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Restaurants & Bars 23

Por Fin - First Look

Frodnesor | Mar 7, 200809:40 AM

Finally! After years of construction/anticipation, Por Fin in Coral Gables has finally opened its doors. This may have been the longest build-out I have ever witnessed. In any event, here's a report from our first visit earlier this week.

First, for all the time and money they put into building this space (if I recall right, it was originally a fairly non-descript storefront, and they built - pretty much from scratch - a Mediterranean Revival style 2-story space), the inside is not terribly exciting. The dining room actually feels somewhat bare, with white-cloth topped tables, dark wood chairs, a few booths built into one wall (booths, not banquettes, a little unusual). But it's classy and elegantly modern. There's an upstairs lounge area which I didn't explore.

The menu lists about a dozen appetizers, about a half-dozen salads, half-dozen rice & pasta dishes, half-dozen fish dishes, and another half-dozen or so meats. Before the starters came, we were brought a three-part dish with some spiced olives, a romesco sauce for dipping (made w/ sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, almonds, etc., similar to a pesto), and some simple grated tomatoes, the typical topping for a pa amb tomaquet (or, uhh, "bread with tomato") - which is much easier to eat when already topping the bread than a shallow dipping bowl. Three breads to choose from - a raisin bread, a ciabatta, and a country bread.

Though the place is not strictly Spanish, the appetizers were pretty strongly Spanish with some other items thrown in. We split some papas bravas (a traditional Spanish tapas dish, twice-cooked crisped potato cubes drizzled with a spicy tomato sauce and also accompanied with aioli for dipping) which were very good, nice spicy sauce; a tuna tartare (w/ some diced mango and other interesting items, and a generous portion - nice presentation too, with the components all given a uniform square dice and then molded into a cube for plating); a foie gras wrapped in thinly sliced pears; and the standout for me, a dish with a fried egg, a slice of serrano ham, a potato "foam," potato crisps, and a little hint of truffle oil. This just absolutely tasted like Spain on a plate to me - the Spanish understand and appreciate the simple wonderful joys of a good oozy fried egg, and this dish absolutely hit all the right notes (though I will say that the crisped potatoes - more like potato chips - seem a bit out of place).

Almost all of the salads and pastas and many of the proteins also come in both full and half sizes, a nice touch. We tried a salad with shrimp and little fried potato sticks (meh), a seafood paella (one of the only starches that is not available in a 1/2 size) (a somewhat small portion for a "full" order - $16 - but pretty nice flavors, with authentically crisped rice at the edges of the pan), and short ribs (served sliced off the rib and draped with a little melted cheese, and with the potato foam and potato chips making another appearance). Most of the entrees seem to be pretty basic and simple.

The potato "foam" gives a hint of the chef's training w/ Ferran Adria, but it was really the only hint of any "molecular gastronomy" type of influence. Some stuff was pretty traditional (the papas bravas, the egg dish), others a little more contemporary but nothing truly adventurous. The menu clearly is not exclusively Spanish, with risottos, a pasta with a bolognese sauce, etc. I wasn't paying as much attention as I could have, but recall at least a few other items that intrigued, including a bacon and artichoke risotto.

The wine list was surprisingly short - seemed to be about 10 botles each of Spanish whites or reds, with another maybe 15-20 non-Spanish options. I didn't study closely and didn't recognize many of the wines, but prices didn't seem terribly out of whack. Got a nice 2005 Ribera del Duero for $35 which would seem hard to beat.

Service was pretty solid for a place that's only been open a couple weeks, and the kitchen had its act together. All our dishes came out at the right times, even though we invited potential confusion by putting in our appetizer orders and then circling back around 10 minutes later to do the entrees. Place was about half full while we were there and it seems they are still in "soft opening" phase.

Given the chef's resume, and the lengthy wait for the opening, perhaps many folks were hoping for something more revolutionary, but I think the food was good, and it certainly shows promise. I'll definitely be back again.

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