The Grudging of Miami Spice 2014, Part Three
For restaurants, Miami Spice's two months of dining deals can be a raging hassle. With $23 for lunch menus and $39 for dinner, there's the possibility of lower check averages for servers. Plus there's extra ordering and menu planning for chefs and kitchen managers and a whole new slew of dishes for sweat-drenched line cooks to master.
Photo by David Cabrera Where are the real-deal Thai choices, Khong?
We feel your pain; we really do. Still, Spice is a time to let your restaurant shine. Take it as an opportunity to break out of the daily grind. It's a chance to gain a new clientele that otherwise might not see value in your usual offerings.
See also: The Great of Miami Spice 2014, Part Two
So skip the Axis of Evil -- skirt steak, salmon, and chicken or pasta entrées. If you're going to stoop to that level, make some effort to fake caring. Braise a brisket or short ribs into tender, melting oblivion. It's not difficult to get away with serving chicken if you know how to brine a thigh and cook it so the meat is juicy and the skin crisp. Make pasta, any pasta. Make cavatelli or pappardelle or ravioli. Keep the sauces and fillings simple; let the noodles shine.
New Times reviewed the menus of the more than 170 restaurants participating in Miami Spice this year. Some are more generous than others. Here are a few of the grudging.
Red the Steakhouse
The city's top purveyor of Certified Angus Beef starts off dinner with two types of salad -- spinach or classic caesar -- and steak tartare. For mains, chef Peter Vauthy is turning out a petit filet mignon, roast chicken, a double-cut pork chop, and salmon with basil pesto. All of them are accompanied by the same baked potato and broccoli. If you want to fork out extra, the sky is the limit. Add $15 for oysters Rockefeller to start. With $24 more, you can grab an eight-ounce prime filet or a 16-ounce rib eye. Vidalia onion rings can also be yours -- for $5. Available daily for dinner. With the upcharges, the food is great. Without? Not so much.
Richard Sandoval's restaurant inside the InterContinental takes an interesting approach to lunch, offering a buffet with avocado, tomato, and mozzarella and build-your-own salads. Mains change daily and include pork shoulder, ribs, lamb leg, and adobo turkey breast. At dinner, appetizer choices include smoked swordfish dip, lomo saltado empanadas, and crispy shrimp with ají amarillo and rocoto mint salsa. Then the whole thing just deflates with grilled chicken and salmon. The churrasco tasting -- with lamb, chorizo, chicken, and picanha steak -- seems the best bet. Lunch available Monday through Friday, dinner daily.
Swine Southern Table & Bar
billwisserphoto.com Richard Sandoval's smoked swordfish dip is on Toro Toro's Miami Spice menu.
During Spice, one of 50 Eggs' odes to Southern cooking is offering crisp cajun boudin -- a bloodless creole sausage/pudding common around New Orleans -- along with little gem lettuce and smoked fish dip. At lunch, either a smoked chicken and farro sandwich or a pork belly BLT follows. At dinner, it's grilled salmon or a smoked brisket steak. Yawn. Prior to launching their spice menu Swine was offering ribs for an extra $5. That option, however, no longer exists and a restaurant spokesman said it was dropped "because it devalued the menu overall for potential guests." Available for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Sunday through Thursday.
119 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL
100 Chopin Plaza, Miami, FL
2415 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, FL
101 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, FL
315 S. Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL
1661 Meridian Ave., Miami Beach, FL
7535 North Kendall Drive, Miami, FL
339 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL