Por Fin - First Look
- Frodnesor Mar 7, 2008 09:40 AM
Finally! After years of construction/anticipation, Por Fin in Coral Gables has finally opened its doors. This may have been the longest build-out I have ever witnessed. In any event, here's a report from our first visit earlier this week.
First, for all the time and money they put into building this space (if I recall right, it was originally a fairly non-descript storefront, and they built - pretty much from scratch - a Mediterranean Revival style 2-story space), the inside is not terribly exciting. The dining room actually feels somewhat bare, with white-cloth topped tables, dark wood chairs, a few booths built into one wall (booths, not banquettes, a little unusual). But it's classy and elegantly modern. There's an upstairs lounge area which I didn't explore.
The menu lists about a dozen appetizers, about a half-dozen salads, half-dozen rice & pasta dishes, half-dozen fish dishes, and another half-dozen or so meats. Before the starters came, we were brought a three-part dish with some spiced olives, a romesco sauce for dipping (made w/ sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, almonds, etc., similar to a pesto), and some simple grated tomatoes, the typical topping for a pa amb tomaquet (or, uhh, "bread with tomato") - which is much easier to eat when already topping the bread than a shallow dipping bowl. Three breads to choose from - a raisin bread, a ciabatta, and a country bread.
Though the place is not strictly Spanish, the appetizers were pretty strongly Spanish with some other items thrown in. We split some papas bravas (a traditional Spanish tapas dish, twice-cooked crisped potato cubes drizzled with a spicy tomato sauce and also accompanied with aioli for dipping) which were very good, nice spicy sauce; a tuna tartare (w/ some diced mango and other interesting items, and a generous portion - nice presentation too, with the components all given a uniform square dice and then molded into a cube for plating); a foie gras wrapped in thinly sliced pears; and the standout for me, a dish with a fried egg, a slice of serrano ham, a potato "foam," potato crisps, and a little hint of truffle oil. This just absolutely tasted like Spain on a plate to me - the Spanish understand and appreciate the simple wonderful joys of a good oozy fried egg, and this dish absolutely hit all the right notes (though I will say that the crisped potatoes - more like potato chips - seem a bit out of place).
Almost all of the salads and pastas and many of the proteins also come in both full and half sizes, a nice touch. We tried a salad with shrimp and little fried potato sticks (meh), a seafood paella (one of the only starches that is not available in a 1/2 size) (a somewhat small portion for a "full" order - $16 - but pretty nice flavors, with authentically crisped rice at the edges of the pan), and short ribs (served sliced off the rib and draped with a little melted cheese, and with the potato foam and potato chips making another appearance). Most of the entrees seem to be pretty basic and simple.
The potato "foam" gives a hint of the chef's training w/ Ferran Adria, but it was really the only hint of any "molecular gastronomy" type of influence. Some stuff was pretty traditional (the papas bravas, the egg dish), others a little more contemporary but nothing truly adventurous. The menu clearly is not exclusively Spanish, with risottos, a pasta with a bolognese sauce, etc. I wasn't paying as much attention as I could have, but recall at least a few other items that intrigued, including a bacon and artichoke risotto.
The wine list was surprisingly short - seemed to be about 10 botles each of Spanish whites or reds, with another maybe 15-20 non-Spanish options. I didn't study closely and didn't recognize many of the wines, but prices didn't seem terribly out of whack. Got a nice 2005 Ribera del Duero for $35 which would seem hard to beat.
Service was pretty solid for a place that's only been open a couple weeks, and the kitchen had its act together. All our dishes came out at the right times, even though we invited potential confusion by putting in our appetizer orders and then circling back around 10 minutes later to do the entrees. Place was about half full while we were there and it seems they are still in "soft opening" phase.
Given the chef's resume, and the lengthy wait for the opening, perhaps many folks were hoping for something more revolutionary, but I think the food was good, and it certainly shows promise. I'll definitely be back again.
thanks for the review as well. Are you likely to go back? Nothing seems to particularly call to me from your review, just that its good and maybe take a look at it, when it crosses your mind to.
