Tried this for the first time tonight and were very glad we did. Ideas is a small upscale Spanish restaurant in an odd location in Coconut Grove - on Bird Road just past 27th Avenue, just past the Flanigans. As soon as we were through the door, it reminded me of places we went to in Barcelona. Very clean and modern, shades of tan white & black throughout with simple elegant furnishings, and a huge glassed-in open kitchen gleaming w/ stainless steel.
There's a menu of about a half-dozen + apps, an equal or greater number of mains (including several grilled seafood items and a couple paellas), and then an entire menu of specials with about an equal number of choices. When I asked, I was told the specials change every 1-2 weeks. The dishes generally fall somewhere between traditional Spanish and the over-the-top inventiveness of the Ferran Adria genre. We went with black squid-ink colored calamari croquetas (special), piquillos stuffed w/ bacalao (regular menu), pichon (a.k.a. pigeon or squab) 2 ways (special), and grilled cuttlefish (regular menu). Before these came out, we were served an interesting amuse bouche of a slice of duck "ham" w/ a sugar syrup. The complimentary amuse was one of the things I loved about dining in Spain and it was great to see it done here. A sprinkle of sprouts over the top seemed a little incongruous.
While we were there, Deco Drive was filming, and one of the owners was going around the restaurant asking (unintrusively) if guests would try their special "golden egg" dish and comment on it for the cameras. My wife volunteered and tried the "golden egg," a poached egg wrapped w/ pastry topped with a little gold leaf, which she said was delicious.
The croquetas were fantastic - the small order came with 4 dark balls colored w/ squid ink, perfectly fried and crispy outside, creamy inside and studded w/ bits of calamari. The stuffed piquillos were also very nice, though the best version of this dish I have ever had remains the one at El Carajo (which I've repeatedly touted on this board). The grilled cuttlefish were very tasty and nicely cooked, and served w/ a yummy garlicky aioli, but were a somewhat small portion (in fairness, the waiter did give us a little indication this was often served as a starter). The pigeon was excellent - breast meat cooked perfectly rare and sprinkled w/ crunchy sea salt, w/ the legs and wings done in a vinegary sweet and sour style (I could not resist picking these up and eating with my hands). Perhaps the best part was a delcious creamy mushroom risotto which accompanied. Dabs of puree of carrot and something green (spinach?) had good flavors but seemed a bit superfluous.
We finished off with a desssert of a chocolate souffle accompanied by a pistachio "biscuit" (more like a very crumbly shortbread). The souffle was perhaps undercooked, or maybe it was intentional, but other than a puffy outside, the middle was mostly a dense, intensely chocolately almost pudding texture. Whether purposeful or not, the flavor was excellent.
This was my kind of wine list, with maybe a half dozen whites taking up a quarter of a page and then the rest of the list filled with reds, primarily Spanish. Some very good choices here and for the most part pretty fairly priced. Service was excellent, friendly and professional (i.e. 2 servers would come to the table so dishes could be put down at the same time). If you've read the New Times review, do not be intimidated if you do not habla espanol. Both the regular menu and the specials are in both Spanish and English (you just need to turn the specials menu to the backside for the English version) and all the staff spoke English perfectly.
I absolutely loved the food in Spain and this is very close to many of our dining experiences there. I really hope this place succeeds.
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