A gem of an eatery for tapas in the Bal Harbour area, a new eating choice in Brickell City Center, Spanish gourmet store and cafe in Key Biscayne, a stylish bar and lounge for live Latin music and jazz (when you want to go out and not have yet another meal), and a new Brooklyn pizzeria popup in the Design District, all in Eating and Drinking news for December.
Some of my best tips come from readers (thanks and keep them coming). That’s how I found Paon Eatery, a casual and friendly spot that shines with their menu of international tapas. I went with four friends for lunch who all loved the place. The owner as well as the chef are Argentinian, the latter making his way to Miami after a stint at a Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona. Though there’s a selection of entrees, the stars are the 24 tapas, a combo of Mediterranean and Asian choices. Everyone gave high marks to the grilled octopus with eggplant, puree, potatoes and chimichurri sauce; steamed shrimp buns with house mayo and hot sauce; roasted cauliflower with gazpacho sauce and asparagus puree; steamed mushroom buns; and the salmon tiradito. Next time I’d like to try the short rib with potato salad and anything with the very fresh and tasty shrimp. Tapas range in price from $6 to $21 with most hovering in the low teens. We were five women and had 12 tapas which was just enough. Paon is open for lunch Wednesday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday. 1076 Kane Concourse, T.786-348-0672.
Craving homemade Spanish gourmet items, entrees and tapas like gazpacho, pimientos rellenos (stuffed peppers), cod croquettes, seafood paella, boquerones en vinagre (white anchovies in vinegar) and even churros to heat up at home? Check out the new Key Biscayne shop and café, La Despensa, 260 Crandon Boulevard. There’s also a section of condiments, canned items and Spanish wines starting at $9. We stocked up on jamon serrano and also were delighted to see the Catalan salami, Fuet.
When you go there, also make a visit to Argentine deli and café Patagonia Nahuen and pick up some of their delicious empanadas (14 varieties including spicy chicken, sausage and caprese (spinach are especially good), meats for a parillada, and provolone cheese cut in rounds and ready for the microwave for a melted cheese tapa (also good for holiday entertaining). Then, you can drive down the street and pick up a pavlova from Piononos if you’re entertaining.
Second best to having a private movie screening room at home has to be the new 10 screen CMX Cinemas theater at Brickell City Center, part of a Mexican owned, fast expanding chain of upscale cinemas. And maybe it has even better seats than the luxe screening room, as the ones here are super plush and recline, plus you get a blanket (love that detail) and can order the food and drink of your choice. The screen and sound system are as good as it gets. Tickets don’t come cheap ($27 for adults, children and seniors) – but going there is an indulgence that’s well worth it.
Another plus is the restaurant, which serves American cuisine and some Mexican favorites. We went for brunch, which is a good deal for the neighborhood, especially if you share dishes which are healthy size portions. Mr. W gave a thumbs up to the baked egg white frittata with goat cheese, asparagus and tomato served in a cast iron pan with roast potatoes on the side, and I enjoyed the crispy fried chicken and waffles with a decadent pecan butter and maple syrup. For starters we had a big dish of the seriously addictive chilaquiles – tortilla chips smothered in white cheese with green tomatillo salsa.Paired with a bloody mary and mimosa, the bill for two was $55 .Lunch is offered Monday through Friday with an $11 daily special — dishes such as the popular chicken and pesto pasta, the CMX cheeseburger with a side salad and pork sliders. Starting at 3 p.m.,dinner entrees include grilled salmon and spinach with roasted heirloom tomatoes for $14.50 and skirt skirt with herb roasted potatoes for $20. And how could I forget happy hour with premium liquors such as Bombay gin for $5, wine and beer at $4.50 and cocktails, $6.
Seating is at a choice of high top tables, banquettes, long bar, and soon, outdoors on the 5th floor terrace of the Center. Though the movie theater and restaurant quietly opened a few months ago, the word is now starting to get out, especially among sports fans who pack the place during football and soccer seasons, turning out for their LED screen, the largest in Florida.
Want to do something special and festive for the holiday season that isn’t about going out to eat yet another large meal? The Mandarin Oriental’s stylish MO Bar+ Lounge features live Latin music and jazz on Friday and Saturday nights. We had tapas at home and then went to the lounge for after dinner drinks, dessert and music in what was a totally delightful evening The bar arguably has one of the most comprehensive bar menus in town with 12 signature cocktails( $16) including two zero proof selections that could turn you into a tee totaler; a wide selection of wines (from $13) and champagnes by the glass ($13 for prosecco) along with beers; 24 single malt scotch whiskies; 9 gins, and on and on. For special holiday splurges, there’s Louis XIII de Remy Martin cognac at $100 for a half ounce. Don’t feel like cooking or eating in? There’s an enticing selection of small plates and items from the sushi bar along with comfort food (club sandwich, burger, etc). And how could I forget, you can dance too! With validation, parking is $12.
Roberta’s, a popular pizzeria from Brooklyn, New York, opened a popup recently in the Design District. It’s super casual as you can see, with covered picnic table seating and small tables and chairs outdoors. The menu is simple — four kinds of pizza including the traditional margherita; the Bee Sting, with tomato, mozzarella, soppressata (Italian dry salami), a dash of chili flakes, and a honey drizzle; the Famous Original, with caciocavallo cheese from Puglia (slightly nutty, delicious), oregano, and chili flakes; and the White Guy.
They’re baked on the spot in a wood burning oven. I sampled all of them which were very tasty, though my favorite was The White Guy with ricotta, garlic, and mozzarella . Pies range from $11 to $14. Roberta’s. Located in Jungle Plaza, with entrances at 3801 NE First Ave. and 140 NE 39th St., Miami. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through April 2018.