Por Fin is on the corner of Ponce De Leon and Andalusia, one block from Miracle Mile. Big beautiful white building under construction for some time now actually.
I liked Por Fin. half portions feel like a full portion.
they could use better bread, maybe add some flatbread
one of the 3 dipping sauces had hazelnut, roasted pepper, garlic, parsley -- delicious, kinda like a chutney
foie gras wrapped in caramelized apple -- foie savory taste completely lost but the sweet and salty flavor is dessert-like and nice
eggs por fin -- i recommend, wish the potato crisp wasn't so much just like a potato chip, but the ingredients are perfect together
the short ribs were tasty (served as medallions with the potato foam and chips, foam is on the thick side)
the pear fiocchi nicely made with pear and cheese -- delicate dish,
i would like him to offer more specials, miami is also in need of some molecular gastronomy
I actually like that super-crusty bread.
The dipping sauce you're referring to is a classic romesco sauce which is great on just about everything.
I likewise don't understand the potato crisp obsession (they appear in multiple dishes) and hope the chef starts taking more chances - at least try some funkier stuff for specials and see what the reaction is.
One of my favorite tapas in Jerez was just fried thin cut potatoes (like chips but thicker) with a fried egg on top. And the huevos estrellados (literally "smashed eggs" but basically french fries topped with cut up fried eggs) of Madrid's Casa Lucio are legendary. Then there's the regular tortilla espanola. Something about Spaniards finding different ways to eat fried potatoes and eggs.
I went back for lunch yesterday. The place was not packed but reasonably busy. They provide bread with the same 3 dipping sauces (olive oil, romesco, strained tomatoes) as they did for dinner service (no choice of different breads, though, just one crusty country bread). Service was spotless throughout.
I started with an appetizer of "basque style clams," followed by "Coral Gables' Best B.L.T." The clams were very nice, medium-sized buggers with a sauce which seemed to be an emulsification of garlic, olive oil and the steaming juices from the clams (very similar to the Basque style of doing codfish called "bacalao al pil pil"). Somewhat pricey at $14 though.
The BLT would not get my award as Coral Gables' best - though I'll confess I haven't tried every BLT in the Gables, this wouldn't fit my description of the top. Aside from the B, L, and T, they add a layer of burrata cheese to theirs. Nice cheese, but I guess I'm a traditionalist - it didn't work for me. The "L" was a mesclun mix, dressed in a mustardy dressing - again, just sort of distracting for me. They use excellent bread, a thick toasty buttery brioche, but it was too thick and disproportionate to the rest of the ingredients. Indeed, the item that ought to be the star - the "B" - was hardly discernable.
Still better than this one though ->
My lunch companion started with the goat cheese escalibada (an assembly of roasted red peppers, eggplant and onion topped with toasted goat cheese) which she didn't seem very enamored of. A half-portion of one of the risottos left behind a clean plate, though.
While the BLT was a miss, seems there's still plenty of interesting food to be had.
Great review, Frodnesor. The egg dish and the papas bravas do sound like perfect examples of Spanish cooking. I suppose the chef used the potato crsips for textural variation, but by your account of that portion didn't sound so successful. Papas bravas are one of my favorite Spanish apps, and I don't think I've found any that would compare to what I've had in Madrid. The sauces are usually wimpy in the spice dept. and many rely too much on mayonnaise (though a touch to compliment the spice is sometimes good).
Do you think the chef's been reading the Miami Herald? I'm thinking of an article about bacalao about a month ago. :-D
The chef came over from Spain and has a fantastic resume (incl. some time w/ Ferran Adria) so I don't think he needed the Miami Herald to tell him about Spanish or Basque cookery.
These were pretty good bravas. I like my potatoes a little crispier but the sauce was spot on. I do like the combo of a spicy tomato sauce and an aioli, here the potatoes were sauced with the tomato, with a separate dipping bowl for the aioli.
