Posted 05 November 2007 - 05:53 PM
In a surprising twist of events, both of my parents, and especially my mother, were so thrilled by my restaurants selections thus far – Michy’s and Michael’s – that my mother turned to me after dinner at Michael’s Genuine and asked, eagerly, “what’s for dinner tomorrow night?”
I told her about Talula. She asked me what the food was like. I said that I didn’t know, but I could show her the menu on their website. She took one look and turned to me and asked: “Is there anything more – well, like Michy’s and Michael’s? This reads a little too fussy.” Huh? Apparently, she had found a new love for family-style, communal, small-plates sampling type of fare. My dad chimed in – “I’d rather have robust and hearty than fancy and delicate.”
Seizing the opportunity, I briefly sketched out Sardinia for them, giving my mom a warning that it was probably going to be dark, loud, crowded and sans white tablecloth. She said she didn’t care. She wanted good food, and my dad agreed. (I think my mom, in her autumn, has finally awakened to her gustatory senses. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been much more about ambience and convenience than actually good food. That is to say, either she gets dressed up for a quiet peaceful elegant setting with a view, otherwise, she’s happy with a hot dog from a street vendor between errands. Food has rarely been her number one priority.)
Sardinia Ristorante does not accept reservations. This made me nervous. Thankfully, our “retirement dining schedule” for the late-night Miami Beach folks, landed us a half-empty restaurant around 7.30pm, when we walked in.
The restaurant was dark. Very dark. The restaurant was loud. Very loud. The restaurant was crowded. Very crowded. The food was fantastic. Very fantastic. We were pleased. Very pleased… and left very full.
I’ll spare the details on the location, décor, etc – information easily gleaned from their website. I’ll also skip detailed description of each dish – these can be read and the pictures of the food can be found on my flickr account.
We ordered liberally from both sides of the menu.
Animelle (Crispy Sweetbreads)
Roasted Baby Suckling Pig
Vegatali (Sides): Braised Fennel, Roasted Beets with Pancetta, and Broccolini
Fromaggio: Robiola de langue, Belfiore Pecorino Stagionata, and Pecorino Tartufo Fresco de Mugello.
1. Strike number one: The ONE thing I wanted to try at the restaurant – the specialty for which they are known – was their carasatu flatbread. They had none available the night we were in. Our server, who had a charmingly heavy Italian accent, tried to convey something about a party the night before and them not having enough time to make another batch. Apparently, it’s a rather involved and lengthy process.
2. Strike number two: Our server told us about a special of the night – a whole oven-roasted sea bream stuffed with herbs and served over a bed of salad greens. He did a hard sell (not that he needed to) – opining that it was the only thing better than the salt-baked branzino, a personal favorite and what I wanted to order. So the sea bream was ordered. Two minutes later, he comes back and apologizes – no more sea bream. It wasn’t his fault, but after the carasatu let-down, it elicited a slight inner groan. This being said, the salt-baked branzino was excellent. Our server was tremendously deft in plating the filleted fish. The meat, which was drizzled table-side with fruity extra virgin olive oil, was moist and fluffy.
Yet, despite these two mis-fires at the beginning of our meal, we managed to settle in for a stellar experience:
3. I really do not object to their liberal use of very fruity and fresh extra virgin olive oil.
4. Their salads are wonderful – the Finochiaccia and Sarda are strikingly similar. Their greens are fresh, bright, and exceedingly flavorful. They are generous with the bottarga shaving on the Insalate Cabras – it was definitely worth the $14.
5. Roasting everything in a blazing hot wood oven really makes everything taste 100% better.
6. The sweetbreads were very good – better than most I’ve had. However, the crispy charred Brussels sprouts and cipollini (which had gone silky inside) were the real stars of the “Animelle.”
7. Portions are large – especially the antipasti, many of which could have easily made for a main course. But, the ones we ordered (Moscardini and Animelle) and the ones we spied at tables nearby were so heavy/rich that eating an entire one by oneself would have become a bit of a monotonous chore. They were perfect for sharing. The baby octopi were exquisite.
