Whet & Wild: Miami Spice is heating up…

More dining, more spice. It just keeps getting better!

IMG_8651This past weekend I dined using the Miami Spice menu at Gotham Steak and Macchialina. These two restaurants are completely different from one another. I don’t know how the other restaurants participating in Miami Spice can top these. I know it’s not a contest but I just love to be surprised with each visit and I can’t help but compare. A group of eight of us set out last Friday night to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We arrived a little early at Gotham Steak which is located inside the Fontainebleau Hilton Hotel on Miami Beach. I believe valet parking was $14 with validation (if you don’t go over a 4 hour window). We sat at the bar to wait for our entire party to arrive and indulged in a bottle of Napa Valley’s Honig (one of my favorites!). Forget old school menus, Gotham Steak displays their wine list on iPads (but not online-in case you were wondering). It almost makes you forget that the wine was $ 85.00 and sells retail for about $39.00. Almost.

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Gotham Heirloom Tomato Salad

We enjoyed the bottle and were escorted shortly to a table in the downstairs area. As a side note, we requested downstairs on purpose. In the past, when I have dined at Gotham, I found the upstairs to be a little too sterile for our taste. The tables don’t have tablecloths and the DJ with blaring speakers was not for us. Downstairs offers a more casually elegant ambiance.  Beyond the tableclothed tables you can see into the kitchen through a clear glass. The bathroom is just steps away instead of a journey (when sitting upstairs you have to exit the restaurant and use the lobby bathroom). Dining downstairs feels like an entirely different restaurant. We were greeted immediately by our waitress and sommelier. We had two bottles which did not need decanting but we did want opened right away. Corkage fee was $30 and only 2 bottles are allowed per table. We were offered the regular menu first and then offered the Miami Spice menu. Their Miami Spice menu is housed in a smaller version of their regular leather bound menu which is a nice touch. Most restaurants just offer you a piece of printed paper. Another nice touch was the hand written birthday card that was waiting for us at the table for our friend upon arrival. These are all small details that are not required but always appreciated.

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Gotham Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare

We placed our orders right away. Each course was perfectly timed. We never sat there wondering where our food was or balancing two plates at once because one came out too early. Not here. I had the yellow fin tuna tartare and our friends had the heirloom tomato salad, black truffle beef stroganoff and prime beef tartare. My tuna was delicate, fresh and beautifully done. The beef tartare was an additional $5 and worth every bit of it because it tasted excellent. The rest looked amazing and everyone enjoyed their appetizer courses. The stroganoff was especially decadent. Portions were not huge but also not miniscule. They were sized just right. For entrees, our table had the braised short rib of beef, pan seared mahi mahi and the 8oz filet mignon (Additional $15 ). No one had the garlic roasted chicken breast. The filet mignon and truffle fries we added were the unexpected least favorites of the table. The short rib and the mahi mahi were the standouts. I had the mahi mahi which was cooked perfectly and just full of flavor in every bite. The arugula salad and vinaigrette were the perfect compliments to it. Desserts were also a hit. The options were either a dark chocolate cremeux or a mango custard. I believe our table had 4 of each and they were both equally liked. The chocolate crumble made for a nice added crunch to the creme and I could not stop eating it. The birthday girl’s dessert had a candle and a scribbled “Happy Birthday” on it. Service was truly impeccable without any hiccups which is hard to do sometimes with large parties. Someone was always refilling water, changing silverware, folding napkins if a guest stepped out or there with any questions.  I have heard and read of diners experiencing backlash at upscale restaurants when you opt out of the regular menu for the Miami Spice one. Gotham Steak was a class act from start to finish. It’s exactly what I expected of Gotham Steak and they delivered.

