taking up a quarter of a page and then the rest of the list filled with reds, primarily Spanish. Some very good choices here and for the most part pretty fairly priced. Service was excellent, friendly and professional (i.e. 2 servers would come to the table so dishes could be put down at the same time). If you've read the New Times review, do not be intimidated if you do not habla espanol. Both the regular menu and the specials are in both Spanish and English (you just need to turn the specials menu to the backside for the English version) and all the staff spoke English perfectly.
I absolutely loved the food in Spain and this is very close to many of our dining experiences there. I really hope this place succeeds.
Just wanted to bump this thread as I made it over this past weekend and really had a wonderful time. The food was spectacular, well portioned and not overly expensive as I previously remembered (and was corrected). While the locale leaves something to be desired, once you are inside you are transported to a very inviting atmosphere, perfect for small parties or a cozy night out. Very nice concentrated wine list and decent service. Let me correct that, the service was both good and bad. The hostess was excellent, recommended some great wine and things were generally wonderful as long as she was around. The kitchen ran efficiently and delivered everything perfectly. The only thing I would complain about is that the server had to be fetched to take our order, again several times to refill our water, for dessert, and the bill. I want an authentic experience, but not that authentic! He also sent a snide remark our way at one point which we all ignored. We had a great time so this was not noticed so much, but I am not talking about 15 minute waits before calling him over. It was the only bump between a very good meal and a great meal. My impression is that server will not be there much longer and the service otherwise (including the other servers who seemed to pick up his slack) was excellent. I have definitely been quite lucky with my meals lately
Yeah Fro, this place is walking distance from my place and very good. I have a friend who is from Valencia and he really enjoys the dishes at Ideas. The location kinda blows though and they fall into the same trap that most Grove restaurants do - ZERO marketing. But, hopefully they are able to generate enough WOM business to stay open. I loved the cuttlefish there and also tried the seafood paella which was money. Reminds me that I need to go back sometime soon...
Another great hidden Grove gem is a few doors down closer to Flanagans - French Kiss. Incredibly good French food with an easy and simple menu that focuses on flavor without too much of a "wallet impact".
re: Blind Mind
What did you order at the French Kiss? I didn't have a mind-blowing experience there.
The bread starter was good. The French onion soup was also good although I wished they used the baguettes they served for the starter instead of the other bread they put in the soup.
The escargots was soaked in the traditional oil mix. But the oil mix was a bit salty. And the escargots didn't have much flavor itself unless if you were able to "soup" up the oil mix for the needed flavor.
The canard (duck) was a bit too raw, but I still liked it. Still, it was not the best duck, or even close, I've had from a French restaurant. It should have been cooked in another way - this part I can't explain... it just could taste so much better!
The osso bucco was better in flavor, but still, it wasn't right. The sauce was too thick, overwhelming and salty. It was all over the plate, almost making it into a stew, but it wasn't. The mashed potato that came with it helped offset the salty flavor, but it shouldn't have been salty in the first place.
Interesting bit of commentary about Ideas from this columnist in the Herald:
If you haven't tried this place yet and like Spanish food or are just looking for something different, it's definitely worth a visit. I don't think the place has caught on yet, but I'm happy that they're still hanging in there.
2833 Bird Ave, Miami, FL 33133
I'm glad you made it...this Spanish place is very unusual in a Latin town like ours. I forget the name of the region they reign from , but the food is hardly forgettable. Really well thought out and presented. Some great traditional Spanish plates with some nouveau mixed in for good measure. The ambiance is clean, crisp and chic. Hopefully, the MIA will take to this cuisine and it'll be here in a year!
Castilla y Leon, which is the northeast - north and west of Madrid, west of the Basque Country. I know Latin American is not nearly the same as Spanish, but I've nonetheless always been stumped why Spanish places seem to struggle for recognition here. I've seen a growth recently in authentic tapas spots, esp. in Coral Gables, so maybe this is changing.