At Café Sambal, You Pay for the View
Problem is, it seems like the Mandarin Oriental management team knows it's a gorgeous restaurant and that, by default, people will keep going no matter what.
Recently, I attended an engagement dinner there with about 20 other guests. Granted, our group was large, so there were bound to be a few hiccups in service. But waiting 20 minutes for a drink (that we had to remind the server to bring) didn't start things right. And tracking down a server to order additional drinks and bottles of wine was likewise laborious.
|Honey-miso-glazed sea bass|
The best thing I sampled was a tiny slab of honey-miso-glazed sea bass ($30), though that is hardly creative, mold-breaking fare and rather an item on menus across the country. But the version here was very lightly glazed, though I don't know whether that was done on purpose. Regardless, it was the freshness of the fish -- light and buttery and blackened on top -- that provided knockout flavor.
|Spicy tuna roll|
Shu-mai dumplings filled with seasoned pork ($11) were also not very flavorful. They came with soy sauce and a chili dipping sauce that was mild and slightly sweet. A spicy tuna roll ($11) flecked with panko was crunchy and fresh, but it wouldn't win any competitions against the versions at most of Miami's upscale Japanese eateries.
My rendezvous with Café Samba left me yearning for a second date -- a better one. It's a pretty restaurant with pretty food and pretty ambiance but little soul. It's bursting with potential for renewal, though. Add to the beautiful design a menu revamp and more vigilant management insisting on topnotch service, and it would easily be a top dining destination in Miami.
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