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Gotham Mahi Mahi

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Gotham Dark Chocolate Cremeux

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Gotham Mango Custard

The very next night, I set off to try Macchialina. I have had them on my “to try” list for months now. I figured this would be the perfect time to try them. The outside is nondescript and small. The restaurant rests on the south side of Alton Rd.  Valet was $15.00 although you can circle the area and perhaps get lucky with an open metered spot. We got seated immediately upon arrival. It is, in fact, very small but it’s also extremely charming. This is no Gotham. It’s almost elbow room only depending on where you sit. Its rustic charm grew on me instantly. Brick and chalkboard graced walls all around featuring their specials and wide wooden plank floors set the stage for just “damn good food”. No bells and whistles here, it’s all about the food. Our waiter brought out the regular menus as well as the Miami Spice one. I was initially confused by their menu. They don’t do the usual three course that is supposed to be the standard. They offer a four course. Instead of each person choosing an item per course for themselves, the choices are made and adjusted for the entire table and served family style. You have more options per course than the usual Miami Spice menu. For example, you have to choose 3 items for the 1st course, 3 additional ones for the 2nd course, 2 items for the 3rd course and then 1 dessert. All in all, your table ends up trying out 9 items. Granted, they are smaller than if you did one full dish per course like we did at Gotham but this was wonderful! Not to mention this was the perfect way to dine for my first time. The flow of the items was not as flawless as Gotham. Some items came together, some back to back and we even received one wrong dish. They were, however, quick to acknowledge and fix the mistakes. The food truly made up for it all.

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Macchialina Swordfish Carpaccio

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Macchialina Cheese Board

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Macchialina Local Burrata

We tried the broccolini al Cesare, local burrata and swordfish carpaccio first. The swordfish carpaccio had a delightful pistachio pesto that I really enjoyed. I hated sharing the burrata because it was that good! The second courses were perhaps my favorite of the night. The creamy polenta (named the “best in Miami” by my very picky husband), arancini mozzarella in a tomato aoli and mediterranean octopus (Additional $3) were all addicting and we did not leave a single crumble behind. Our big mistake was ordering a cheese board. A little Provolone, a little Taleggio, some Pecorino and some LaTur later and we were completely full.  They were served with a peach jam that truly blended with each cheese despite their heavy differences.

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Macchialina Creamy Polenta

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Macchialina Arancini

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Macchialina Mediterranean Octopus

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Macchialina Tiramisu

I was tapping out. No, really. Napkin in the air, glassy eyed and just sitting there I vowed to not move for the rest of the night. Then, it happened. The tagliolini ai funghi was served alongside the hog snapper. I only had eyes for the tagliolini. Now what? I hesitantly took one bite “just to try it”. Let’s just say it was a good thing we had to share plates. I had to eat my share. It was pasta done right- just dreamy. I tried the tiniest piece of the snapper to confirm what I already expected. Yes, that was good as well and I sadly had to ask them to please wrap it to go. Service was great despite some of the timing inconsistencies. Our waiter was very nice, knowledgeable and charming. We ended with an espresso and their signature mason jar tiramisu. The tiramisu is topped with a splendid espresso slushy which initially looked like brown sugar from afar- delicious and fun to eat.

Somewhere, somehow during this amazing ride I decided that Macchialina is now one of my new favorite restaurants. Not only was our food wonderful but all the dishes we saw go by our table looked every bit as enticing as ours. I need, yes NEED to come back and try out more things from this menu. I am also intrigued by the chef’s tasting menu. That is happening. Mark my words.

Gotham and Macchialina are both amazing restaurants that warrant a visit year round but especially during this Miami Spice season. Add them to your list! You will not be disappointed. Want to learn more? See all participating restaurants HERE.

As I see it, from my palette to yours. Enjoy!

Oh, one more thing, Bourbon Steak? I’m coming for you next! Just saying.

TO BE CONTINUED…

One thought on “Whet & Wild: Miami Spice is heating up…

  1. Kristi Vannatta

    Macchialina , here I COME! My mouth is watering. Gotham Steak certainly does not disappoint either, right down to the “crunchies” in the dark chocolate cremeux! Great post.

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