With the wave of new places opening up recently, seems there have been several that haven't yet gotten any play here. So we decided to try out a couple this weekend.
First, we popped into Andu for some drinks and apps. It's certainly an interesting looking place, with a large bar area in front and then the restaurant seating in back, with several dangly 70's-modern chandelier-type things hanging from the ceiling and a big swooshy molded-plastic looking thing on the back wall. It reminded me of the set of the Woody Allen movie "Sleeper" from the 70's.
Since we were hitting two places, we only got a little sampling of what Andu has to offer - a couple drinks at the bar and a couple appetizers. The moroccan spiced calamari was highly recommended and deservedly so. The squid, instead of being cut into the customary rings, were instead done in lengthwise strips, given a noticeable but not overwhelming hit of moroccan spices, a very light crispy coating and I suspect are pan-fried rather than deep fried. The crispy exterior barely even qualifies as a coating or breading as it just lends a little texture rather than a heavy casing. The squid are accompanied with some florets of broccoli rabe and then a toss in a melted meyer lemon butter. Great flavors, and nice presentation in a little mini-tagine. Only drawback is that the portion size was a little skimpy for $15. We also got a dip of artichoke puree with some crumbled feta on top, served with some nice warm toasty pita chips. Decent but certainly wouldn't on its own prompt a return visit. A pisco sour went together very nicely with the apps.
The rest of the menu was a grab-bag of mediterranean-influenced dishes showing a little bit of range - items that sounded interesting included salt cod brandade, potato gnocchi w/ serrano ham and pecorino romano, rioja steamed mussels, harissa braised chicken, paella, goat-cheese crusted lamb loin w/ provencal vegetables, "the best fries in the universe" (a big promise), tuscan ratatouille ... if the calamari are an indication of what the kitchen is capable of, then this place may be quite good. It was close to empty early on a Saturday night, though the proprietor told us it fills up later in the evening.
In retrospect, after heading over to Marinheiro for dinner, I wished we had stuck around at Andu. Marinheiro is in the former La Broche space in the Mark building on Brickell Bay Drive, and has great big windows looking out on Biscayne Bay (including some nice outdoor seating). The restaurant space is spare, modern and hip, with lots of large-scale artwork on the walls. The menu has a listing of "Portugeuse dishes" and then the regular menu which stretches into the Mediterranean (again) ouevre (some pasta dishes, chicken milanese, osso buco) with occasional ventures into Latin America (picanha, coconut cream snapper). We figured we'd stay in their sweet spot by ordering from the Portugese specialties, and went with codfish croquettes, a "signature" Portugese seafood rice, and a grilled codfish w/ onions, olives and egg.
The croquetas come 6 to an order, shaped into little quenelles rather than balls. Crisped on the outside, but the texture generally was unfortunately rather gritty and stringy. In retrospect, it was somewhat reminicent of a bad fishstick. A half-inch bit of bone extracted from one croqueta didn't help. No sauce to accompany the rather dry croquetas. The grilled codfish was a fairly massive portion (for $29.50) but the fish was rather dry and the other components just sort of seemed to be along for the ride rather than adding anything to the dish. The rice dish was a fairly measly portion for an entree - presented on a square 10-inch plate and a thin layer of rice didn't reach the edges of the plate - with 3 mussels (two of which had remained closed and were thus inedible and shouldn't have even been plated), a couple shrimp, and a tiny thumb-bit of lobster which Mrs. F nearly missed entirely (and then, after eating it, suggested it may have been "yesterday's lobster"). I was really surprised this place wasn't better, given that they've got experience running restaurants (over a dozen different locations between Portugal and Venezuela). They had about half the dining room open (it's a big space), and that space was probably about half filled with diners at around 8:30.
While I'm not sure that I'd make a return visit to Marinheiro, Andu certainly intrigued enough to try again. In any event, folks should know that there is life in Brickell beyond the chains in Mary Brickell Village.
Edited to add ->
141 SW 7th Street, Miami, FL
1155 Brickell Bay Drive, Miami, FL 33131