Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Restaurants in Miami

I had a brief overnight in Miami and had a chance to visit 2 highly recommended restaurants. These stepped outside one of my usual favourites when I visit, Graziano's Parilla Argentina. Graziano's has meats that they cook over a wood fired grill or a parilla, a large circular fire pit filled with large wood chanks over which is hung, at an angle, spits of ribs, lamb, beef, etc. But, I am not about to discuss Graziano's in this review.

This trip, I went to experience the new Vino e Olio restaurant. The chef of this restaurant is the son of the renown chef of Italy's 2** Da Caino restaurant in southern Tuscany, Valeria Piccini. Having been to Da Caino recently and being duly impressed, I was excited to see what her son could do, having grown up in the kitchen, by her side.

We were served various breads and small rolls (one covered with caramelized onions), made in house, virtually the same variety we experienced at Da Caino, along with the olive oil for dipping, made by Da Caino's owners very near the restaurant, an oil that I consider one of the very best that I have ever tasted  (top 4) and guess what, Olio e Vino makes that oil available for sale or mail order. What a nice discovery!

I began with the chef's version of the typical regional Florence specialty of tripe sandwich. Served in a crispy skinned brioche bun, the tender tripe was covered with the typical green sauce (parsley, capers, finely chopped garlic and anchovy) and I ate it with gusto while the lovely juices and sauce dripped down my palms.

Our following course was silken butternut squash filled ravioli with a sage butter sauce. Fabulous because of the perfectly rendered and cooked pasta and the contrasting flavours of the slightly bitter and savoury sage with the sweet flavours of the squash and butter.

I was next presented with one of my personal favourites, encountered so rarely in North America, blood sausage filled ravioli. Here the chef used two sauces, one made with blood sausage and the predominant one, an onion soubise like sauce. Wonderful flavours all around. Perfectly cooked pasta. Bighting into the very tender pasta  I experienced the creamy textured goodness of the savoury blood sausage and the onion soubise was a lovely complement.

We then experienced one of the best versions of octopus I have tried. The octopus was double cooked, first boiled then grilled, paired with roasted potatoes and green beans. What was unique about the octopus was it's very thin crispy exterior and melt in your mouth, soft and creamy interior.

My following dish was roasted suckling pig  served with a pureed green pea sauce and mushrooms. Now with this dish my expectations were extremely high as the chef's mother, Valeria's version at Da Caino, was perhaps the best version of this dish that I have ever experienced. And, it was very good, but lacked the truly crispy skin and incredible juiciness of his mother's version. Perhaps it is the source of the product itself that plays a role in the tastes and textures. The mushrooms were perfectly rendered and let me say that this chef, more than most "good chefs", really knows how to prepare mushrooms that remain succulent and "al dente" (my words descriptive for mushroom texture).

A series of 4 desserts surprised us. First, little soft pastry pockets of chocolate cream surrounded by creme anglaise and fresh blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. Next, Millefoglie, a crispy pastry filled with a chantilly cream flavoured with rum. Then, crispy cannoli filled with chocolate mousse  and a grand marnier cream and last, my very favourite, a very refreshing orange "carpaccio" with powdered sugar dusted iced passion fruit in the centre, served with their wonderful olive oil in an emulsion.

The other restaurant I visited, Sardinia, we called ahead to have the chef prepare roasted suckling pig in their wood burning oven. Yes, I very much enjoy roasted suckling pig.

We began with a tasting of different burrata cheeses. What a sensational rustic presentation: baby and mature asparagus, chopped basil and a very good olive oil.

Our following course was mallaredo, a Sardinian tear dropped shaped pasta, with a braised baby lamb ragu. A good dish but not exceptional.

The other pasta was orcchiette with crumbled wild boar sausage and a rapini pesto. The was a wonderful dish. The coarsely textured slightly gamey wild boar went so well with the slightly bitter rapini and on the whole this was a very enjoyable dish.

Our final course was slow roasted, wood oven cooked suckling pig. It did live up to our expectations. Wonderful flavour and quite juicy.  It was served with a rustic salad and wood oven roasted potatoes.

Vino e Olio
139 NE 39th Street
Miami FL 33137

Sardinia Enoteca Restaurant
1801 Purdy Ave
Miami Beach FL 33139

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