8. We ordered a trio of “vegetali” side dishes. All three were exceptional. The roasted beets were as sweet as candy. The braised fennel, however, were my favorite.
9. Dessert list looked a bit hackneyed – and pricey. Our strawberry tiramisu – served in an old-world tin gelato coppetta really didn’t deserve the $9 price tag. The other dessert options seemed rather boring, with the exception of the mille foglio.
10. Service was good and bad in an old-world sense: Good in that it was extremely informed, friendly, and – well, just gosh-darned Euro-charming. Bad in that the restaurant is so busy that it was often a little hard to flag them down. This is not a hoity-toity joint, so dishes were cleared somewhat haphazardly… utensils weren’t always replaced. We also got a non-English-speaking bus boy on his first night. The poor boy was so flustered, I wanted help him out. At one point, our server insisted on us not helping him, which I suppose, was in the boy’s best interest in the long run. The staff and management seemed to try their best to be patient with him, but at times, it was very clear that they were frustrated.
11. The Italian (strictly?) wine list was extraordinary. Pricing seemed a little high, but certainly acceptable for the local Miami going rate.
12. I wanted to eat the entire cheese selection. Alas, if only I had four stomachs. The three we sampled (two which I have had before) were great. I want to know where they get their honey. I want some. Can anyone help me out? It was loosely described as “Sardinian honey” on the description of one of the carasatu options – I’m guessing they use the same kind as an accompaniment to cheeses.
My parents confirmed, in the car one the way back to the hotel that Sardinia, in all of our estimations, ended up being the highlight of our three dinners, and indeed, the crown of all of our meals in Miami on this trip.
I left the restaurant plotting for my next visit to Miami. It’s the kind of food that makes you want to drop your day job and move to Sardinia. I’m sure someone will hire me out there… I can herd sheep, or something…
Again, photos of all of our food and my food-nerdy thoughts can be seen and read on my flickr account.
Note to Admins: If there is an existing thread dedicated to Sardinia Ristorante/Enoteca already, please do merge. My search, surprisingly, yielded nothing.
Note to Admins 2: Eek! I just noticed that I misspelled Sar[d]inia on the title of this thread. Can somebody fix my clumsiness?
the ulterior epicure
Posted 05 November 2007 - 07:07 PM
I had the fried sardines, roasted suckling pig and brussel sprouts and cipollini. I was way too stuffed to try the desserts. I had a Sardinian red that was outstanding.
I sat at the bar facing the oven because I was dining solo. The service was really good.
Posted 07 November 2007 - 12:58 AM
The sweetbreads/brussel sprouts looks like a standout.
Posted 07 November 2007 - 01:43 AM
Posted 07 November 2007 - 09:44 AM
u.e. is just a young squirt and still thinks of anyone over 40 as being ready for a rocker and in-home nursing. I am real close to 60 myself and no, it is not old. I do remember what it was like to be in my mid-20's and full of spunk and let it be okay with u.e. I am looking forward to reading Tom Brokaw's book about us.
Posted 07 November 2007 - 12:17 PM
Posted 08 November 2007 - 04:55 PM
Ron Johnson: I like a restaurnat that is honest and gutsy enough to serve roasted suckling pig, bone-in. There's no pussy-footing around with the shredded stuff with a crackling top... this is the real deal. The bar, had I been solo dining, looked like the ideal spot for me.
9lives: The sweetbreads were great... really, I'm not sure you could go wrong at this place... our sampling was pretty wide and deep for one visit, and it was across-the-board pretty impressive.
foodie 52: Nobody said anybody was old. As omnivorette so keenly pointed out, my ma is in her autumn, despite the fact that she still looks like she's in her forties. Now winter - that is old.
ominvorette: Echo. Yes, please, some admin, come fix my typo'ed heading to this thread. Thanks!
the ulterior epicure