I tried the tasting menu at Talula for the first time this week. I've been there often - it is probably my favorite place on South Beach - and know most of the menu, but was having trouble making decisions and so decided, well, not to.
The 7-course menu was mostly variations on the standard menu items but reminded me why the place is one of my favorites.
- tuna tartare - everybody has a tuna tartare these days, but this one takes it in an interesting direction, with soy, serrano chile, translucent rice crackers for scooping, a twirl of thinly julienned pickled cucumber, and a briny pop from some trout roe. Great balance of flavors.
- tomato soup - an off-menu item, this was not a thick creamy soup, but rather a clear consomme or tomato water, warmed, enhanced with a little drizzle of olive oil, and poured over a goat-cheese shmeared crouton, along with one perfect roasted yellow tomato. Beautifully and lightly captured the essence of a ripe tomato.
- foie gras - a smaller portion of the app from their menu. Though I've been here many times, I hadn't had the foie until recently. Now I feel I've been missing out. Another untraditional pairing, the seared foie is served over a blue corn pancake, with a drizzle of sweet-hot red chile syrup, some candied walnuts, and this time around, an interesting addition of seared watermelon.
- grouper - back to the regular menu, the fish is given a good sear, with a crisp exterior but still tender within, served over a couple plump gnocchi, topped with some smashed tomatoes, and drizzled with a punchy preserved lemon sauce.
- some of the best things on the menu are from a list of tapas, many of which use their in-house charcuterie, including an ever-changing "tapa of the week" that usually shows off the creative flair Talula is capable of. Our next item was one of these items: pastrami & caraway "takoyaki." The dish took the form of the Japanese takoyaki (a round octopus-studded pan-grilled dumpling), but the dumpling was flavored with caraway, topped off with generous slivers of house-cured pastrami with a little meat jus, and the whole thing crowned with some thinly julienned cabbage (subbing for the pickled ginger and bonito shavings of the Japanese original). Classic Japanese format; classic European Jewish flavors. Really clever dish. Sous Chef Kyle poured us glasses of Dogfish 90-Minute IPA to go with this, and it was a great pairing (one which I could easily repeat multiple times, I think).
- short rib - just a knock-out good braise, with fork-tender meat, a rich braising sauce, served over some homemade cavatelli, and sprinkled with some warmed blackberries and a sprinkle of goat cheese for a good sweet & tangy contrast to the richness of the meat and sauce.
- vanilla panna cotta - this was a dessert we'd recently had at our first "Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs" dinner - more on that here - http://www.foodforthoughtmiami.com/2009/08/experiment-1.html - and it was just as good this time around. Perfectly silken and trembly-textured panna cotta, nicely paired with some macerated strawberries and an almond crumble.
The tasting menu is $78 for 7 courses. But with their newer tapas menu, and the pastas which are offered in half-portions, you could probably put together a really good DIY tasting menu for a lot less than that too.
Here's a fairly recent thread on the subject ->
Not mentioned there, but Nobu does an omakase menu (actually usually at least a couple different options) and Blade, new sushi restaurant in the Fontainebleau, also does omakase, which I described here ->
Nobu offers both a "signature" omakase with many of their classic dishes, and a couple other (pricier) options with varying menus. They certainly focus primarily on fish, but not merely straight "sushi" (indeed I've never had more than one nigiri course though there have been a number of both raw and cooked fish preps). If you have never been to Nobu before, the "signature" is a pretty good lineup and hits on many of thier best dishes. If I recall correclty you get the tuna tartare, the miso cod, a sampling of nigiri, beef toban yaki and some other items. Add an order of the creamy spicy shrimp and you've hit many of the high points on the menu. It is expensive. According to their website, the "signature" is $110 and the omakase is offered at $150 or $200. I have had good experiences with the omakase but my last visit was disapointing and I've not been back since.
But yeah, I'd do Talula. Or if you want something more adventurous, the once-weekly "Paradigm - Test Kitchen" dinner at the Trump Sunny Isles.
Ive got to make it back to Talula for the tasting menu sometime. I just wasnt that hungry when I went there for the first time though I was tempted. Paradigm is another one I need to do again sometime. That was a great meal.
Ive had the omakase at Nobu and Ive always left thinking the food was just "good" and wondering why I paid so much for it.