Coral Gables Restaurant Week and Miami Spice
I got an email for the Coral Gables Restaurant Week (June 2-8) www.coralgablesrestaurantweek.com, and I wanted to get everyone's take on who to checkout. My experience in the past with these sorts of things (Miami Spice in August) is a majority of the locations do not put their best foot forward (Evolution at Ritz Carton R.I.P) and sometimes you are lucky (Pacific Time 2006).
Getting back to Coral Gables version, who is a must go, maybe go, or definitely do not go (did you ever play F-MARRY-KILL) from the list of participants:
Artfish on the Mile
California Pizza Kitchen
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Fritz & Franz Bierhaus
John Martin’s Irish Pub
Ortanique on the Mile
Tarpon Bend Raw Bar & Grill
feel free to share your Miami Spice hit in misses over the years too!
Aside from the fact that the restaurant week website is pretty weak (you have to go to the website, then click on the restaurant name..load a page for that restaurant, then click on another link to load another page to see what's being offered for restaurant week -- they could have skipped the second page loading for every single restaurant)... I clicked on one of the restaurants I was interested in on the list (La Cofradia) and the menu looked quite uninspired (lunch main course was pasta of the day or grilled salmon, dinner main course was pork chops or salmon). Por Fin's offerings looked quite nice though.
Seeing as the website isn't even loading, I'll comment based on the restaurants alone:
My Definite Goes
Artfish on the Mile - I've talked a whole lot about this place and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I have when they make it there. Very good, very fresh seafood, with the head chef, sous chef (also pastry chef) being Chef Allen alums. Creative menu with tropical/Middle Eastern twists. If you went right when it opened, everything's changed since then.
La Cofradia - Haven't been in over a year at this point but that was a restaurant that my experiences culminated in great food, great wine, great company, great nights out category, so I never speak ill of this places
Por Fin - Nothing revelatory or new from the cuisine (at least my one time there) but it was very solid cuisine and still new, so worth the trip if you haven't been.
Two Sisters - I hear good things about the place and have been wanting to try it.
Good to Go:
Cacao - Great food but one of those frustrating places with small portions making you wish you made plans for dinner before or after your meal there..
Caramelo - I'm pretty sure I like this place, more so than Cacao, though I tend to confuse Cacao, Chocolate (bleh) and Caramelo
Le Provençal - haven't been in years
Ortanique on the Mile - everyone loves this place but me
Caffe Abbracci - Every restaurant in this group is a Gables staple, and Abbracci is probably their king.
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar - subprime beef (or so I hear), just not worth it. Go to Outback, order some cheese fries for me.
John Martin’s Irish Pub
Sushi Maki - ask anyone who's been to this one.
Ok, so I got through the website, and the first thing I did was reminisce about when Miami Spice first started and restaurants were in the spirit of it and pulling all the stops. A lot of these restaurants nowadays are watching their bottom line and not really offering anything that great as a result. I saw more of the same here. That being said, some restaurants did seem to offer some nice items. Sadly, one was Flemings. Tarpon Bend didn't look too bad either. Other than that I thought Caramelo, Le Provencal, Ortanique, Por Fin and Two Sisters looked attractive enough for me to take advantage of their deal. Por Fin in particular had a thoughtful menu with daily specials.
You would think taking the recession (are we or are we not in a recession??) out of the equation that the restaurant would put there best foot forward. While it gives everyone the opportunity to try them, if you don't put any thought into it, how can you get repeat business?
I am not asking for expensive proteins, but take a chicken breast and cook it properly and if it impresses me, I will be back.
the Grand Samán Chocolate Mousse Dome from the dinner menu at Cacao was excellent, (they had lamb as a third entree choice, I tried the quinoto and ceviche but enjoyed more the crispy shrimp ricoto)
I'm thinking of checking out Caramelo (menu sounds nice) or La Cofradia
already a fan of Por Fin
My husband and I have a few Miami Spice dinners each year and our experiences have been okay. I agree that Miami Spice was definitely much better when it initially started. My best Miami Spice experiences have been at Emeril's (much to my surprise) and Baleen. I have yet to have a bad experience at Baleen and my Miami Spice dinner there was no different. I had a salmon dish with a home made black bean mash that included chopped mango and red onions. The staff was extremely professional, as usual. It was fabulous. At Emeril's, the food was better than a couple of other times we had gone, and the staff didn't seem to care that you were there for Miami Spice instead of the regular menu, etc. My worst Miami Spice experience was at Cacao. The dinner menu at Cacao (the one time we went was with another foodie couple) seemed very bland and uninspired. None of have returned as a result. The other MS participating restaurants were good, but there was definitely an underlying current which ignited when we requested the Miami Spice menu.
Regardless, being the foodie I am, I always enjoy Miami Spice and I am fairly certain I'll enjoy the Coral Gables Restaurant Week. My personal "must goes" are:
La Cofradia - everything is good, including the ambiance which is oh so important to me.
Artfish on the Mile - Very fresh and distinct.
Por Fin - I haven't been but I've heard great things about the menu, so it's a "must go" for me.
Ortanique on the Mile - I love Ortanique. I go there relatively often and I've never had a bad experience.
Good to Go:
Caramelo - Caramelo has also been very consistent. I was upset when it took over La Bussola's location because I really enjoyed La Bussola, but I've grown to really like this restaurant.
Two Sisters - Consistently good.
FYI... in poking around online I found this:
Restaurants with the dot are participating in Miami Spice Sneak Preview during June 16-30, 2008. Please contact individual restaurants for their Miami Spice Sneak Preview menu.
L = Lunch, D = Dinner
A Fish Called Avalon (D) •
Atrio at Level 25 (L,D) •
Bleu Moon Restaurant (D) •
Blue Door (L,D) •
Blue Sea (D) •
Chef Allens (D) •
China Grill SoBe (L,D) •
Christy's Restaurant (L,D) •
Emeril's Miami Beach (L,D
Fontana (L,D) •
Food Gang (L,D) •
Grass Restaurant & Lounge (L,D) •
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink (L,D)
Nikki Beach (L,D) •
The Oceanaire Seafood Room (L)
OLA Restaurant (D)
Ortanique on the Mile (L,D) •
Palme d'Or (D) •
Pascal's on Ponce (L,D) •
Red Fish Grill (D) •
Restaurant at the Setai (D)
Shoji Sushi (D)
Shula's Steak House Miami Beach (L,D) •
Sushisamba dromo (L,D)
Table 8 (L,D) •
Talula (L,D) •
Tantra Restaurant and Lounge (D) •
Tuscan Steak (D) •
The June preview is a good find.
I've always enjoyed Chef Allen's during spice - I think he was in some way involved in forming the event, so he's always put together a good (and frequently changing) menu. He also does one or 2 wine dinners during the promotion, which are a particularly good event.
I made it to Caramelo for lunch on Friday and it was a very nice menu for $20. I had a crab cake, a delicious grouper with chorizo mofongo, an ok chocolate cake, and a glass of wine. While I was there I noted that they will be having a summer menu that I believe is also $20. I'm not sure if it is changed daily but it is worth a try.