I've been back to Por Fin for lunch a couple more times since last posting. New for my most recent visit today was a "Lunch Specials" menu - 3 courses for $23. Apps were a choice of soup, caesar salad, possibly another salad, or patatas bravas; mains were a sea bass, roasted chicken, and then a day-by-day rotation of items from the regular menu (Monday was the "Eggs at Por Fin"; Tuesday was porcini risotto ...) and then a chef's selection of dessert.
Started with the soup which was a white gazpacho - traditionally made from a puree of almonds, garlic, bread and water, served cold (I know, sounds sort of gross - but have it at Michy's and you'll understand how great this dish can be). I couldn't tell if this one had been supplemented with cream. Por Fin's version was dotted with nubs of mushroom and a shrimp, but unfortunately the texture of the soup was rather gritty and frankly somewhat unpleasant.
This was redeemed by the roast chicken, which was really very good. A generous bone-in breast and leg (where'd the thigh go?), nice moist meat, nice crispy skin, a not-overwhelming flavor boost from some herbs under the skin (thyme, maybe some rosemary?), bird and plate dribbled with a flavorful pan sauce, some more of those potato chips mentioned in earlier posts, and some roasted cipollini onions as adornment (not quite substantial enough to call the potatoes and onions a "side").
Dessert was a sort of deconstructed berry cheesecake, with a slab of crustless creamy "cake" (perhaps you could call it a panna cotta), a smear of berry coulis on the plate, some whipped cream, a sprinkle of a berry granita on top, and a dusting of tiny graham-crackery tasting crumbs on a corner of the plate. Somewhat affected, not great not awful (though not really my thing in the first place).
They seem to be pushing this "Lunch Specials" menu aggressively. In addition to the 3-course deal, it also listed a few sandwiches which I'd seen on the regular lunch menu, but we had to ask in order to actually get the regular lunch menu - which would be too bad if they elect to dump it, as it's nice having the option of the many half-orders available on it.
Just wanted to revive this thread after enjoying several lunches here recently. Their lunch special menu, which I believe is relatively new, has about 8-10 entrees priced at $19.50 and $23.50 each, all coming with choice of one of about a dozen appetizers. A huge plus for the lunch menu is that since the resto does not close between lunch and dinner service, they will serve the lunch menu past typical lunch hours.
Among the appetizers which I have tried recently, the Pa amb tomaquet (this version with manchego and jamon serrano layered on top), Gazpacho Andaluz, and Jamon Croquetas (shaped as rectangles instead of logs, served w/ aioli and a fig sauce) were all excellent.
For the mains, I love the Huevos al Por Fin (as described in Frod's above), the Shortribs, the Bikini Deluxe (a typical Catalonian toasted ham and cheese, this version with Jamon Serrano, Fresh Mozz, and Truffle Oil, I upgraded to Iberico for $4 more), and the Cochinillo (slightly unusual and delicious, a portion served flattened out with the skin crisped and then reattached??) all find a spot in the rotation. Never seen the Bikini sandwich outside of Barcelona so that's pretty sweet, and this version is luxurious.
Desserts of either Crema Catalana (with berries in a sort of gelatin at the bottom) or Flan Casero (with a Crema Catalana "foam") can be added for $3.50 and are pretty good but not great.
This lunch special deserves to be abused and then abused some more.
Ditto. I've been meaning to do a similar update because I love the way they do the lunch specials. I also think the food quality has improved since they've opened - they seem to be focusing more on Spanish food rather than trying to be all things to all people (no more baby back ribs) and I think it's working.
I believe the cochinillo is just roasted, I don't think they separate and reattach the skin. It is very good with an interesting flavor note from a drizzle of vanilla oil.
I wish more Gables places would follow their model with the lunch deal. Cofradia, I'm talking about you - though they seem to be getting a good bit more traffic in their new incarnation regardless. Another place that does similar lunch deals is Le Provencal down on the corner of Miracle Mile and Le Jeune.