When we walked into Mira Five Stars and saw the sumptuous decor, my first thought was maybe this restaurant would be about show and not substance. What I happily found was food and a dining experience that matched the quality of the surroundings, plus Mirko Caldino, the talented Executive Chef from Liguria who has worked at Putin’s dacha outside of Moscow. Even better news is they’re offering luncheon and dinner prixe fixe menus that offer quality and value as an introduction to the new restaurant.
First the setting. No expense was spared. We’re talking about 7000 lights of Murano glass making up dramatic chandeliers; vertical garden walls; floors made from a rare limestone that simulates driftwood (“the idea was to bring an outdoor feel inside”); white suede backed chairs; table settings with glass, porcelain and cutlery from the finest names in Italy (Ginori, Zafferano, Luigi Broggi); and thick, white starched linen tablecloths that are perfectly ironed.
The Mediterranean inspired menu has classic Italian favorites, and then some exciting unique menu items that I’d call classic contemporary. Francesco Desideri, the Manager, calls it a “slow food environment” where they make everything in house including all the breads and even the breadsticks. We started with a sublime pizza gorgonzola with pear. The crust was so thin it was almost like phyllo, so the taste was about what was on the pizza rather than the dough.
The next choice was tough – pastas that included black truffle tagliolini, asparagus with saffron risotto and black crab ravioli. We settled on the latter, the house made egg ravioli of just the right texture, stuffed with crab and ricotta with sauce of dill, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, squid ink and “lots of love”. It was delicate and flavorful, with the taste of crab shining through.
I loved the presentation of fish entrees, a choice of branzino, dorada, turbot or lobster. There’s a choice of preparations for the fish – grilled, pan seared, salt crust, and the less common acqua pazza steamed in white wine with cherry tomatoes and Mediterranean, baked with vegetables and Kalamata olives. The Mediterranean, my choice, was served whole and deboned tableside. The fish was moist and perfectly cooked, and complemented by the assorted vegetables. You pay per pound for the fish ($18 for the branzino and dorada, $40 for lobster and $50 for turbot) and separately for the preparation other than grilled ($6-$15).
Mr.W was torn between the baby goat, a dish seldom on the menu, and a classic beef filet chateaubriand. He opted for the filet, meltingly tender, and served with a green peppercorn sauce, spinach and small potatoes. Seafood lovers might also want to try the seafood pan with baby calamari, octopus, scallops, shrimps with arugula and rosemary or a crudo or grilled seafood platter.
A fine meal like this called out for a sweet finish. We opted for their take on a lemon tart laced with berries. Mr W liked his pistachio gelato which the Italians always do so well.
Wines by the glass (a 5 ounce pour) start at $14; bottles at $62 and cocktails range from $16 to $21. They also sell Dom Perignon by the glass, $49. Francesco said one couple comes in all the time and each has two glasses and then their dinner.
As you can imagine, quality doesn’t come cheap and this is fine dining. Expect to pay about $100 a person plus beverage, tax and tip. So that’s why the lunch and dinner specials are such a good deal. A three course lunch served Monday to Friday is $29. The three course dinner menu is $55. There’s also an attractive bar in the round if you want to go first to have a drink and check it out.
Mira Five Stars, 801 South Pointe Drive (305-340-1735).
Food photography by William Oberheiser