Fourteen 'hounds (and friends of 'hounds) gathered for a dinner last night at Sra. Martinez in Miami's Design District. It was a nice fun group and I hope everyone enjoyed themselves. We ordered a bunch of things for the table and then folks added on additional items as they saw fit and we got to try quite a bit of the menu. Since I've already given some pretty extensive comments, I'll try to limit myself here to those things I've not already mentioned before, and would love to hear from the rest of the group, some of whom have already visited Sra. M and some of whom may have been first-timers.
- the bar is awesome. A really great drinks list with lots of innovative twists on old traditions. I had a just-about perfect sazerac made w/ Michter's Rye, and made the right way, with the absinthe swirled around the glass before the rye & bitters (shaken w/ ice) are poured in, and served neat. I felt momentarily like I was in New Orleans. What a shame they've only got 6 seats, as the space gets really backed up (we were eating at the upstairs table) as people crowd the bar area.
- croquetas - some folks aren't fans of these, I thought they were pretty good, very light in texture and full of flavor from the wild mushrooms and manchego and not greasy at all. I thought the sweet dipping sauce was superfluous, and the price a bit high for the four pinky-sized croquetas.
- pan con tomate - this is a ubiquitous Spanish dish which we saw breakfast, lunch and dinner when we traveled there. Slightly stale bread, rubbed with a garlic clove, rubbed with tomato pulp (the traditional way to do it is to halve a tomato and rub the cut side on the bread, but here - and in many Spanish places - they grate the tomatoes and then brush the tomato pulp onto the bread), a spritz of good olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Simple but it makes me happy. I thought the bread perhaps should have been firmer and crustier, though I sort of enjoyed the mushy merger of bread and tomato.
- crispy eggplant - a surprisingly good simple dish, skinny eggplant are cut into thin rounds, fried, and drizzled with honey. Crispy, salty, sweet - I liked these a lot. The eggplant-honey combo sounds exotic but I think this is actually a variation on a traditional Spanish tapa.
- clams - I think the menu says these are just steamed w/ garlic chile tomato and sherry, If it's really that simple there may be some alchemy involved, as these were just bursting with flavor. Each order was a nice generous bowl too.
- bacon-wrapped dates - the official snack of the Design District! Again playing on that salty-sweet thing, the prominent flavors were the pork and the sweet date, with the blue cheese much more in the background.
- bravas - I bring these up again because they were much improved from our initial visit. Now described as an "untraditional" patatas bravas with Peruvian dipping sauces, it was a more generous portion and the dipping sauces - an aji amarillo sauce and a spicy tomato sauce - are now loaded with some genuine punch. I couldn't decide which sauce I liked more. Small tweaks, and a much more enjoyable dish.
- poached egg - a new spin on an egg dish, here the egg is simply poached (not poached and then fried as in prior iteration), and served with a hash of coins of fingerling potato and chorizo. It's hard to go wrong with chorizo eggs and potatoes and this dish doesn't. And what's even better, you can ask for it just like Charles Grodin's character from Midnight Run.
- marrow bones - a great ingredient but a flawed execution. Each order comes with 4 bones, with the shank split lengthwise in half and then cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths so you get "open" pieces of the bone w/ exposed marrow. Unfortunately there's a lot of variation from one piece to the next, so that one may be loaded with marrow and another have almost none. And, they sometimes have little shards of bone sticking into the marrow which can break off. Just a tough ingredient to work with and maintain quality control. I'm also not convinced on the grape tomato accompaniment, as I couldn't quite figure out what to do with the tomatoes (I shmear the marrow on bread and spinkle w/ parlsey, but adding the tomatoes was a delicate balancing act).
- jamon iberico - an off-the-menu special @ $18/oz. I think I've made clear my feelings on jamon iberico. Yes it's expensive. It's also fantastic stuff. (Momentarily drifting off into porky reverie...).
- torrejas - I didn't know of this dish until recently, when I first tried it at Por Fin. Basically french toast for dessert, super sweet and dense. This tasted like it was made with a panettone-type bread, or maybe there were some dried fruits in the sauce, but since one of my favorite treats is panettone french toast, this resonated with me.
- churros - funnel cake with a spicy chocolate dipping sauce. I didn't love this, there was some pronounced flavor in the chocolate (was it some sort of liquor?) that didn't hit the right note for me.
We were drinking the Ameztoi Txakolina (2007), a funky Basque white with a tart, almost effervescent note it, which I really enjoy with tapas, and the great-value Borsao Campo de Borja (2007) grenache/tempranillo blend, which is a real treasure at $20 on the wine list.
I thought all of the staff did a great job of welcoming and taking care of our group, and despite having a large group to tend to, and lots of individual ordering, they pretty much managed to always have some food on the table for folks to pick at.
So what did the fellow 'hounds think?