It's sometimes tough to gauge a restaurant's worthiness by it's Miami Spice menu. Some restaurants go all out, some not so much. All, however, must at the very least execute whatever they are bringing out.
Restaurant Brana is fairly new, but the chef is apparently an old hand in Miami, previously manning the kitchen at Norman's. The inconspicuous space was a former crepe restaurant which I hated, the furnishings and decor of which are still there.
We walked in with no reservations on a Friday. The place was mostly empty but we were required to wait as the 9:00 reservations were to begin trickling in. We were seated after about a 10 minute wait and the restaurant ended up filling up. The Miami Spice menu has some items from the regular menu and some new items. All portions seemed smaller than on the regular menu. The restaurants "mission" is to use local ingredients where possible, a theme which is prevalent around the country but fairly rare in South Florida. Frog legs from Loxahatchee, Key west shrimp, red snapper, etc. Some things are obviously not Florida grown, but at least they're in season (fava beans). All dishes were well executed and service was good. A garlic soup was somewhere between liquid and foam with a sweet, garlic flavor. Frog leg pieces swam in the broth and due to the creamy color, could not be seen but only fished out as an occassional surprise. The shrimp entree was entirely dominated by the smoked trout roe which, if you like trout roe, was very good.
Entrees - again, well executed but minute. Snapper was well seared but not dry. Veal was fork tender. Desserts were a choice of sorbets, of which we both chose Jamaican mint (which we can swear is made with peppermint oil due to the slight greasy texture left on one's lips after eating). We ordered a cheese course which came with minute portions of cheese from Georgia and NY (accompanied by what the waiter called "dinosaur egg plums" to which I responded "they're just pluots").
The regular menu looked interesting, again focusing on Florida ingedients like lobster (accompanied by sweetbreads for a take on surf and turf). The wine list was limited and I think heavily influenced by Jeffrey Wolfe from Wolfe's Wine Shoppe (who happened to be dining with some friends that same night) since Lodi and other rising areas seemed well represented. It's definitely a friendly, neighborhood type of place where people see people they know and the chef comes out to chat, and a nice change from monstrous chains (City Cellars, Max's) that have unfortunately almost become the norm in Gables dining.
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