Review--Asia de Cuba, lunchtime

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Today I had a chance to return to this restaurant but this time it was for lunch. You may recall my review earlier this year for dinner at peak season, wintertime

The difference between lunch and dinner was, excuse the pun, literally like night and day. But the food was still fabulous. Plus we discovered additional services offered by the upscale hotel unlike any other.

At the onset, arriving at the Mondrian hotel and driving up to the entrance was still the beginnings of a storybook tale. The mammoth but whimsical bells hanging from the high canopy entrance,  I felt like Alice in Wonderland, a miniature person amidst  larger-than-life furnishings fit for a giant. 

The restaurant, Asia de Cuba, is immediately after the lobby. Turning  left to the open space restaurant, it radiated in brilliant white, the sun streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows.  Alas, it was empty. There were no other customers at noon. We were the first guests to arrive.  I welcomed the quiety serenity, a contrast to the cacophony at dinner, a reason I would not return on my dime at least.

A couple of other customers trickled in an hour later, signaling this popular dinner restaurant was not the hot spot for lunch. (Downtown Miami and Coral Gables are the preferred lunch destinations).

Eyeing the menu, our waitress recommended the "Miami Spice" menu.  Six dishes from pre-appetizer to appetizer, entree, and dessert offered an attractive sampling. Recalling the fantabulous food from my previous visit, I chose Miami Spice.  However when the waitress brought the food, my heart sank. Portions were just that "sampling size", not fit for a giant, not even for little Alice, but for --hmm can't remember all the characters in Alice in Wonderland. Which ones were size of a small dog?  I forgot that upscale restaurants shrink the portions for Miami Spice. On the plus side, portion control is healthier, especially if you're on a diet, and this way you can try a number of dishes and not break the bank. Miami Spice is $22 for lunch not including tax and tip.

Another down side, service was remarkably slow which surprised me given that the total customers topped a whopping three tables. My colleagues and I were on a lunch break.  Perhaps we should have brought Mr. Rabbit with his dangling pocket watch to clue the waitress some of us South Beach patrons do work.

In the end, the presentation and food continued to exceed expectations.  My entire order was served in a sushi tray (except for dessert) which as you can see below, compartmentalized the food. Love the concept but would have preferred a bigger piece of meat for my entree.

In the lower left quadrant, what appeared to be a fried fish stick, were two lightly fried chickpea sticks--absolutely delicious. Not greasy, not heavy, just right.

The Calarmi Salad combined crispy calamari with chayote, hearts of palm, banana, cashews, and  drizzled with a light sesame orange dressing.  The Braised Beef Spring Roll was all cuba with black beans and papaya salsa--excelente. My tastebuds, however, were not overjoyed by the Shiro Miso soup. It was more Asia than Cuba. Then I realized tofu was the main ingredient and my tastebuds have never acquired that vegetarian staple. The Grilled Steak Skirt was tender, juicy and flavorful. Yo quiero más Steak! (translation: I want more steak).

Angie ordered a Caesar salad with sandwich and mojito fries. The fries captivated--this makes the memorable list.

Kristy adhered to her traditional favorites--beef sliders. Three petite sliders topped by melted cheese  and adorned by a green and yellow medley of pineapple and melondew.

Now for dessert. Kristy opted for a tropical, cool refreshing coconut sorbet with fruit.

Coconut Sorbet

Miami Spice offers this Asian twist on a traditional Caribbean flan with five spices, orange compote, orange chip, and an almond florentine cookie crisp.

Five Spice Flan

After leaving my plates spotless, we wandered around the lobby and stumbled upon a service only a 5-star hotel would feature. A vending machine that sells bikinis or rents convertible cars and Bentleys! Now I truly felt transported to a fantasy world!


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